Moleskine for Evernote: The satisfaction of a well-made notebook

I mentioned previously that I recently picked up one of Moleskine’s Evernote notebooks – long after they were first introduced, so I’m not blazing any trails in this area! Essentially, these notebooks are created with the note-taking app in mind, allowing you to scan them into the app with your iPhone’s camera.

After a week of pretty intensive usage, I’m smitten. I’ve spent the last year using a variety of cheap and cheerful A5 and A4 pads of varying quality to take meeting notes and get thoughts and ideas out of my head. Being somewhat of a controlling completist, the ‘quality’ notes were then scanned into Evernote using my desktop scanner at home.

imageThis way of working meant that I frequently had to carry a lot of loose paper around, until I had the chance to preserve it electronically in Evernote. Especially when traveling for work.

So, one way the Moleskine is superior to these pads is that the notes stay in one place, reducing the volume of paper I carry, while they can instantly be scanned into Evernote while I’m on the move, using my iPhone.

The ensuing weight reduction in my work backpack is tangible. And very, very welcome. I also have less of the ‘where is that piece of paper’ mental anguish, as I know any notes scribbled this week are in the Moleskine. And that’s how I’d like it to be going forward.

On another, more subjective note, the act of writing on quality paper in a nicely-made notebook has had an impact on my note-taking. I’ve noticed it’s less about the scribbles and more about well-chosen words and making links between by thoughts on paper. It’s almost as if I know it’ll be committed to Evernote and I want the notes to make as much sense as possible.

To be clear: they’re not ‘pretty’, they’re just more useful.

Plus, for the last year, I’ve been using a set of erasable pens I bought in Japan. These are perfect for use in notebooks where you can’t rip out pages and don’t want to scribble out. You can simple rub out your errors and keep going. On reflection, I think this is why Moleskine notebooks didn’t really work for me in the past – a sort of fear associated with not getting it right first time and then ‘messing up’ the beautiful page – with no way back!

Similarly, the Moleskine’s cover is well-made, protecting the notes while in my bag. It feels like it’ll last long than a random legal pad and is a lot more presentable when placed on the table in front of a client.

The Moleskine came with a set of Evernote-related stickers, the logic being that placing these stickers in some pre-defined context means that Evernote will automatically turn them into actions, reminders etc. Nope – I haven’t figured out how to use these yet. It’s been one of those weeks where my feet have barely touched the ground, so I’ll look at those another time.

I’m keen to keep this notebook for work-related content only. This means it’s going to be for meeting notes, workshop notes, sketching out training courses and making notes for blog posts. It makes sense (to me) to have a dedicated work notebook, allowing me to keep personal notes separate. In my experience, I prefer to flick through personal notes without the risk of stumbling across a work note that intrudes on my thinking or reminds me of something slightly stressful.

I’m in two minds as to where to keep personal notes now. I have a small shop’s worth of Traveler’s Notebooks I brought home from my various trips to Japan. These are beautiful and sit within a lovely leather cover. But they don’t have the hardcover of a Moleskine and are a lot more expensive to replace here in the UK.

That said, I’ve been to Japan every year for a few years, so maybe it’s sustainable to just pick up a dozen or so each time I visit!

Using the Moleskine has made me realise that my Traveler’s Notebook is a little bulky and unwieldy in comparison. So I’m going to strip out some of the ‘accessories’ I’ve stuck in there and get back to basics. Otherwise, it’ll end up like one of my long-lost Filofax binders: too heavy to reasonably carry from place to place.

Bottom line: would I recommend the Evernote Moleskine?

If you can stomach paying over £20 for a single notebook and you’re also a heavy Evernote user, then this could be for you. If you frequently lose loose pieces of paper, then it might also be helpful. But it doesn’t have to be a Moleskine – you can easily scan things into Evernote using most kinds of paper in my experience, as long as it’s white or off-white.

But I like them and will continue to use it until it’s full. I’ll then make a decision as to whether I’ll get another one, so I’m not stuck with a small stockpile of unused and unwanted notebooks in my study.

