Saturday, June 19, 2010

Origins

Some weeks ago there was a somehow bitter discussion on the Fountain Pen Network (FPN) about the American company Danitrio.

It all started with what I thought was an innocent question: why do people think Danitrio is a Japanese company when it is based in California and uses German nibs, save the 24K gold Yokozuna nib made in Japan? The only real Japanese element on those pens seems to be the envelope, the art on the barrel and cap. That is truly made in Japan by Japanese craftsmen.

Many different opinions were expressed: Some followers of the thread were honestly surprised by this revelation. One of them even spoke of a possible “willful sin of omission”. Another group argued that looking Japanese and having Japanese-made ornament was enough to consider this brand Japanese, or that being American or Japanese was irrelevant. A third group noted that outsourcing was a general phenomenon and, therefore, the German origin of the nibs is not powerful enough argument to claim Danitrio was not Japanese.

Some unpleasant comments and ad-hominem (non-)arguments were also shared on the thread, proving how passionate some people might be when touching sensitive spots.

I never thought this was a sensitive topic, though. In fact, my question was based on my surprise. People on the FPN spoke of Danitrio as a Japanese pen company, but I had never seen such a brand in Japan. Not in shops, not owned by anyone. Actually, I saw my first Danitrio at the Madrid Pen Show in 2009. After that, I have only seen those pens at the Itoya Maki-e Fair celebrated in Tokyo last May, as it was already reported on these Chronicles. And on this occasion I learned about their California origin and about the main source of their nibs.

Danitrio urushi pens at the Itoya Maki-e Fair in Tokyo last May. Picture courtesy of Moskva.

All those responses to the thread I initiated pose, however, some interesting questions:

The first is fairly obvious: How do we ascribe one company to one country? Is Parker American, English, French? Is Waterman American or French?

Is the origin of the nibs a faithful indicator of the origin of the pen? Is the location of the headquarters or the origin of the investment the final argument?

The case of pens, for a pen enthusiast, is different from other products. Some claim that there are specific characteristics associated to certain countries of origin. If that were true, the question is relevant.

A second question is about why an American-based pen company disguises itself as Japanese. Some claim Danitrio never hided its Californian origin, but the overall perception among pen enthusiasts is that Danitrio was Japanese.

On my criticism to Danitrio on the FPN, I also added that it was hard to consider seriously a pen company that chooses not to say anything about its nibs when describing the pen. Most companies describe the size and materials of them as well as their type of writing—fine, medium, stub, oblique, etc. Danitrio does not say anything on this matter on its corporate website (as of June 2010).

So, my final reflection on Danitrio is that this company is more interested in creating a symbol of status than a fountain pen; a jewel over a tool. And I like tools.

(Nakaya Aka-tamenuri – Platinum Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, June 15th, 2010)
[labels: Danitrio, FPN, estilofilia, Japón]

PS: On June 12 (2010), the partisan moderator and active discussant “winedoc” closed the thread. Therefore, no more opinions on the matter could be added. In doing this, the thread will slowly sink into the sea of other active discussions. This was the final point to make me write this text. I do hope not to write about this company in a long while.

2 comments:

anele said...

Increíble cómo puede llegar a caldarse en ocasiones el ambiente de un foro. Me han hablado de casos extremos en los que han llegado a expulsar a algún miembro, pero en aquellos la envidia corría como la aguas de un río, con buena velocidad y caudal abundante.

Paul Bloch said...

Just catching up to this thread, but "winedoc," the moderator of the Japanese board on FPN, is Kevin Cheng, a California sports medicine doctor. Kevin is good people, and, as you say, partisan - at the time, he was the primary US distributor of Danitrio products. No longer is he; isn't it interesting how FPN chooses sellers with an axe to grind as subject moderators? It's, of course, what got them into trouble with the Conway Stewart mess. Both the mod and her critics were/are good people, with good intentions, and no one should expect an advocate to be impartial.

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