Taroko Mystique A5 notebook review

I have been waiting forever (aka since 2015) for the Nanami Paper Seven Seas Crossfield A5 journal to come back into stock. Because Tomoe River paper, baby.

The latest update says it’s due end of May. You can’t preorder, and they only load the website with a few journals at a time. When I ordered their Writer I sat on the website for literally hours, refreshing the page like I was a Tinder-swiping robot, until they showed as available. The entire shipment sold out in a day.

So when Taroko Shop on Etsy introduced their dot grid Taroko Mystique A5 notebook – which they market as “fountain pen friendly” – I thought I’d give it a go. It has what they call “Taroko Orchid Paper.” I don’t know what that means. There is a Orchids paper company, but they make bathroom tissue and napkins, so I doubt that’s the same paper.

The Crossfield sells for US$26 a pop, and has 240 leaves (480 pages) of 52gsm Tomoe River paper. The Taroko Mystique sells for US$15, and has 200 leaves (400 pages) of 80gsm paper. Both have a thread binding and lie totally flat when open.

The Taroko came wrapped in bubblewrap and inside a cardboard slipcover, which did its job of protecting the journal in transit. The cover did get damaged a tiny amount when it was slid into the packaging, and I’ve watched enough unboxings to know that even the smallest imperfection will bother some people. The notebook has a buckram-type cover in oxblood red, and the paper is cream. The dots are 5mm apart, in an unobtrusive gray.

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So, this is just me, and I am no paper expert, but I swear I cannot tell the difference between the feel of the Taroko Orchid paper and regular 80gsm copier paper. To my fingers the texture is identical. Writing on the Orchid is absolutely nothing like writing on the inviting smoothness of Rhodia 80gsm or the slippery glassiness of Clairefontaine 80gsm.

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However, the paper is definitely better than copier paper for writing on. There was no feathering, and I actually far prefer the feedback of this paper through the nib to writing on Clairefontaine paper. Most of my pens skip and skitter across Clairfontaine, which bugs the hell out of me. And I greatly prefer the Taroko to a Moleskine for fountain pens. As you can see from my photos, there was no bleed through, although you can clearly see shadowing on the reverse of each page. The shadowing is no worse than with Tomoe River, and wouldn’t stop me from using both sides of the paper.

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The Taroko Mystique is thicker than a Seven Seas, or a Hobonichi Cousin, but still fits well inside a Hobonichi cover.

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Nanami Seven Seas Writer on left, Taroko Mystique on right.
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Hobonichi Cousin on right, Taroko Mystique on left

The Taroko has space for your name on the first page, and, then strangely, a three-page index. I say strangely, because the pages are not numbered. Hand numbering 400 pages seems a big ask.

At the back there’s a 2016 and 2017 calendar, handy printed rulers in centimeters and inches, and a ‘keyword page.’ I can’t figure out how you’d use this. If you know, please let me know.

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Overall, given the limited availability of Seven Seas, the Taroko Mystique seems like a useful – and cheaper – choice for journaling and writing with fountain pens, as long as you’re not a dedicated specialty paper aficionado (no judgement!). Would buy again. Still, come the end of May you’ll find me hunched over my laptop, hitting refresh over and over again on the Nanami Paper site.

Update: I reviewed the Taroko Shop’s version of this notebook with Tomoe River paper – the Enigma – in May, here.

6 thoughts on “Taroko Mystique A5 notebook review

  1. Since I journal in basically any old thing (composition books, old atlases, cheapo journals from the drug store), I’d have to classify myself as “not a specialty paper aficionado”. 🙂 But this was a very thorough and interesting review anyway.

    1. I think paper counts as one of my Special Interests 🙂 I was listening to a podcast the other day with a notebook “expert” guest and I was ranting at him out loud in the car because he had so many details wrong (e.g. Leuchtturm1917 was founded in – wait for it – 1917, doofus, not “a couple of years ago”!!! At least I’m not alone in my enjoyment. Paper nerds unite!

  2. Hi there! Thanks for the review. I have just launched the Enigma A5, which is a Tomoe River paper version of the Mystique A5 due to popular requests from specialty paper aficionado such as myself ;). The Enigma uses the 68gsm version of Tomoe, which should offer much better shadowing/ghosting performance compared to the 52gsm version. Small batch to begin with, but I will make more if there’s demand. Cheers!

    1. hey, that’s exciting news! Thanks for letting me know: I just ordered one. Can’t wait to try it out. Tell me, how do you envisage people using the keyword/tag page in the Mystique? I haven’t got it figured out.

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