Muji is one of those elegant Asian stores you find in coast cities with neighborhoods like Chinatown, Little Seoul, and Tokyo-Lite. There are three Muji stores in Manhattan, and one at JFK airport for people on the go. Well-cut clothes, nylon bags, nice spare furniture, and all those really interesting things you never knew you needed--small silver polishing cloths, polyvinyl pill and earring boxes, individually wrapped Q-tips. Japanese ingenuity at its best, and all reasonably priced.
If you happen to be on West 19th Street off 5th Avenue, there are two places to visit: Uncle Moe's Tacos (for the steak burrito) and Muji Chelsea at 16 W. 19th Street. Through September 13, 2009, all pens and other writing accessories ate 10% off. And if you prefer to build your own pen from scratch, you can purchase a polycarbonate shell and your choice of gel ink or oil-based ballpoint ink cartridges for a total of $1.60 or less.
The gel pen I'm using to write this is a 0.38mm in dark green, on Staples bagasse paper. The pen is a bit scratchy on this pad, and there is a definite shadow on the other side but no bleed through. I first read about these pens in a New York Times column a few weeks back, and went to Muji Chelsea to give it a try. I really liked the look and feel of the pen and bought quite a few.
The pen comes in 0.38mm and 0.5mm; if you decide to build your own, you can also get a refill in 1.0mm. But be careful--the ink refills are in Japanese with no English translation, and the oil-based ballpoints and gel inks look exactly the same and have been mixed in with each other. Check at the register to make sure you're getting the one you want; I have 4 ballpoint refills sitting in my pen drawer, hoping I'll give up gel ink soon and come back to them. I really prefer the 0.38mm, it has a smoother feel to it. But YMMV. And you have lots of colors to choose from: black, dark blue, light blue, red, yellow, orange, pink, dark green, and light green.
I managed to get a few pics of the pen area, an amazing display of color and plastic. Gel pens, oil based ballpoints, mechanical pencils, multi-ballpoints, fountain pens, pen cases, scissors, erasers, and colored drawing pencils. And underneath are the papers, notepads, journals and scratchpads. Lots and lots of paper.
A 5-pack of B5 30 line notebooks similar to Moleskine is $3.95 plus tax (you can see them in the pic of my Muji stash, mid-to-upper left with the dark gray border). Notepads in the A4 range (8.5 x 11) are a cream color with a vinyl protector and run abut $1.75 plus tax. There are binders and loose leaf, journals, newsprint, scratch pads, and more for very, very little money.
These are most of my Muji purchases, including the set of colored pens for $7.50 plus tax and the vinyl carryalls I use for pens, pads, change and whatever else I don't want to lose in my handbag. The paper varies, from smooth Rhodia 80gm style notebooks to newsprint scratchpads and drawing journals.
And if you're not interested in pens or paper, check out the housewares, bedding and linens, shoes and clothing. Canvas sneakers are on sale for 30% off ($20 down to $14). The size is interesting. My foot grew into a 7, went down to a 6.5 in most shoes, but in this particular sneaker I wear a 6.
Muji Soho, 455 Broadway, 212-334-2002
Muji Times Square, 620 8th Avenue, 212-382-2300
Muji Chelsea, 16 W. 19th Street, 212-414-9024