Top 14 Best Japanese Highlighters to Buy Online 2019 - Tried and True!

Highlighters are indispensable study assistants. It’s their job to point out and help you remember the most vital parts of your notes, a textbook, documents. You don’t want to skimp on them. And here in Japan, where the market for stationery gets ever more competitive, we have some of the most innovative highlighters in the world, including ones that are retractable, erasable, fast-drying.

In fact, we have so much to offer, it’s hard to pick out the best. That’s why, this time around, we ordered the 14 most popular highlighters from Japan’s e-commerce giants (such as Amazon, Rakuten, and kakaku.com) and tested for the following:

1. How Easily It Writes
2. How Quickly It Dries
3. How Functional It is
4. How Rich the Color is

This is how we tested and found the most exceptional Japanese highlighters.
  • Last updated: 10-24-2019
  • 195 views
Table of Contents

How to Choose a Japanese Highlighter – Buying Guide

We’ll get into how we tested and compared all our highlighters, but before that, we want to introduce four things you should look out for when picking out a highlighter.

① Get a Highlighter that Draws Well

We know, we know–this sounds utterly straightforward, but hear us out. Not all highlighters are tipped with the same angular block. There are tips with windows in them, tips coated in resin, and tips that are basically brushes. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each, and it will be a simple task to choose a highlighter you find easy to work with.

Tips with Windows in Them Let You See Through to the Words Underneath

Tips with Windows in Them Let You See Through to the Words Underneath
If you hate making mistakes, then we think you’d like a highlighter with a window installed in the tip. Because you can see exactly what you’re highlighting as you’re highlighting it, you’ll never start drawing a few letters too early or end a few letters too late.
Windows are especially helpful for marking up textbooks or documents where the letters are printed close together.

Tips that are Coated in Resin Don’t Wear Down as Quickly

Tips that are Coated in Resin Don’t Wear Down as Quickly
Tips that are coated in resin are a godsend if you use a ruler when highlighting or if you write with heavy strokes.
The resin coating reinforces the tip, keeping it from wearing down or fraying. It not only makes highlighting a lot steadier, it keeps the pen looking and acting like new for a long, long time.

Brush Tips Allow You to Completely Control the Thickness of Your Highlights

Brush Tips Allow You to Completely Control the Thickness of Your Highlights
If you want to vary the width of your strokes, a brush-tipped highlighter is going to be your best bet.
The tip not only ensures that you can highlight thick or thin, fine print or large print easily, but also prevents any ink splotches or uneven areas of color, once you learn how to control it. If you like neon colors, you can also use brush highlighters for art; overall, these allow you the most control over your highlighting.

② Get a Highlighter that Dries Quickly

② Get a Highlighter that Dries Quickly
If you want to be as fast and efficient with your highlighting as possible, look for a highlighter that dries quickly. You won’t need to worry about the ink smearing or rubbing off, so you can move onto the next word, row, and page just like that.
Generally speaking, highlighters that have been marked as “quick-drying※1” do live up to their claims. If they haven’t been so labeled, however, you’ll have to try the highlighter out for yourself.
※1 速乾: quick-drying

③ Get a Highlighter with Extra Features

③ Get a Highlighter with Extra Features
There are what we call 2Way highlighters in Japan, which have both a thick and a thin tip. There are also clicky–that is, retractable–highlighters, erasable highlighters, as well as highlighters where you can refill the ink.
Think about what features you’d like before making your purchase.

④ Get a Highlighter in a Color that Helps You Concentrate

④ Get a Highlighter in a Color that Helps You Concentrate
As much as you may personally love hot neon pink, when it comes to highlighters, you want a color that’s easy to distinguish. This means not only a color that’s easy to distinguish on the page, but a color that makes it easy to distinguish the words underneath. If, for example, you find neon colors hard to look at for extended periods of time, then go for softer pastel tones.
You also want to take into consideration the sheer variety of colors a pen has to offer. Colors can be mixed and matched to meet various needs; you could use blue, which supposedly boosts concentration on passages you need to memorize, and yellow or pink or red on other passages you want to emphasize.

