A Little Late to the Tomoe River Party

It seems like everybody who blogs about stationery has been singing the praises of Tomoe River Paper for years…

To begin with, Tomoe River Paper is very smooth when writing. Rhodia/Clairefontaine level smooth. No matter the size of the nib – from 1.5 mm stub nibs down to my Japanese EF nibs – they all glide across the page with no feedback at all. On top of that, there is no bleed or feathering. That is the real shocker to me. I’m not sure how a paper this thin manages that but it is the truth.
Brad Dowdy, June 3, 2013
The Pen Addict— Tomoe River Paper Review

Then there was Ed Jelley, a few days later…

The Seven Seas notepad is filled with Tomoe River paper that is absolutely great. Tomoe River nailed it in terms of smoothness and fountain pen friendliness. This 52gsm (very light, Rhodia is 80gsm, Clairefontaine, 90gsm) paper is really a fountain pen’s best friend. The paper is so thin and light, yet nothing feathers or bleeds through. Yes, there is quite a bit of show through, but it doesn’t even matter to me. The smoothness of the paper is remarkable too. It has the perfect amount of texture that allows you to feel the nuances of the nib when you are writing. This paper is a MUST try.
Ed Jelley, June 9, 2013
edjelley.com—Seven Seas Tomoe River Paper Pad: Handwritten Stationery Review

And The Unroyal Warrant a few weeks after that…

Tomoe River paper is ultra light weight at 52 gsm with a very smooth texture.  This paper has been getting a lot of praise in the fountain pen community for its ability to handle fountain pen ink.  I have been playing with this paper the last few days and it is amazing.  There is virtually no bleed through.
The Unroyal Warrant, October 20, 2013
Tomoe River Notebook Review

And all the while during, and after, these reviews, other bloggers were picking up on products using this paper, and proclaiming it to be the second greatest manifestation of paper since the toilet roll. Well, maybe not, but you get the idea. It was good stuff, and it’s taken me five years to get to it.

Y’know what they say, it’s always good to be a little late to a party; don’t look too eager.

So what’s it all about then?

Well, like the quotes say above, Tomoe River is a light weight paper, available in lots of different formats these days…

And of course, it’s not just about the weight. According to all the reviews, it’s fountain pen friendly in the extreme—smooth, with no feathering or bleed-through, and very attractive.

So What Took Me So Long?

Well I have notebooks; quite a few as it happens (although that Hippo Noto looks amazing), and I have writing paper. But (you knew it was coming didn’t you?), I’ve been writing some fairly long letters to my best friend, my second brother, back in England, that I’ve known since we were five years old, and, well, I wanted something special.

And of course, something so light, it won’t cost another ten bucks to send it by airmail.

Well, you have to be practical don’t you? It’s about time you tried the Tomoe River I said to myself, and here we are. Just don’t ask me about the math for postage savings versus purchase costs. My practicality begins to break down after a while.

What Did I Want? What Could I get?

Well, first looks revealed some nice products at my usual Canadian suppliers… but no actual stocks. I had heard that Tomoe River could be difficult to get hold of, so I widened my search.

I was looking for writing paper rather than a notebook, so I would even be happy with loose sheets. I like lined paper, and have a preference for cream or ivory rather than plain white, and with all this in mind, I eventually hit Amazon. There I found a pack of 100 loose sheets of A4, cream-colored, plain Tomoe River for about $18.20 CAD, and available for Amazon Prime delivery. Since that would seem to be all I could get in Canada for the time being, and with a two-day Amazon Prime delivery, then that was what I ordered.

Buying Loose Sheets Online? Be Warned…

The first thing I noticed about my Amazon delivery, was that the package had been folded into my post box on a cold and wet Ontario winter’s day. The next thing was that their vehicle had hit one of the pine trees that line our ice-covered drive. They had obviously failed to get anywhere near the house, so had opted for forcing the parcel into our mail box instead. The paper does not make a very substantial package, but should have been treated with a little more care. The whole thing consisted of 100 loose sheets in a snug plastic wrap, with a mid-weight cardboard backing, and a printed cover sheet. This was sealed inside a rather roomy padded envelope. Dragging it out of the mail box, everything about it said insufficient protection to me. As you can see from the picture above, the paper did not get through its delivery unscathed; and in actuality, the creasing was worse than it appears on the photographs

Tomoe River paper is so light, and so delicate, that minor creases are extremely easy to pick up. The less than delicate handling of the Purolator shippers meant that all 100 sheets of the paper were now pretty heavily creased at the bottom right-hand corner. It’s not so important for me, that I would try and return the whole thing (I could get even worse next time), but it was a close-run decision when I first saw it—after all, I wanted this paper for its good looks, as well as performance.

I keep the loose Tomoe River inside a leather pad cover, with a ruled page guide tucked into a side pocket. I couldn’t write in a straight line without some visual guidance to save my life.

What’s it Like to Write On?

Okay, I can see what all the fuss was about. This is simply the nicest paper I have ever used. The first writing sample was with a TWSBI Diamond 580AL, using a steel 1.1mm stub nib, and Sailor Jentle Blue ink.

There was the absolute perfect amount of smoothness versus friction against the pen nib. Then I tried a couple of different nib and ink combinations, and each was just as good as the last. The next was a broad TWSBI nib, with Noodler’s Golden Brown…

Then I tried a 14K gold medium nib on a Platinum Century 3776, using Sailor Kiwa Guro Nano (Ultra) black ink. The writing experience was excellent, and even included a more than reasonable drying time.

Given that the paper is so thin, I was a little worried about show-through on the reverse of the page; I needn’t have been…

Even the reverse of the heavy ink patch at the bottom of the second page of testing, shows almost no bleed-through.

Close-ups of the writing samples show that this was possibly the cleanest paper—in terms of feathering and bleed—that I have ever used, with any fountain pen…

This final close-up of my rather inelegant scrawl, shows what I mean by the lack of feathering around the ink. This paper is pretty much flawless…

And none of the photo’s, or scans, do justice to the delicate cream/ivory tone of the paper.


The Tomoe River Paper I used here, is—without any doubt in my mind—simply the nicest writing paper I have ever used. Less shiny than the Clairefontaine, Rhodia and Life products I use extensively, and even less feathering and bleed-through than any of them, despite being around half the weight and thickness.

It’s not cheap, working out at about $0.20 CAD per sheet (but then, neither are any of the others), and it can be difficult to find regular/reliable stocks. Plus, its very nature confers a level of delicacy such that delivery by online suppliers (especially in a Canadian winter), almost guarantees some level of damage. I am seriously impressed with this paper, and I’ll be buying more (I already have the Traveler’s Notebook inserts on their way), but I would advise buying from a brick and mortar store if you can; especially if you’re buying loose sheets that don’t come with the protection of a hardback notebook cover. You need to look after this stuff.


4 thoughts on “A Little Late to the Tomoe River Party

  1. Congratulations, you’ve hit the blessings and the curse of Tomoe River head on! I seem to recall reading that it was originally used for things like catalogues because its low weight made it relatively cheap to send via mail. Its tendency to crease must make it a nightmare to work with. Kudos to printers who manage to print on it and bind it into books. I dread to think what the level of wasteage is for outfits like Hobonichi.

    You can forgive Tomoe River its shortcomings because writing on this paper is just such an enjoyable experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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