Crónicas Estilográficas

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mandarin Yellow

For better or worse, the modern icon in fountain pens is the Montblanc Meisterstück model. Therefore, that style –balance shape with a number of rings on the body—is imitated by many pen companies. In some distant past, the model was different—the Parker 51 at some point, and, before that, the flat-top Duofold.

Japan is not different, and a number of copies of all those models have appeared on these Chronicles: The Eiko, a Platinum 10 Years, modern torpedo models… to name just a few.

In 1929, Pilot released a desk pen in bright yellow color. The base, Masa Sunami shows in the book Fountain Pens of Japan (A. LAMBROU and M. SUNAMI. ISBN 978-0-9571723-0-2), is equally yellow and includes a calendar. The pen itself is impressive enough on its own merits—bright yellow with black section and tail--truly inspired in the well known Duofold Mandarin Yellow by Parker.

The barrel is engraved: "PILOT" / US PAT (Namiki N logo) * 1600293 / PILOT PEN MFG CO LTD. The asterisk (*) means that there might have been some character in there, but it is now unreadable. The patent deserves some reflections by itself.

This Pilot, however, is a lever filler and implements a relatively small nib—a size 3 made of 14 K gold with a very appropriate, dare I say, posting point.

The noble side of the nib. The inscription reads "POST / 14 K GOLD / PILOT / 3".

These are its dimensions:
  • Length (open): 185 mm
  • Diameter: 9 mm
  • Weight (dry): 13.8 g

Typical flat feed of the Pilot pens of the time.

This particular unit was made in 1929 according to the imprint on the nib.

My thanks to Mr. Mochizuki and Mr. Sunami.

Romillo Essential Black – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, April 20th, 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, Parker, Japón

Saturday, April 18, 2015

In Kugahara

Another pen shop in Tokyo—Asahiya Kami Bungu, at the area called Kugahara in the district of Ota. This means that this shop is really off the beaten tracks of any pen route in Tokyo. As a result, the shop relies strongly on online channels to carry their business.

But the brick and mortar shop is still there, as has been the case since 1931. It is fairly spacious and cozy, and only offers a small selection of pens —all Pilot and Namiki—, a couple of ink brands —Pilot and J. Herbin—, and a nice selection of papers and notebooks.

The brick and mortar shop.

This limited offer of pens would only make this shop as many others, but Asahiya Kami does offer a unique pen —a red-urushi Pilot Custom 845— and a broader selection of nib points on models Custom 845 and plunger-filler Custom 823. The later is also available in the apparently discontinued white transparent version.

The red urushi (vermillion) Pilot Custom 845 with a regular BB nib. This pen in this color is exclusive to Asahiya Kami Bungu.

Other pen shops in Japan have offered similar options in the past. Maruzen had limited edition Custom 845s in green and in blue urushi, and some years ago offered the option of falcon and waverly nibs at least on the Custom 823. These options, however, are no longer available, and make Asahiya Kami all the more appealing. The drawback of all these limited releases is having to pay the full catalog (MSRP) price (JPY 50000 for the Custom 845 and JPY 30000 for the Custom 823) while some other shops in town offer them at discount prices, although with no fancy options.

Two Custom 823. The fully transparent unit sports a waverly nib. This option is not offered in the Pilot catalog, but is sold at Asahiya Kami stationery.

Exclusivity, after all, has a price.

Asahiya Kami Bungu will be included in the list of pen shops in Tokyo in this blog.

Platinum 3776 (1984) – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 17th, 2015
etiquetas: Tokyo, mercado, Pilot

Monday, April 6, 2015


Kuretake pens use Bock nibs.

Kuretake is a very traditional company, founded in 1902, from Nara. Its original product was solid ink, sumi. However, along its history several technological developments (liquid sumi ink in 1955, relfillable brush pen in 1991, to name just a couple of them) pushed the company into the business of brush pens. Only in 2008, Kuretake started making fountain pens.

A Kuretake brush pen together with a written sample.

The current Kuretake fountain pens are cartridge-converters and implement size 6 nibs by Peter Bock in 14 K gold. Medium point seems to be only option. Their prices range between JPY 50000 and JPY 60000, before tax.

A Kuretake pen on display at Maruzen in Tokyo. The price is clearly marked: JPY 60000, plus tax.

Another Kuretake fountain pen. This model is cheaper: JPY 50000, plus tax.

The obvious German nib. Medium point is the only option.

The clip.

There seem to be no problem in writing Japanese with these German nibs (::1::, ::2::).

Platinum 3776 (1984), B nib – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Chuo, April 1st, 2015
etiquetas: Bock, Kuretake

Friday, April 3, 2015


The essence of this Chronicle is again one sentence: Davidoff pens use Sailor nibs.

The basic Davidoff models: the Very Zino Resin (bottom) and the Very Zino Resin Mini (top). All Davidoff's pens are cartridge-converters.

Davidoff does not hide it and even uses that statement as an argument to enter the Japanese market: “Davidoff pens are perfectly adapted to write Japanese characters”, Davidoff sales people claim.

Davidoff's logo on the top of the cap.

The two nib options in Davidoff's pens. In Sailor terms, they are medium (top) and big (bottom). In the case of Davidoff's pens, all nibs are made of 18 K gold. Only three point options: F, M, and B.

But the problem is twofold. First, Davidoff pens are a lot more expensive than their Sailor equivalents.