What Products We Ordered and How We Tested Them

What Products We Ordered and How We Tested Them
Now to introduce the 14 most popular Japanese highlighters that we ordered and the process by which we tested them.
{The Products We Tested}
1. Pentel Retractable Handy Line S (ぺんてる ノック式ハンディラインS)
2. Kuretake Brush Hilite (呉竹 ブラッシュハイライト)
3. Tombow Pencil Co. Play Color Dot (トンボ鉛筆 プレイカラードット)
4. Tombow Pencil Co. Keicoat80 (トンボ鉛筆 蛍coat80)
5. Kokuyo Beetle Tip (コクヨ Beetle Tip)
6. Kokuyo WiLL STATIONERY ACTIC Highlighter 2 Color Twin (コクヨ WiLL STATIONERY ACTIC 蛍光マーカー 2色ツイン)
7. Pilot Frixion Light (パイロット フリクションライト)
8. Pilot Spotliter VW (パイロット スポットライターVW)
9. Mitsubishi Pencil uni promark VIEW (三菱鉛筆 uni プロマーク ビュー)
10. Mitsubishi Pencil PROPUS Window (三菱鉛筆 プロパス・ウインドウ)
11. Mitsubishi Pencil PROPUS Window Q-Dry (三菱鉛筆 プロパス・ウインドウ クイックドライ)
12. Zebra Justfit (ゼブラ ジャストフィット)
13. Zebra Mildliner ゼブラ マイルドライナー
14. Zebra Highlighter OPTEX CARE (ゼブラ 蛍光オプテックス ケア)
We then tested for each of the following things:
Test ①: How Easily It Writes
Test ②: How Quickly It Dries
Test ③: How Functional It is
Test ④: How Rich the Color is

Test ①: How Easily It Writes

Test ①: How Easily It Writes
First, we looked at how easily each highlighter wrote.
We honed in on things like how easy it was to draw a line of uniform thickness and how the tip felt against paper. We then graded each highlighter on a scale from D to A+.

The Big Takeaway: Flexible and Meaty Tips Wrote the Most Easily, No Matter the Type or Thickness of Paper

The Big Takeaway: Flexible and Meaty Tips Wrote the Most Easily, No Matter the Type or Thickness of Paper
The highlighters that were deemed easiest to write with utilized flexible, fat pen tips. That fat tip acted as a kind of cushion, allowing us to get a straight, uniform line no matter the strength or steadiness of hand and quality or thickness of paper.
Stiffer pen tips obviously offer you little wiggle room, but don’t go for one that’s too soft either, as it shifts easily under an unsteady hand, making the highlighter even more difficult to use.
Zebra’s Justfit is a prime example of a good tip. It’s soft enough to cover for any mistakes you make while angling the highlighter, and it’ll produce a uniform line, even among the tight print in a dictionary. It also draws straight even if your hand does shake and quiver a bit, so it’s a good one to try out if your highlights are normally messy.

Test ②: How Quickly It Dries

Test ②: How Quickly It Dries
Next, we tested how quickly each highlighter dried.
We simply tried to smear each line with our hands, and then graded the highlighters on a scale from D to A+.

The Big Takeaway: As of Now, Nothing Beats Mitsubishi Pencil’s PROPUS Window Q-Dry! However, There were Tons of Highlighters that Worked Well, Despite Not Making Any Claims about Drying Speed

The Big Takeaway: As of Now, Nothing Beats Mitsubishi Pencil’s PROPUS Window Q-Dry! However, There were Tons of Highlighters that Worked Well, Despite Not Making Any Claims about Drying Speed
The majority of our testers gave Mitsubishi Pencil’s PROPUS Window Q-Dry full points on this test. Even the freshly-laid ink didn’t smear when we touched it, substantiating our claim that products that claim to be fast-drying are usually fast-drying.
However, highlighters like Zebra’s Justfit and OPTEX CARE, neither of which made any claims as to speed, also did well on this test, taking only about two seconds to dry. Basically, any ink that is quite transparent and absorbs quickly into paper is going to be quick-drying. On the other hand, if the ink tends to pool, then it’ll end up smearing and staining your hands.

Test ③: How Functional It is

Test ③: How Functional It is
Next, we looked at functionality.
To be more specific, we checked to see if the highlighter had any special features and whether they were actually helpful. We then graded on highlighter on a scale from D to A+.

The Big Takeaway: Companies are Truly Differentiating Themselves from the Competition, but Not All the Features They Come up With are Practical…

The Big Takeaway: Companies are Truly Differentiating Themselves from the Competition, but Not All the Features They Come up With are Practical…
There were tons of products with newfangled features, such as 2Way tips, windows, and magical ink. However, just because a product has special features doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier to use.
There were products that shined because of their uniqueness, such as Pentel’s Retractable Handy Line S (retractable highlighter) and Pilot’s Frixion Light (erasable ink). However, there were also products that, frankly, added on unnecessary features that actually led to bad reviews, such as Tombow Pencil’s Play Color Dot.

Test ④: How Rich the Color is

Test ④: How Rich the Color is
Finally, we tested for color.
In order to accurately compare products from different brands, we focused only on pink highlighters. We highlighted text printed onto normal printer paper and looked both at how clear the color showed up and at how easy it was to read the words underneath.

