Tomoe River Paper lovers in the fountain pen community might want to hold on to their old stock. Tomoegawa, the nib and ink-friendly paper’s Japanese-manufacturer, said that two product series won’t be produced anymore.
“In February this year, we decided to stop the operation of 9MC in September this year due to low demand, and production of Tomoe River Notebook(52g and 68g) series will be discontinued,” Kaneko Yukitakata of Tomoegawa’s Functional Sales and Marketing team confirmed to the Pen Noob.
9MC refers to their no. 9 machine, which produces a new version of Tomoe River Paper after a manufacturing change last year.
“We are currently considering (to) produce Tomoe River series on other machines,” said Tomoegawa’s Yukitaka. “We will announce as soon as new Tomoe River is decided.”
This new development has sent paper hobbyists looking for available stock, shooting up demand. The paper is well-loved for bringing out the best features such as shading and sheening in almost all inks. It is also insanely thin.
In a recent podcast, CY and Jacob of Tokyo Inklings even said that “Tomoe River is the new toilet paper,” likening the market situation to the pandemic-induced shortage of tissue paper last year.
Machine change outrage
In 2020, Tomoegawa global sales manager Masahiko Katoh told Pen Noob that the change with Tomoe River Paper was that “it’s produced on a different machine.”
“As for the quality, overall it’s in the same level as the previous one,” he added then.
This change prompted fear in the community that the paper’s quality, despite the same level guarantee, has actually changed. And there were notable differences, wrote Musubi’s Darryl Lim last year.
“Whether you think the new version is better or not will come down to your personal preferences,” he added. Musubi products still used the old stock of Tomoe River Paper. but they are open to “using the new Tomoe River when our current stockpile of the old version runs out
“There have been a lot of changes to 52gsm Tomoe River paper,” he wrote. “Most of these, for me, have not been positive changes.
“This is still excellent paper that would still be a celebrated paper had we not known of the original but it’s lost it’s distinctiveness and novelty. This is a shame but one I believe we can live with,” he added.”
No more Tomoe River Paper?
Last year, enthusiasts feared a different type of paper. Now, the type of Tomoe River Paper that people got used is being discontinued. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the beloved product is absolutely gone, at least for now.
What happens then to stationery producers who use the paper as base in their offerings?
Sakae Technical Paper still used the old type of paper in their products, said Jake in the Tokyo Inklings Podcast. Meanwhile, Galen Leather adjusted its prices.
What about Hobonichi? The notebook brand is known to use Tomoe River Paper, and it has a strong community of users in the Philippines.
“While Tomoegawa Co., Ltd. has replaced its machinery for manufacturing Tomoe River paper, we have some portion of Tomoe River Paper in stock for Hobonichi Techo books,” Hobonichi Store representative Yuka Katsurayama told Pen Noob through email. “For the time being, we will continue to use it as before.”
As for what they will do when the supply runs out, “it is currently under consideration for the new-chosen paper and modification period for that.”
Moving forward from Tomoe River Paper is undeniably a sad affair. But it might also open consumers to other fountain pen-friendly paper that perform almost as well as the Japanese brand, albeit with some notable differences such as feel, price, and thinness.
Tomoe River Paper’s future is still in limbo, with Tomoegawa yet to announce if a new paper is coming or they are abandoning the product entirely. But the danger there is that if manufacturers and consumers find Tomoe River Paper alternatives, there might be no going back for the brand.
Updates as of October 28:
- Sanzen acquired Tomoe River paper rights in a $2.64 million deal.
Updates as of July 22:
- Hobonichi confirmed that its 2022 techo lineup will still feature Tomoe River Paper
Updates as of June 9:
- Jacob of fudefan and Tokyo Inklings has an update and background of Tomoegawa’s situation.
- Moved some paragraphs around because earlier versions of this story inadvertently buried in the story that Tomoegawa is still considering producing Tomoe River Paper in other machines. Their complete email was as follows:
- Added a link to Macchiato Man’s Tomoe River Paper comparison
Updates as of June 6:
- Jesi on The Well-Appointed Desk has a much better-breakdown of this issue. The post also suggests alternatives to Tomoe River Paper.
- Tomoe River Paper loose sheets are already sold out locally on Everything Calligraphy. (Author was able to still buy some last week).