Yes, I know – stationery-related self-control. The new me!

Planning for Japan: 2017

It looks like we have a bit of an itinerary for this year’s trip to Japan! To avoid overloading ourselves with too many destinations, we’ve narrowed it down to splitting our time between Tokyo, Kyoto and Kanazawa.

I’d like to take advantage of the JR Rail Pass and arrange some day trips out of both Tokyo (Mt. Fuji, maybe?) and Kyoto (Arashiyama and its marvellous monkeys!). Last year’s visit to the snow-monkeys of Nagano reminded me how much I like to watch primates at play – always mindful of the slim chance they’ll attack an idiot tourist who gets too close, while I capture it all on camera.

Kanazawa is brand new to us, so I’m looking for how to enjoy it and not over-commit to venues and activities.

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Kanazawa Station

This morning’s win was finding a new (to me) onsen to visit in Tokyo. It looks amazeballs and very, very luxurious. Over the years, I’ve experienced onsen ranging from the very basic to the quite modern and interesting. Every one of them has been a pleasure, one way or another. And seeing as we’re unlikely to every replicate the onsen experience here in London, I’ll rely on my brief visits to Japan to take advantage of the facilities.

I may also get another item off my bucket list by arranging a brief stay in a capsule hotel in Tokyo’s Haneda Airport before we fly on to Osaka and then bus it to Kyoto.

Let me explain: I’m only human. After 14 hours on a plane – even going First Class – I need a shower, some clean clothes and a lie down. This will make the onward legs of this outbound journey so much easier. And I’ll be less likely to act like a toddler needing a nap by the time we get to Kyoto.

I’ll be honest – I’m also thrilled at the thought of staying in a quintessentially Japanese capsule hotel. It helps that I’m hobbit-sized and have no fear of shared bathing facilities. I’m also aware of how much my mental state is dependent on adequate sleep along with the extent to which jet-lag utterly rips my wellbeing to shreds.

Hotels are arranged for Kanazawa and Kyoto, while we look for the best possible bargain in Tokyo. I don’t think we’ll get the same awesome free upgrade at the Hilton again (but you never know), though Tokyo isn’t short of excellent hotels. It’s all about getting something central and close to a Yamanote Line station.

I tell you what, though – you can tell Sterling as taken a hammering when you check Japanese prices online. But who knows what state it’ll be in come September – maybe we’ll experience another rebound and Tokyo will once again seem cheap compared to London.

Maybe not. Though I’ve realised that the best things about Japan are the experiences, not the shopping. Even though I seem to do quite a bit of the latter every time I visit 😁

Heading to Japan, 2017 edition

You know, it’s never too early to plan our annual trip to Japan. At least that’s what we were saying when we started looking for flights to Tokyo on this cold and wet January Sunday morning.

After last year’s amazing trip, it was pretty much inevitable that we’d have to come back. So we searched for flights around the same time of year and, with @FrankDJS‘s usual skill and a gazillion BA frequent flyer miles, we have a two-week trip to Japan all booked. Well, the flights, at least.

Well, the flights, at least. At, due to some diligent and focused collecting of BA miles via every route known (and unknown) to humanity, we’ll be going and returning First Class. A guaranteed excellent start and end to the holiday – based on previous experience, at least.

While it’s not until September, that won’t stop me making lots of plans for where to visit. We fly in and out of Tokyo – literally my favourite place on earth – which gives us amazing opportunities to plan day-trips out of the city on the most fantastic form of public transport in the world: the Shinkansen bullet train.

Right now, I’d love to spend a couple of days back in Kyoto, but also visit Kanazawa. We dropped it from last year’s itinerary, as it was turning into a bit of a mission. Less holiday, more gruelling tour. So maybe we’ll get over there this time round.

The other key activities will obviously include:

  • Geeking out: on Shinkansen trains and Akihabara in Tokyo
  • Chilling out: in various onsen hot springs
  • Filling out: by eating far too much, but enjoying every mouthful

I’m determined to make 2017 another epic year of travel. So far, we have two trips to Spain booked (April and June), which will include Barcelona, Sitges, Mallorca and Alicante and now Japan in September.

That leaves plenty of space across the summer for some time in the sun. And plenty of time to pull together an exciting itinerary for Japan.

Remembering our last trip to Tokyo this morning…

…such great memories of a fun week in our favourite city. This was located just down the street from our hotel in Shinjuku and we walked past it at least twice a day on our way to and from Shinjuku station.

It’s time to plan a return visit, I think! Something amazing to look forward to towards the end of the year. Tokyo will definitely be on the list, but I’d love to go back to Kyoto this year – it’s always a nice contrast to Tokyo’s madness.

My top posts of 2016

It’s been a busy year on the blogging front. I reached by 1,000th post and built a better habit of regular posts. Some of which were surprisingly popular with those of you with enough time on your hands to come visit. I had a quick look at my stats and the following posts are (in order) those that far and away got the most views. 

They’re an interesting mix of topics, that’s for sure! Travel, notebooks, productivity and nude beaches. The latter in particular garnered some interest and seems to have been shared on a view blogs that (ahem) specialise on the topic. I’m flattered, honestly. 

I’m Seoul Excited – planning our trip to Japan and including 48hrs of a stopover in Seoul. On a whim!

Unboxing the iPhone 7 Plus – another gadget un-boxing, this time with better photos. 

Testing the iPhone 7 Plus camera – a selection of pics to demonstrate the new phone’s power.

My trip to the Traveler’s Factory – an over-excited recounting of my visit to the fabled shop in Tokyo.

Is everyone leaving Evernote? – a question I’m still asking myself.

My Japanese stationery haul – a summary of my over-indulgence while in Japan in October.

Nudity: the great leveller – considering the relaxing properties of the clothing-optional beach experience.

Hopefully 2017 will offer a similarly broad range of topics to write about. And hopefully, there will be even more in the way of travel writing. I’m planning an inevitable return to Japan (cities to be decided) and some more time on the beaches of Barcelona and Sitges. 

And there’s bound to be more technology to write about, right?

An iPad Productivity Boost

The only gadget I actually bought when we were in Japan in October was the Smart Keyboard for my 9.7″ iPad Pro. If you don’t read the remainder of this post, in terms of a review, I can only express my regret for not having picked one up months ago!

Continue reading “An iPad Productivity Boost”

My Japanese stationery haul

One thing I always enjoy about my visits to Japan is seeing what interesting and unique stationery I can come home with. In all my international travels, I’ve never encountered stationery stores like the ones in Japan – it appears to be a bit of a national obsession!

I have two favourite places to pick up paper, pens and suchlike: Tokyu Hands and Loft. And of course, this time round, I got to visit the Traveller’s Factory in Tokyo (see my earlier post for a description of this).

Tokyu Hands doesn’t just sell stationery. In fact, I’m not sure what it doesn’t sell. It’s a chain store and every outlet seems to have at least two floors of paper and stationery, but it also sells excellent luggage, household goods and gadgets. Just my kind of place! These stores seem to be everywhere! And their familiar green logo is easy to spot when out and about. The Tokyu Hands outlet near Shibuya is simply mammoth and very easy to spend a morning in. It also has ‘half floors’ in between the main floors, so it’s very easy to get lost in.

Loft seems to specialise more in paper goods, luggage and travel goods. It’s more like an upmarket office supplies store, with luxury pens, leash-bound notebooks and the like. But it also has a healthy supply of uniquely Japanese paper goods (speciality calendars and planners).

I didn’t have one specific day when I splurged on paper goods, but instead picked things up as and when I spotted them. I did get a little overwhelmed by the choice in Tokyu hands and it ended up being difficult to choose between options. Given sterling has lost so much of its value since our last visit to Japan (thank you, Brexit) I needed to be slightly more careful when how much I was spending on things like this.

To put it in context for you stationery fans: I spotted Filofaxes on sales in the Loft store in Shibuya, Tokyo. The ‘Original A5’ Filofax models go for about £85 in London. This time around, their cost translated into £190. So… I tended to use the calculator on my iPhone while shopping, just to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes like that.