The Big Takeaway: The Richness of the Color Alone Had No Effect on How Easy It was to Distinguish Text. The Most Important Factor was How Fluorescent the Color was

The Big Takeaway: The Richness of the Color Alone Had No Effect on How Easy It was to Distinguish Text. The Most Important Factor was How Fluorescent the Color was
Even if the color was rich and deep, as long as it was in a fluorescent shade, we could still see black print underneath. On the other hand, if the color was deep and not florescent, almost a purple tone, rather than pink, then the print underneath would be hidden. Yes, they’re eye-catching, but we wouldn’t say such products are really fulfilling their roles as highlighters.
By the way, two highlighters could be from the same brand, but be in colors of varying intensity. If you’re someone that likes paler colors, then your best bet would to be to look for products labeled as either mild※2 or soft※3 in color.
※2 マイルドカラー: mild color
※3 ソフトカラー: soft color

The Final Verdict: The Top 14 Best Japanese Highlighters to Buy Online

Now to introduce the 14 best Japanese highlighters available online. They were ranked by how well they did on our tests and given an overall grade ranging from D to A+.
14. Tombow Pencil Co. Play Color Dot 1

14. Tombow Pencil Co. Play Color Dot

$1.58

Writes EasilyC
Dries QuicklyD
FunctionalD
ColorsCherry Red, Sakura, Coral, Orange, Honey Yellow, Apple Green, Mint Green, Sky Blue, Blue, Lilac, Grey, Brown
Overall ScoreD
Writes EasilyD
Dries QuicklyC
FunctionalB
ColorsYellow, Pink, Green, Orange, Blue, Violet
Overall ScoreC
Writes EasilyD
Dries QuicklyC
FunctionalB
ColorPink, Orange, Yellow, Green, Light Blue
Overall ScoreC
Writes EasilyB
Dries QuicklyC
FunctionalC
ColorsBrown, Orange, Blue, Red, Peach, Sky Blue, Yellow, Purple, Chartreuse, Golden Yellow
Overall ScoreC
Writes EasilyB
Dries QuicklyC
FunctionalB
ColorsYellow & Pink, Yellow & Orange, Yellow & Green, Pink & Orange, Pink & Green, Yellow & Blue, Pink & Blue
Overall ScoreC
9. Kokuyo WiLL STATIONERY ACTIC Highlighter 2 Color Twin 1

9. Kokuyo WiLL STATIONERY ACTIC Highlighter 2 Color Twin

$1.03

Writes EasilyA
Dries QuicklyC
FunctionalC
ColorsPink & Light Green, Orange & Light Blue, Yellow & Purple
Overall ScoreB
Writes EasilyC
Dries QuicklyB
FunctionalB
ColorsPink, Orange, Yellow, Light Green, Light Blue
Overall ScoreB
Writes EasilyC
Dries QuicklyB
FunctionalA
ColorsYellow, Peach, Orange, Green, Sky Blue
Overall ScoreB
Writes EasilyA
Dries QuicklyC
FunctionalA
ColorsPink, Orange, Yellow, Light Green, Sky Blue, Violet
Overall ScoreA
Writes EasilyA
Dries QuicklyA
FunctionalC
ColorsRed, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Dark Blue, Fuchsia, Purple, Brown
Overall ScoreA
Writes EasilyB
Dries QuicklyB
FunctionalA
ColorsMild Red, Mild Pink, Mild Orange, Mild Yellow, Mild Green, Mild Blue Green, Mild Blue, Mild Dark Blue, Mild Violet, Mild Grey, Mild Magenta, Mild Vermilion, Mild Gold, Mild Smokey Blue, Mild Brown
Overall ScoreA
Writes EasilyA
Dries QuicklyB
FunctionalA
ColorsPeach, Orange, Yellow, Green, Sky Blue (Soft Colors: Dandelion, Lime, Aqua, Lavender, Sakura)
Overall ScoreA
Writes EasilyA+
Dries QuicklyA
FunctionalA+
ColorsOrange, Pink, Yellow, Green, Blue, Blue Green, Dark Blue, Purple, Red, Yellow Orange
Overall ScoreA+
Writes EasilyA
Dries QuicklyA+
FunctionalA+
ColorsCoral Pink, Salmon Pink, Golden Yellow, Lime Green, Violet, Pink, Orange, Yellow, Green, Sky Blue
Overall ScoreA+

Summary

We rounded up experts and members of our editing department, purchased the 14 most popular Japanese highlighters, and tested them all.
With highlighters, it’s best to get a few different colors and affix to each some kind of purpose or meaning. Once you’ve come up with your own code, it’ll be that much easier to review your notes and documents later on.
Original by Nao Kondo; Translation by Jasmine Li

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