Japanese entrepreneur Rina Ogura: No more kitsch

Kitsch is a low-brow style of mass-produced art or design using popular or cultural icons.

When it comes to telling stories, silicon is fast overtaking paper as a method of expression. Notepads are replaced by iPads, notebooks are replaced by MacBooks, and paper is quickly becoming a rarity in modern companies.

Paper has its place though, says Japanese entrepreneur Rina Ogura of her self-named luxury paper company. The class and prestige that accompanies a story told on paper is yet to be reproduced on digital. Our ability to translate thought into tangible ideals via pen movements on paper is something which Rina believes is special and should be preserved.

This appreciation for paper has inspired Rina to create the Ogura MEMO, a classic style writing notebook that she has designed for creatives, thinkers, dreamers, and story tellers. The notebook draws on the Ogura family’s century-old paper making traditions, and is entirely created in Japan.

“I wanted to design something truly classic,” Rina said in an email. “I have had enough of kitsch.

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“I wanted a notebook that I could rely on, something that looks sharp.” And that’s exactly what she has made.

Rina Ogura is from Tokyo, Japan, where her family has been working with Japanese paper since 1923. Last year, Rina met a Kiwi from Wellington who was travelling in Japan. It wasn’t long before the young gentleman had sold her on the idea of New Zealand and Wellington, so in early 2014, Rina and her partner moved capital cities to start the Rina Ogura paper brand.

The windy city has been receptive to the Japanese national, and she’s finding that for business, it’s equally welcoming.

“I love how compact the city is and all the different shops and cafes,” she said. “It really is a special place with a great creative atmosphere, especially for what I am doing with Ogura MEMO.”

“In Tokyo opportunities are almost limitless. But for a new brand or business starting out, Wellington beats Tokyo hands down. Wellington has a more accessible market and lower barrier of entry than Tokyo, making it easier for a young creative business to get moving.”

Rina Ogura’s first product is a writing notebook called the Ogura MEMO, but as Rina explains, it’s not just about the notebook. It’s about the classic style of writing.

“Sometimes people are too busy on their digital device to think clearly. I think it is important to have enough time for ‘output.'”

Being able to recount the victories and struggles of the day on paper has therapeutic effect. When we spoke to writr, a startup in Hamilton that has developed an app to ask users thought-provoking questions, we found that people who wrote regularly experienced a cathartic release, which is essentially a fancy way of saying that they were able to deal with their emotions.

The Rina Ogura brand hopes to make it easy for busy entrepreneurs to find that release, capture their ideas, or simply draw sketches.

“I believe it is important for each everyone to write their own story,” Rina said.

“This product, Ogura MEMO, is my first statement.”

The company is currently looking at retail opportunities in Wellington and Auckland, and they’re keeping their eye on Sydney too. The Ogura MEMO notebook will ship today, on August 13, 2014, and you can order your masterpiece online here.


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