Tough times call for redefining the humble office supplies
BY LOUIS TEMPLADO STAFF WRITER
Inside the International Stationery & Office Products Fair TokyoThe prize-winning Otona no Enpitsu (Adult Pencil) developed by Kitaboshi Pencil Co.（Louis Templado）A demonstration of solar-powered toys, one way to brighten up darkened offices in the summer of 2011 (Louis Templado)Brass rulers, pencil cases and fittings on offer by Designphil inc. (Louis Templado)
Imagine Asia's largest trade fair for stationery and office products. It doesn't exactly set the heart aflutter or send people running for the door.
Yet, the the three-day International Stationery & Office Products Fair Tokyo, which ran from July 6 through July 8, drew 75,000 visitors on the first day alone. With more than 1,305 exhibitors on hand, there was much to keep the crowds occupied.
In fact there might have even been too much. With booth after booth offering everything from notebooks and staplers to adhesive memo stickers and nibs, it was easy to lose track of who made what, and moreover, the "why." How much further can pen and paper technology be pushed, after all, and don't we have computers now?
The answer lies in the humble pencil.
"It's all about trust. A pencil will never betray you, and it can write at angles that a pen couldn't," says Kazutoshi Sugitani, president of Kitaboshi Pencil Co., whose Otona no Enpitsu (Adult Pencil) took a top design prize at the show. Although the item looks like a pencil, it actually has the inner workings of a pen and is a surprise from a 60-year-old Tokyo firm that had exclusively been making pencils for schoolchildren.
"The older people get, the further they move away from pencils," says Sugitani. Most people are hesitant to use them, he says, because of the childhood association -- which is why there's a need for an encased graphite-writing implement for adults. "These days anyone can make a standard pencil. There's no business in selling a pencil simply as a pencil. You have to offer a pencil that has a special value."
It's a theme that runs through seemingly most simple products on display, among them writable roll tape for use as labels and tags. The Memoc variety offered by Yamato Co. (better known for the paste glue it manufactures), for example, comes in more pastel shades than you'd find in an ice cream shop. Again, there's a reason: "More and more offices are asking their workers to cover the cost of stationery materials themselves," says a Yamato representative. "Many people reason, 'If I'm going to have to pay for it, I might as well get something that reflects my taste.' "
Energy-saving, too, has been pushed to the personal level, as offices dim the lights and turn up their air conditioners. Pocketable, propeller-equipped mist sprayers such as those by Koei Trade Co., once novelties, may soon become standard desk equipment, along with neck scarves filled with freezable gel.
"The items themselves aren't new developments," explains a Koei Trade representative. "But until now we've marketed them for use outdoors -- at the golf range, for example."
A few meters farther down, another booth offered spiders and cockroaches -- solar-powered toy ones -- that could either be a good way to break the ice or earn cold stares from workmates.
One flash of inspiration comes from office supplies marketer Offinet.com. The firm, affiliated with the LED bulb producer Ecorica Inc., began renting out and installing LED bulbs in mid-May, with its first customer the headquarters of a shipping firm in Tatabayashi, Gunma Prefecture, one of Japan's most sweltering hot spots.
"Everyone understands the need to save electricity," says Offinet representative Masato Ogawa, "but not everyone is ready to put the money up for it."
LED bulbs use less wattage and produce no heat, but still cost about 15,000 yen ($184) for a ceiling light. The firm rents them out at 300 yen a month each, starting with a minimum set of 10. The system is one quick way to jump on the conservation bandwagon, says Ogawa. Whether it saves money or not in the long run, he adds, is a matter of personal judgment.
デザイン部門の「第２０回日本文具大賞」グランプリを受賞したカモ井加工紙のマスキングテープ「mt slim」〈「mt slim」を商品検索〉
最新の文具を一堂に集めたアジア最大級のビジネス向け商談会「国際文具・紙製品展」が６日、東京ビッグサイトで開幕した。今年で２２回目で、会期は８日 まで。主催社のリードエグジビションジャパンによると、同会場で国際オフィス機器展、国際雑貨ＥＸＰＯなど九つの展覧会を同時開催し計１３０５社が出展、 約７５０００人の来場を見込んでいるという。初日の６日も若い女性や海外からのバイヤーなど多くの来場者でにぎわった。（アサヒ・コム編集部）【写真特集】色鮮やかな最新文具が一堂に
同社によると今回、機能向上に加えて「女子専用はさみ」など色やデザインにこだわった商品展開はさらに強まっているという。印鑑・スタンプ大手のシヤチ ハタ（名古屋市）は認印「ネーム９」の交換用カバーに「ひまわり」「レース」などのカラフルなデザイン１２種類を今秋追加投入。のりや接着剤で有名なヤマ ト（東京都中央区）は、付箋（ふせん）紙として使えるロールテープ「メモック」にファンシーな柄を入れた製品を展示した。同社商品企画室の宿谷尚代アシス タントマネージャーは「仕事で使う文具を自費で買わねばならない職場が増え、利用者個人の趣味を満たすデザインが求められている」と話す。
同日発表された「第２０回日本文具大賞」では、デザイン部門でカモ井加工紙（岡山県倉敷市）の和紙マスキングテープ「ｍｔ ｓｌｉｍ」、機能部門でコク ヨＳ＆Ｔ（大阪市）の最大８枚までとじられる針なしステープラー「ハリナックス」がグランプリをそれぞれ受賞した。優秀賞は以下のとおり。
デザイン部門 ゼブラ「アルベス ピールト シャープ」▽丸山繊維産業「ふすま地帖」▽呉竹「ＺＩＧ Ｌｅｔｔｅｒ ｐｅｎ ＣＯＣＯＩＲＯ」▽北星鉛筆「大人の鉛筆」
機能部門 キングジム「ＳＨＯＴ ＮＯＴＥ」▽カール事務器「エンゼル５ プレミアム／ロイヤル」▽オルファ「キリヌーク」▽ニチバン「テープのり ｔｅｎｏｒｉ」