The stationers I use near my office, Okamotoya Toranomon, introduced me to L!FE products, when I asked for a good paper to use with fountain pens. Let me introduce them here.

After using their Noble Note series in pad and bound forms for a while and loving it, a little poking around the web and I learned that L!FE is based in Tokyo’s “Shitamachi” area, and more specifically, in East Kanda, and has another office in Osaka, as well as a distribution center in Adachi Tokyo.

L!FE Noble Note notebooks are “hand made” according to the stationers, and their website. While I surprised about this, because of the lack of variation in the bindings, I would assume meticulousness when it comes to Japanese craftsmen. Here’s what their site says:

Noble Note notebooks are the distillation of the ideal of handmade craft, since the establishment of L!FE Co. This smooth-writing report paper is designed with superior quality in mind. The robust and beautiful bindings are made with care, one by one in Tokyo’s Shitamachi district. All are made with pride, thinking of those who love to write.

Screenshot of LIFE website showing craftsman and noble notebooks, by Rick Cogley
Screenshot: Noble Series Website

They go on to say: “These were the original notebooks to include L!FE’s “LIFE Writing Paper”. Smoothness of writing is a given, but the paper is also supple when turning the pages, and softly colored to look at. This paper can be used in various products, including publications, notetaking, drawing etc, and has a trademarked laid pattern developed with a paper manufacturer. We hope you’ll have your pens dance on our paper.” Indeed, we hope so too!

The “laid” paper in the above is written as レイド on the site, so it is not easy to find the English equivalent because of the fact Japanese native speakers don’t differentiate r’s and l’s in their speech. From doing a little research, it turns out that “laid paper” is writing paper that is characterized by having a watermark of lines or ribs, running across its grain.

Photo of a Noble Note with Sailor Fountain Pen, by Rick Cogley
Photo: A L!FE Noble Note and Sailor Pen

At any rate, I’m really pleased with the balance between quality and cost, in the Noble Note series. An A4 size bound Noble Note with 100 sheets costs about 1500 JPY, which is half the cost of a bound A4 Rhodia here in Tokyo, and more if you compare sheet counts.

One very important aspect to me, is the paper quality when used with fountain pens and ink. It’s very good. In the bound version, using Pilot Iroshizuku inks and a fairly wet nib, you can see a faint impression of the characters on the previous page when you look underleaf, but it is not like the poor Moleskine bound notebook, where the ink just seeps through.

L!FE make a bunch of other interesting products, but unfortunately their website is Japanese only. Here’s a few links, so you can at least enjoy the pictures:

And if you’re interested in just browsing around their site in general, L!FE’s product list index page is a good place to start.

If you’re in Japan, the L!FE website says they sell their products via Itoya, Maruzen, Tokyu Hands, Kinokuniya, Yurindo, Yuzakawa, and “other fine stationers nationwide”. Some international shops, like Omoi Zakka, Izola or Notemaker carry L!FE products too.

I hope someone finds this brief introduction useful.