Wonder Pens Family Heads to Japan

Via Rail Canadian Traveling with Toddler Experience

This summer, with Caleb out of school, we’re flying over Japan and Hong Kong. We’ve long been ear-marking time to go and making loose plans, but now that it’s May, things are certainly ramping up.

We leave at the end of June to make it to Tokyo’s annual stationery trade show. Following that, our itinerary is slowly filling up with visits to vendors and factories, and hopefully squeezing in a few stationery shops in between. We’re looking at where there needs to be space and where we can adjust things to move more efficiently. I’m certainly looking forward to taking trains around Japan (we still love you Via Rail!), and hopefully not losing any babies along the way.

This is certainly a business trip in the sense that we’re looking to continue to build relationships with companies that have been very good to us, to learn more about how these companies do things and make things, and we’re looking to find new and exciting things from perhaps the epicenter of all stationery–but we are, of course, a family business.

Usually I spend a lot of time bemoaning the unusual life we’ve set up for Caleb (4) and Naomi (1.5)–they spend the weeks leading up to Christmas watching as their parents run around silly, with the shops open seven days a week; we’ve missed out on our share of various Saturday events and activities, with Saturday being an important day for us in the shop; as babies they’ve been passed around from one set of hands to another as customers come into the shop.* And yet, here is a silver lining to this crazy life.

It’s always a tight balance traveling with kids: we move slowly, that’s for sure, but we also want to make the most of this opportunity. We are extremely fortunate to be able to see a tiny slice of Japan that maybe most tourists won’t get to see–the behind the scenes of some stationery and fountain pen companies, and some local eating and tours around town from the people who know best.

From six years ago on Dundas West, it’s all a bit surreal to see where we are now.

Union Station Toronto Via rail canadian

After Japan, we’re heading to Hong Kong to do more of the same, as well as break out the rusty Cantonese, visit with family and eat some good dim sum. There are some good hole-in-the-wall fountain pen shops I can’t wait to see.

In any case, flights are booked, everyone’s been getting their shots, we’ve recruited an old staff member to come and take care of Super and Chicken while we’re gone, and, most importantly, I’m planning which pens and which notebooks and which supplies I’ll need to take with me. I’m leaning heavily towards a few Safaris, with the (obvious) plan to take a look around once we’re in Japan. Jon’s response: Liz. Let’s not go too crazy here.

I’m hoping to do some blogging and sharing from Japan and Hong Kong of course, but also some of the preparation that all needs to come together before we go.

If anyone has any recommendations, we will take them! Stationery shops, fountain pen shops, book shops, noodle shops. Star Ferries, sea turtles, Mount Fuji, Shinto shrines, peak trams, cable cars, monasteries. Places to stay, places to eat, places to dip our toes into the water.

*This extended family is actually something I’m tremendously grateful for–to hear Caleb eager to go “toBogdan-ing,” or to watch the staff at the studio shop helping him sound out words, or to know there are so many people who bounce Naomi on their knees–however, there’s no denying both Caleb and Naomi have had to learn patience and independence when customers come in or when dinner table conversations are filled up with discussions about special orders or product releases.


  1. Frank G Helwig

    when you’re in Tokyo, make sure to visit Itoya in the heart of Ginza – just a wonderful albeit huge and crwded stationary store.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *