Saturday, 7 December 2013

scrapbooking in asia

Recently I listened to Paperclipping’s episode 185: Scrapbooking in Asia and kudos to Noell for attempting the topic. The episode was very much from the point of Westerners-in-Asia though, so I thought I’d write a post on what my experiences had been with scrapbooking in Asia (or more specifically Hong Kong) as a local.1 2

Space in Hong Kong apartments is very limited, so even if early scrapbooking companies like Creative Memories did try to enter the Hong Kong market (which they did not), they would have found the reception to their space-eating-12x12 albums to be pretty cold.

Hobonichi notebook

So taking that into account, one would begin to realise that scrapbooking in Asia - or more accurately, memory keeping in Asia - would mean something quite different from the large 12x12 or 12x24 layouts that we’re used to seeing in Western cultures. Instead, try to think of memory keeping as something more like Amy Tangerine’s Daybooks, or K&Company’s Smashbooks and you’ll be close.


One of the guests on Paperclipping’s episode mentioned that no one wants to scrapbook with local products because they are just stationery from 40 years ago. Yes, it’s true, there are quite a number of generic stationery stores that have really old stock stashed away in some back corner of the store.

However there are also plenty of small stationery stores tucked away in shopping complexes3 like the Sino Centre or the CTMA centre, that sells cute Japanese or Korean stationery that can be and have been used as mini-scrapbooks.

Sino Centre

picture of Sino Centre
Image source: Princess Rose in CTMA

Big shopping centre franchises like Log-On is also a perfect place to pick up things like washi-tape, moleskine notebooks, or the Midori Traveller’s notebook. Again, think in terms of Daybooks, smashbooks or even travel mini-album.


There is no such thing as a scrapbooking community or scrapbooking industry for Asian scrappers as say, Two Peas. So scrapbooking is not so much a communal thing, but more an individual expression or record keeping. Kind of like art journaling. And because there is no central store of information sharing of what is the latest paper products or art supply, a lot of what memory keeping means depends on the latest technology, design idea or “fad”.

One of the things that would really affect the type of memory keeping would be photography. A few years back, Holga cameras were all the rage, and then there were the instax cameras. Even now the number of instax film styles available in Hong Kong are astounding. Sure some people stick their photos on the walls, but there are instax photo albums around that people fill in like Project Life.



Then most recently there are street photographers in Mongkok, Hong Kong that offers to take photos for you and print them instantly on the street for you.





It is not hard to imagine that services like these encourage people to "scrapbook". Although one thing that's interesting to note is that everything I've talked about so far is targeted towards a younger audience than is usual of the Western scrapbooking community. This is not an exercise that grandmothers or mothers undertake to record their children's lives. This is something that high school or university students do in their spare time.

Scrapbooking in Asia is hardly few and far between, but it is a completely different creature from what scrapbooking is like in Western countries. It is more like a diary or art journal. And it is because of the more personal nature of this type of memory keeping that you would not see blog posts or online galleries showcasing pages upon pages of pretty layouts.

Hopefully this shed some light on the topic. And to sign off on this entry, I want to leave you with this majorly cute video which showcases what Asian scrapbooking looks like. This is actually an ad for a popular brand of yearly planner in Japan.

(Watch the whole video, it's really cute!)


  1. I have attempted to leave a comment on the Paperclipping website, but I think the numerous links to shops and videos in my comment (as you’ll see in my own post) may have killed disqus and my post was completely gone. It wasn’t even in my disqus account when I logged in to see where it went… So that’s another reason why I’m doing the post in my own blog, to avoid that from happening again.
  2. I am not talking about scrapbookers living in Asia who follows the Western style of scrapbooking. I am sure there are some, whether they are expats living in Asia or locals who have found online sources of information like Two Peas. The original podcast topic was about Asian style scrapbooking - or at least it was, and that is what I'm trying to address here. 
  3. I say shopping complex because these buildings are more like a commercial building jam packed with small little stores that you need to navigate your way around. Most of these stores are small and stuffed full from floor to ceiling with merchandise of all shapes and sizes. There are a few Korean stationery stores in Sino Centre that I go visit each time I go back to Hong Kong.

15 comments:

  1. This will be my third attempt to leave you some blog love! I came over from PRT and wanted to say thanks for sharing this post and piping up in protest against some of the thoughts shared on this particular episode. I am relieved to see that my thoughts and feelings about scrapbooking in Asis were not entirely off. Thanks for you post and the photos and thoughts about how living in Asia influences how "scrapbooking" has developed and what it looks like in Asia!

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    1. Thanks for commenting!

      It really is interesting to see how scrapbooking means completely different things in different countries, to the point where the word "scrapbooking" doesn't actually exist but the act of it in the most basic sense (ie. memory keeping) does and that it has flourished in a completely different direction.

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  2. Great post! I totally agree with what you wrote. I was sad when I listened to that particular Paperclipping episode because I have always loved Asian stationery and used it for memory keeping before I learned about scrapbooking 8 years ago. Some products and styles which are new and trendy right now come from Asia, such as washi tape and Smashbook style memory keeping. They should invite you for another episode of scrapbooking in Asia!

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    1. I love stationery from Asia too! I also knew about Asian stationery before scrapbooking, and the amount of money I'll spend inside a stationery store whenever I visit... now I have to divide that stationery budget with my scrapbooking supplies...

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  3. Just came over from PRT and want to thank you for taking the time to write your interesting blog post.

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    1. Thanks for coming over and leaving me blog love!

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  4. Thank you for the detailed blog post. When I heard it mentioned on PRT I couldn't wait to come take a look. I love all the photos and videos you included. It really creates a picture of how memory keeping is done that an audio version likely wouldn't be able to explain. Another blog to add to my Feedly list :)

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    1. Thank you for coming to visit and I'm glad you liked the article.
      I hope I'm not an one-article wonder and provide more content to come!

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  5. I heard about you blog post from PRT and came to take a look. I loved your post! It is so inspiring to see how differently we all keep memories and how we can incorporate it into our memory keeping. Thank you for creating a vivid picture of Asian scrapbooking.

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  6. I love this post Serena. The videos are great. I actually love the organic way in which these little books were coming together. Very artful!

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    1. Thanks for visiting! I find those videos very inspiring to my own journaling as well.

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  7. One of my biggest dream is to go to Japan and spend at least ONE entire day looking for stores like this! I went to Vancouver in 1998 and I found 1 store like this and man I didn't have much money back then so I couldn't buy everything and I need to do this once in my life (at least one, that is) ;) Awesome blog post. I love love love your book with all the small photos of your baby. He is adorable and I love a really nice book that actually look like it was made by hand with lots of details and cute drawings. :)

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    1. Going to any stationery stores in Asia can really drain your wallet if you're not careful, lol.

      If you ever go to Japan, you'd want to check out Loft and Tokyu Hand. Loft have a great stationery section and Tokyu Hands has arts and crafts stuff. Spent a fortune there once.

      That picture of the book and the baby isn't mine. I've linked the picture to the original source where I got the pic from.

      If you're interested in more of those style of hand drawn pictures next to journaling, you should check out this flickr group: http://www.flickr.com/groups/hobonichi-techo/

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  8. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I'm American... but Asian... but now living in Italy and although it seems many times removed, the love of cute Asian stationery has most definitely stuck to me... and I think there are many aspects of Asian culture that permeate into our memory keeping - from themes, topics, holidays - to what we might deem "important" in our lives and the aspect of doodling, chibi characters and all that :) I'm excited to explore all that you have shared, thank you!

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    1. That was very succinctly said! Our Asian "background" really does seep into our scrapbooking!

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