Nib size --Sailor-- -Davidoff-
Medium JPY 10000 (14 K) JPY 28000 (18 K)
JPY 15000 (21 K)
Big JPY 20000 (21 K) JPY 30000 (18 K)
This table summarizes the cheaper options for Sailor and Davidoff's pens. Note that Davidoff's nibs are made of 18 K gold--an option that does not exist in the Sailor catalog. Prices in Japan (in Japanese Yen) before taxes.

Second—Japanese pen aficionados love German pens with their German nibs. Maybe they are also good to write in Japanese.

Sailor Young Profit, music nib – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Chuo, April 1st, 2015
etiquetas: Sailor, Davidoff, mercado

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fountain Pens of the World Festival (I)

Fountain pen events in Tokyo there are many. From the quasi-monthly meetings of the Wagner group to single-brand promotions at some department store, the gamut is wide. And some of them really stand out in the calendar.

One such example is the Fountain Pens of the World Festival organized by Mitsukoshi department store. This annual event is celebrated usually in March at the Nihonbashi branch in Tokyo.

General view of the Festival. Pilot's stand on the front, Sailor's and Eboya's to the right, Platinum-Nakaya's and Ohashido's on the back.

More brands: Kuretake, Parker, Waterman, Cross, Dupont, Conway-Stewart...

Eboya on the front, Pilot on the back.

This week-long festival congregates most of the pen makers and pen importers to be found in Japan. Therefore, it is an interesting opportunity to check what was going on in the market. but there is more to it: there are some special editions of pens and inks, some brands promote their new goods, and there are pen masters of every brand to service pens, new and old.

Mr. Yoshida, of Nakaya, on duty.

Ohashido's lathe... and Ohashido's pen master.

Nibmeister Yukio Nagahara.

Sailor's ink mixer, Mr. Ishimaru.

Pelikan's nibmeister.

Pilot's pen doctor at work.

Calligraphy lessons courtesy of Pilot. Any better way to promote Pilot's Parallel Pens?

Most Italian brands, plus some others like Monteverde and Dupont, shared the same pen master. Here he was adjusting a Delta Dolce Vita.

Mitsukoshi’s event, might be worth to insist, is not the only one of its kind, but it is the one congregating more brands and more visitors. Event like this are a powerful do bring pens to the public and potential new user. Consequently, it should be no surprise that the Japanese pen scene was so active nowadays.

On another text I will report on the special edition pens released at this event. There are already too many pictures on this Chronicle.

Platinum 3776 (1984), B nib – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 30th, 2015
etiquetas: evento, mercado

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sailor 1963

In essence, this text is summarized in one sentence and one picture:

A Sailor ad from 1963.

The first pocket pen released in Japan, the ad says, was the Sailor Mini, that was the name of the model, in 1963. “A little pen is born. The name is Sailor Mini”—such is the main line in the ad. Then it continues to say the pen was only 9 cm long (open), and that it fitted perfectly in a shirt’s pocket. The original price was JPY 1000, and six ink cartridges were JPY 30.

But we can say a bit more. The pen in the ad corresponds to that of the following picture, a pen already reviewed on these Chronicles (and that review included some mistakes). The pen implements a semi-hooded, springy nib, made of 14 K gold.

The Sailor Mini (1963) of the previous ad. This unit is dated in April 1963.

Some other variations in the Mini concept showed up on that same year of 1963. The following example is engraved with the same date code as the previous unit --April 1963--, but shows an inlaid nib:

Another Sailor Mini from 1963. This time, with an inlaid nib.

All this information certifies that the Sailor Mini (pocket pen) was released before Platinum launched its own model in 1964, as this company declares in its own website (checked on March 2015).

(And now I need to add correcting notes to several of these Chronicles).

Romillo Essential Black – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 28th, 2015
etiquetas: Sailor, Platinum

Monday, March 23, 2015


Prototype pens, proofs of concept, are some of the holy grails of collecting almost anything. The reasons are clear: they are rare –very few units were indeed made-, and they were not supposed to be sold. So, rarity, the added value of any collectable, speaks loudly through prototypes.

Last week, at the annual Mitsukoshi “Fountain Pens of the World” Festival, nibmeister Nagahara Yukio was on duty fixing pens despite the very sad family news. And he had his personal pen case with him.

Nibmeister Yukio Nagahara's pen case.

Few of the pens in there were standard—one of them was the following cross nib.

An unusual cross nib.

Cross nibs, in the Nagahara tradition, are two-fold nibs based on a Naginata Togi. Over it, then, a second set of tines are welded. That is called an “over-cross” nib. This prototype is, on the contrary, an “under-cross” nib. The noble side, engraved, is a flat regular nib, and the crossing half-nib is nested between that one and the feed.

The clean-looking upper side of the "under-cross" nib. Note the two-fold tip of the nib.

The result is a cleaner looking nib, although it does not really ad that much to the well-known over-cross unit. So, this might only be a prototype... or maybe a test for a future change in the geometry of Sailor’s cross nibs. In any event, this nib shows that Sailor has ideas under development. Experiments are indeed needed, and nibmeister Nagahara Yukio is alive and well.

Clear enough--Yukio Nagahara's personal pen. But many would be happy to own such a signed experiment.

And this under-cross pen would be a most valuable possession for mostly any collector.

Pilot Ladypearl – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano ward, March 12th, 2015
etiquetas: Sailor, soluciones técnicas, evento, nibmeister Nagahara Yukio, plumín
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