So…what did I get?!

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I got the above selection on my first morning in Osaka. Some Traveler’s Notebook inserts for my Midori (the lined notebooks with the brown cover and the sketch paper notebooks, with white covers). I’ve never used the latter, but love the fact that the pages are perforated so you can remove and share them.

I also got some (wait for it) washi tape. I’m a bit of a convert in that regard. I used to wonder why anyone would put coloured tape into their organiser or notebook, thinking it was time-consuming and pointless. But I picked up a roll on my last visit to Tokyo as it was covered in Japanese images and actually found it very useful to keep with me while traveling. For sticking in random pieces of paper and photos, but also to cover the edges of more fragile pages or covers. Using a strip of washi tape on the covers also makes it easier to distinguish between otherwise identical notebooks. The rolls I picked up here had little images of Most Fuji, Sumo Wrestlers and ‘Maneki-Neko’ lucky beckoning cat figures.

I spotted a handy little tape-dispenser device for cutting the washi tape neatly, and also a tiny, tiny roll of paper glue (top left in the photo). Both went into my shopping basket at some speed. These, along with the washi tape, were great for adding scraps of paper and momentos to my traveler’s notebook for the trip to Japan and Korea. I’ll write a separate post about that, as it was quite a new thing for me to write so much about my holiday in one of these notebooks

Finally, you can see a very handy multi-pocket folder for loose leaf paper. My days are spent thumbing through reports and reading journal articles while on the move. Folders like this are great for keeping them organised. Honestly, I didn’t need another one – I just liked the colours!

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What next? Oh yes. While in Loft in Ginza (it’s a really great one, next door to a massive Muji store), I was almost all shopped out! But in the middle of the Hobonichi Diaries section (which is a stationery cult all of its own!), I spotted these handy little stencils.

Each is about the size of a credit card and light as air, so I can easily pop them into the plastic pocket of my Midori. Very handy for outlining shapes clearly and for drawing straight lines. One thing I seem to do a lot in these notebooks is create mind-maps when I’m planning a new article or designing a workshop or training course for my business. I thought these little stencils could help me keep these mind-maps slightly more organised and easy to decipher,  especially when writing on the go. They were a steal and worked out at about a pound each.

I also picked up quite a few A4 plastic pockets from various shops. These seem to be very popular in Japan and come in an amazing array of designs. Being a massive geek, I bought quite a few that were train-themed. No, I’m not a train-spotter, but I loved the design and iconography of the various Shinkansen bullet trains. And I’m a sucker for a metro map, so I bought several different folders featuring train company icons and maps of metros.

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The two pockets above represent the Yamanote Line within Tokyo (on the left, in green) with which I am very familiar after all these years, and the entire Tokyo rail transport system on the right. The latter map is spread over four sides of the folder, as it’s so complex. It looks a little ‘busy’ in this photo, but I love it!

Speaking of railways, here’s a photo of the Shinkansen folders I got. I don’t remember which store I bought them, but it was in Akihabara, which is actually known for its technology and gadget stores. Each of the five folder is dedicated to a different Shinkansen model. I’ve taken the photo with them in ‘landscape’ orientation to fit them all in, but they’re actually A4 size.

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My final couple of these folders was picked up at the Cup Noodle Museum (yes, there is such a place), down in Yokohama. I loved these because one sets out a nice mission statement of positive, motivational phrases, while the other has a very 1960s kitsch feel. (We didn’t actually visit the museum! We were waling past when I spotted the museum shop and all the various things I thought would be perfect for gifts for people back home. I’m not, in fact, a fan of cup noodles!!).

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Above is a photo of the items I picked up when I visited the Traveler’s Factory store in Meguro, Tokyo. In all honesty, I could have bought three or four times more, but it was coming to the end of the holiday and I had spotted just how much I had bought (not just stationery, but gifts for others) and was getting slightly concerned with the weight of our suitcases. And paper is heavy!

