Here are no less than two limited editions from Pebble, the Australian company who make notebooks in Chinese factories, using Japanese paper. 'Still very much a global phenomenon, then, but now with new classy covers.
They look rather splendid, don't they? The A5 is the Sakura Sumiko edition, which stretched the limits of my very slim Japanese research abilities. But, it does sort of make sense: sakura is falling cherry blossom, and sumiko, if I have got this right, is a maki-e decorative porcelain technique. The golden petals are echoed by gilt on the paper edges, and dark yellow thread for the sewn binding. The smaller, pocket size (9 x 4 cm) Midnight Edition is black with tiny silver specks, and an egg-shell blue inner cover. It's a classy recipe.
Of course, behind the admittedly excellent packaging the big draw for many will be that famous Tomoe River paper. I'm going to be candid here; it's not for everyone. This is the ultra-thin 52gsm version of Tomoe, which behaves quite differently from the 68gsm variety. In pocket size it just about copes with the pressure of a pen, but in A5 this is prone to wrinkling and warping simply from being written on. Good-looking as these notebooks are, they probably wouldn't be my choice for work or study - because writing fast will lead to a damaged notebook pretty quickly. A smudged one, too, as ink takes an eternity to dry on this surface.
So why might you be tempted by one nevertheless? Well, this is one for full-on fountain pen obsessives. The paper may be thin, but it is remarkably lacking in absorbency; that's why ink takes a long time to dry, but it also means that there is surprisingly little bleed-through to the other side. The big difference this makes, though, is visible when using sheening inks, which perform astonishingly well - as you can see from the quick test below.
If you have a steady hand and this is the sort of thing which floats your boat, the Sakura and Midnight Editions are both up for sale at Nero's Notes. For slow, contemplative calligraphy, a side at a time, they are quite something.