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Tuesday, March 27, 2007
KOKUYO, MUJI, PILOT and MONO for spring
By JEAN SNOW
Spring is in the air, and that means two things: a city draped in the pink of cherry blossoms -- hey, pink is the new black, so get with it; and the start of a new school year. So I'll concentrate this month's picks on a few items that will make you more productive with a touch of a style.
Plain and simple
Being something of a stationary aficionado, this is not the first time a paper collection has featured in this space. Those on the lookout for writing materials should seriously consider previously covered products from Craft Design Technology, as well as KOKUYO's An line. But it wouldn't really feel right to start a "back to school" column without including at least one collection, so here you are: MUCU's notebooks and memo pads have been popping up in stores around Tokyo, and it's easy to see why. Similar to Muji offerings, MUCU's line is seriously plain -- and I mean that as a compliment -- with only the product's manufacturing data stamped on as an aesthetic flourish.
A pencil sharpener? You mean people still use pencils? I can't remember the last time I held one in my hands, but a look at Muji's new Pencil Sharpener gave me the urge to pick up an HB again. What's so special about it? Nothing much, just that it would look right at home on any designer's desktop, and that it thankfully avoids the gaudy colors too often associated with school supplies. Going for 1,600 yen, the sharpener is one of the new additions to Muji's famous stationery collection, so a visit to your local store is a must-do for anyone hunting for desk tools.
Extended studying is barely tolerable without regular intervals of relaxation. With this in mind, HORI has designed a Stationery Style Set that camouflages the Nintendo DS Lite portable game console. The set definitely fits this month's theme by including branded accessories that will be no stranger to any Japanese student: the stylus used to touch the screen looks like a Tombow pencil, the case is also modeled on one that the same company makes for students, and the screen cleaner mimics the ubiquitous MONO eraser, which is also the brand of choice in schools. Though this may look cool, the real advantage comes from its ability to deceive: teachers (or bosses) will probably assume that what you have on your desk is a regular pencil case, not realizing what a time-wasting wonder -- the Nintendo DS Lite -- is hidden inside. The Stationery Style Set DS Lite can be found in most game corners for 1,200 yen.
Always at hand
The need to conserve space in Tokyo is a daily reality, from the apartment you live in to the cramped studios and offices where you work. So it's time to get mini with your tools as well. The Putimo collection of ballpoint pens from PILOT are seriously small, and they are attachable to a mobile phone, which means they'll always be on hand without wasting precious pocket space. Where the Stationery Style Set paid homage to classic writing tools, this collection takes actual items from the KOKUYO brand -- Japan's best-selling name in stationery goods -- and produces them in miniature, usable versions of recognizable classics: A Campus notebook, a tube of Pritt glue and the unmistakable shape of the Kadokeshi plastic eraser, all ready to attach to your mobile. Each is only 300 yen, available in a few color variations, and can be ordered online; the Putimo pens go for 210 yen and are available in a variety of colors as well.
Since I've covered a few mobile phone accessories, it only seems natural to include a phone. The current hot model on the market is the Pantone Mobile Phone, aka 812SH, from SoftBank. As you may have guessed, the handset takes a design cue from the Pantone array of colors, offering 20 different phones all corresponding to a Pantone hue. You'll find all the features that most phones offer these days -- it's becoming hard to tell them apart on features alone, although it works as a SUICA card and has the Felica one-touch payment system -- but more importantly, it will be easy to find a color to match the "back to school" fashions you'll be sporting next month.