So, you can see I got some more notebooks: lined, sketchbooks and another new one for me: the undated diary. This is a neat little design that includes numbered pages, an index at the front of the notebook and undated diary pages throughout. I thought these would be great for work.

I also got some lovely brass paper clips / books marks, some stickers for my folders and a great binder to store used notebooks (bottom left). Finally, Traveler’s Factory has been selling ‘Pan Am’ branded goods for a while. They have a nice retro feel and seem to be pretty popular with customers. Just check out how much their Pan Am stickers are going for on eBay! I got this little cotton bag (just slightly bigger than the notebook) to store my notebook when in my backpack. Yes, it’s already scratched, but I’d prefer to avoid any further damage.

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So that’s the summary of my Japanese stationery haul. I could have bought SO much more, but other purchases meant we had four suitcases between us, weighing 23 kilos each. And even a British Airways Gold Card has its limits. So, there wasn’t much more room.

And you know what? Leaving things behind in Japan means I always have an excuse for a return visit!

My trip to the Traveler’s Factory, Japan

It may sound strange, but one of my highlights of last month’s visit to Japan was getting to visit the Traveler’s Factory store in Tokyo. They stock the (formerly Midori) Traveler’s Notebook products that I’ve been obsessing about over the last year, so I was determined to visit their ‘HQ’ and see the various products in the flesh.

I was using one of their notebooks to journal our trip to Japan, so it felt apt to spend some time there on a Sunday morning and stock up on new notebooks and accessories. The shop itself is hidden away on a backstreet in Meguro.

We were staying in Shinjuku, so just hopped on a Yamanote Line train and then walked from Ebisu station – about a 15-minute stroll. There is a closer metro station, but our JR rail passes didn’t cover that and we’re well used to walking around Tokyo. Plus, it allowed us to take in some of the neighbourhood – and it’s basically hipster central! Lots of quirky coffee shops and a steady stream of Japanese hipsters made it fairly easy to find.

The shop is surprisingly small, yet they manage to pack in quite a range of products. It was a little overwhelming, to be honest. It took me a few rotations of the store to get my bearings and find everything I came to buy – as well a several over things I had no intention of buying until I saw them beautifully displayed. I’m a sucker like that.

It was a marked contrast to many of the tech stories I’d already visited in Tokyo. Soft lighting, the smell of coffee and leather and a distinct lack of loud announcements over a tannoy. It was inviting, calming and more like someone’s home. The perfect place to pursue some stationery.

I’ll detail my Japan stationery haul in another post, but in brief, I picked up some notebooks in various formats, a binder to store complete notebooks, some lovely brass bookmarks, some stickers and a great bag to store my notebook. I also got @FrankDJS a few bits and bobs – he was particularly attracted to the Pan-Am branded goods 🙂

After paying for my purchases, I got talking to the sales assistant – whose name I never got, much to my annoyance – and we had a great chat about the notebooks, her travels to Dublin (my home own) and our visits to Japan. I snapped a quick selfie with her before taking a few pics of the shop interior. Many had to be discarded due to the number of people in-store. It’s quite a popular little store!

I could easily have spent longer (and a lot more money – seriously!), but we had quite a few things to see that day. I almost missed the various stamps they had by the cash register, but after checking they could be used (and weren’t just for show) I got some souvenir stamps of my visit in my own notebook.

For reference, they also have a store in Terminal 1, Narita Airport in Tokyo, but we flew out of the other terminal.  Maybe I’ll get to see it on our next visit. You can also get their products in both Toyku Hands and Loft stores across Japan, but for me, nothing was better than visiting the real thing.

Soaking up some Shinjuku sunshine

Just an hour until we need to take the bus to Narita Airport and we’re soaking up some sunshine in Shinjuku Chuo Park, opposite our hotel. 

The skies are so blue and the sunshine so strong, it doesn’t feel like November at all. This evening, we fly to Seoul for an overnight at the airport hotel, then home to London (via Helsinki!).

It’s been a fantastic two weeks. While I love home, I’m genuinely sad to be leaving Japan again. Time to start planning a return visit in 2017.