Beyond What Meets Our Eyes // Wakako

Beyond What Meets Our Eyes // Wakako

As you might already know, my relationship with the first Traveler’s Notebook started back in 2008. I still vividly remember when I stumbled upon the TN Brown at Itoya in Ginza, Tokyo. It was love at first sight. Since then, my TN Brown has accompanied my journey of BK, motherhood, and life, sometimes as a personal TN in my bag and other times as a case study sample at the BK shop. When we traveled as a family, I usually only took one notebook with me, and the TN Brown often was the one I grabbed. When we opened our brick & mortar shop, our customers frequently asked if they could purchase “the” TN Brown “as is” with all the patina. Some people called my TN Brown “The Indiana Jones’ leather notebook” because the way it aged with textures and colors reminded them of the one in the movie. 

My TN Brown was also the first sample put under the sewing machine when we were testing out the concept of BK TrulyYours service. We shipped it to the TSL workshop in Japan, and the TSL team installed pockets and rivets on the cover, then sent it back to us. So my TN has been through a lot over more than a decade of hanging out with me.

However, in the last few years, I wasn’t as gravitated to pick up my TN Brown as I used to be. I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on, so I took another notebook like the TN Camel and Roterfaden cover with me. It wasn’t the same, but I followed my gut feeling and left the TN Brown at the studio. 

During the summer of 2021, we decided to pause the TN customization service for a while as Frido would start training with the TSL team. So I went into the studio, organized all of our customized samples, and picked up my TN Brown in my hand. I am not kidding when I say this, I heard it said to me, “please take all the pockets and patches off of me. I am ready to start fresh”. So that’s what I did. I asked Frido to remove all of the pockets, rivets, and previously installed patches. He gave me back the TN brown, completely stripped off. He even removed the acrylic paint I added a few years ago. Embossing designs that were imprinted were already faded away, so they were barely visible. Stitching lines left steady needle size holes along the edge. The most visible marks were four perfectly circular holes on each corner, resulting from brass rivets installed. 

I looked at my TN Brown and just sighed deeply. It felt so at home. I felt so at home.

Since then, I have spent every day with it. It is my wallet, master family planner, and my on-the-go journal. Yet, for the last six months, as much as I have spent time looking inside my notebook spreads, writing, taking notes, and jotting down, my eyes often have gone to my leather cover. 

The more I marveled at all of the scars, wrinkles, and blemishes on the surface of the cover, the more I felt that the relationship takes both parties to be involved. When I stopped picking up my TN Brown a few years ago, was that me who didn’t feel gravitated to the cover or the cover that did not feel gravitated to me? Perhaps the cover wanted to take a break from me, or maybe it didn’t want to go to a particular destination with me when I traveled. Is it always true that we, as a person who chose to purchase the item, always take the position of an owner? At the end, who owns who? Is it possible that our journal cover or other artifacts we hold closely own us as much as we think we own them?

It also made me wonder, does “leather” as a material carry on the spirit and soul of the original animal when it gets labeled as leather from a hide? 

I know I often had felt the “soul” of the artifacts when I interacted with bags or other artifacts made by TSL. I always thought the craftsmanship of the TSL and the people behind TSL embedded such power to radiate the feeling. But perhaps, it was more than that. Could it be that it was also the spirit of the materials that radiates the sense of a soul? 

Of course, these questions are intangible, and I don’t have a way to prove if they are true or not. But since TN Brown returned to my life, it has been the lens I see all of the artifacts we share at Baum-kuchen. It’s like once I start seeing the world in the way, I can’t go back. 

Along the way, I added a patch of California Poppy on the front cover of my TN Brown as my commitment to grow and learn more about indigenous plants and culture. I also embossed my mantra “Live fully. Love deeply. Dream wildly.” on the front cover when my dear friend experienced an unexpected loss in the family. It’s positioned in the location where my thumb always goes when I pick up my TN. But before I added any of these new changes, I checked in with my TN to see if that felt okay. 

And so as our tandem journey goes on. I hope I will live up to be the good friend and companion which my TN Brown deserves and I want to make sure that the journey of this beautiful leather with its unique soul continues beyond my hand. 

As far as BK TrulyYours service, Frido is training diligently and we hope to be able to share the service in the very near future! 


Bk Artifacts Featured: 


  • Kristin: February 23, 2022
    Author image

    I Loved reading your post, but I really loved your video. So beautiful and listening to you was better than reading your story.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  • Frauke: February 23, 2022
    Author image

    Hi Wakako,

    what did Frido use to remove the acrylic paint?

    greetings from Germany, Frauke

Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing