Crónicas Estilográficas

28 January 2020

Radical Ink

The radical approach to the maddening ink environment of the times:

The well-known Pilot 30 ml inkwell has been in the market for over 50 years. The current presentation (in the center) is limited to four colors: black, blue-black, blue, and red. The price in Japan is JPY 400/30 ml (plus tax).

Pilot basic line of inks: black, blue-black, blue, and red. JPY 400 per 30 ml. In Japan, Pilot has not increased the prices of these inks since 1995.

In other markets the radical option would certainly be different.

Pilot Vpen – Diamine Graphite

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 28th 2020
etiquetas: tinta, Pilot, mercado

26 January 2020

Curidas's Name

Japanese companies –and not only in the stationery industry-- have a hard time naming their products, and I have pointed at some examples in the past.

More often than not, the issue is simple—the Japanese and the overseas names are different: Capless vs. Vanishing Point, Elabo vs. Falcon, Profit vs. 1911, etc.

Some other times, the problem is associated to the lack of consistency among Japanese on how to transliterate their own language into alphabet: Ohashido vs. Ohasido is the most evident of all, but there are more: Fuyu-shôgun vs. Fuyu-syogun, Sho-ro vs. Syo-ro, Doyô vs. Doyou, etc.

And now Platinum goes one step forward with the soon-to-be-released Curidas model. According to the company, the name is related to the Japanese word “kuridasu” (繰り出す, くりだす), that could be translated as to roll out. And the word would be something like “koo-ree-dah-soo”. The other associated word, also according to Platinum, is the English word “curiosity”.

Kuridasu, curiosity; Curidas.

But Japanese are often concerned about how English speakers might pronounce their Japanese words. Or, alternatively, they are worried about sounding too Japanese. Anyway, and at the time of writing “Curidas” in Japanese, Platinum changed it to キュリダス, which transcribed to alphabet becomes “kyuridasu”.

Could Platinum at least be consistent?

And the whole mess is served. We will see the name of this pen written both as Curidas and Kyuridasu. And both of them are correct.

Pilot with steel overlay, Yamada Seisakusho – Sailor Blue-black

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, January 22nd, 2020
etiquetas: Platinum, japonés, capless

16 January 2020

2-Fold Nibs. Writing Samples

Some readers of my previous text demanded writing samples those unusual nibs. The problem –or the first of them-- is that I do not own all of those nibs.

As is often the case on these texts, I borrowed some of those nibs and pens from fellow stylophiles in Tokyo, I took pics and handed them back to their owners. This is, in fact, my primary occupation at any meeting with pen people.

The second point is my skepticism about what a writing sample can offer. Writing, or writing with a fountain pen is a lot more than the final line on the paper: is the nib smooth? How is the flow? Is the feed up to the challenge? Does the nib write on contact? How flexible is it? … None of those questions can be answered with a still picture of a writing sample.

Anyway, here I am publishing writing samples of some 2-fold nibs:

– Sailor Cross-music.

– Daiso's 100-yen pen with a 2-fold nib by Mr. Mochizuki.

– Ralph Reyes' 2-fold “concord” nib on a Kasama Una. Concord nibs, in Sailor terms, are nibs whose reverse writing is bold and juicy, and whose regular writing is lot more restrained.

So here they are. Interesting nibs? Certainly. Fun? Of course. Usable on a daily basis? Not all of them.

My thanks to Inky.Rocks.

Penbbs 352 with Kanwrite nib – Noodler's Beaver

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, January 15th 2020
etiquetas: Plumín, Sailor, Mochizuki, nibmeister Ralph Reyes, nibmeister Nagahara

10 January 2020

2-Fold Nibs

I cannot say for sure that it was Nibmeister Nobuyoshi Nagahara's idea on the first place, but certainly it was him who popularized the idea of two- and three-folded nibs with the support of Sailor.

Some early examples by him date back to the 1990s, as were reported on these pages.

An early Cross nib by Nobuyoshi Nagahara.

Those initial nibs later evolved into what we know today—open nibs with or without overfeed that made their way to the catalog of the brand and to commercial success.

Three generations of Cross nibs.

Then some nibmeisters copied this idea. Wagner-resident Yamada used Pelikan M800 as the base for his version.

Yamada's approach to a 2-fold nib-two overlapping Pelikan M800 nibs.

Wagner member Mr. Mochizuki, on his side, used a much more affordable canvas—a Chinese pen available at the 100-yen chain shop Daiso.

Mochizuki's approach based on a Daiso pen. A steel 2-fold nib.

Only recently, in the last couple of years, non-Japanese nibmeisters have attempted these two-fold nibs. The most brilliant of them, dare I say, is nib wizard Ralph Reyes of Regalia Writing Labs with his continuous development of old and new ideas. The nib here shows is a nice example of this—it is a cross-concord nib, in Sailor terms, with an overfeed; but the overfeed is made out of a third nib and is nicely integrated on the unit.

A 2-foold nib by Ralph Reyes based on JoWo #6 nibs.

My thanks to Inky.Rocks.

NOTE (16/January/2020): Writng samples of some of those nibs can be seen on the following Chronicle:

Opus 88 Koloro #6 – De Atramentis Beethoven

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, January 10th, 2020
etiquetas: Sailor, nibmeister Nobuyoshi Nagahara, Nibmeister Yamada, nibmeister Ralph Reyes, plumín, Mr. Mochizuki

08 January 2020

War (I)

In the pen realm many of us tend to forget the historical context to which each pen is born. We like to live in a sort of perfect world where the miseries of life, or of History, are somehow hidden in a dark background. At the same time, though, we use some historical landmarks to date pens, the most common of which is the pre-war/post-war label. War is just short for “early 1940s”, and few actually think of real meaning of the word war.

Then, History slaps on your face.

The following pen is a Platinum from 1940 with a very interesting and unique decoration in maki-e techniques: “Soldier going to Manchuria”, by Rosui, the headmaster of the maki-e craftsmen of Platinum's.

Not much to add to the caption. This pen was part of the exhibit organized by Platinum in January of 2019 at Itoya in Ginza to cellebrate its 100th anniversary.

Japan had invaded Manchuria in 1931, and created the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. This territory was a source of tensions as it was the Japanese base to invade China. Some scholars speak of the Marco Polo Incident (July 1937) and the Battle of Beiping-Tianjin as the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and even of the Second World War. Therefore, by 1940, after a number of conflicts with the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of Mongolia, and China, the need for Japanese troops became urgent.

Close up of the soldier carrying the Japanese flag taken from one of the panels at the exhibit.

So, given this situation in Japan at the time, it is only natural to see patriotic motifs on these decorated pens.

And they remind us that pens are not alien to the historical moment in which they were created.

Parker 61 – Unknown blue-black ink

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, December 30th, 2019
etiquetas: Japón, Platinum, evento

04 January 2020

Retractable 2020

I finished 2019 saying that there had been very little new in Japan in the pen scene, and 2020 starts in a very different way.

On the last days of 2019 we saw Pilot marketing its latest variation on the Capless family—the Capless LS. Its novelty is a new mechanism to release the nib by a push button without making any noise. The nib units are the same as on the other members of the family. The LS is, in actual terms, a hybrid between the Capless-Décimo and the Fermo.

The Capless family (save variations on body color and trim) until this past December. Now there is a new model,the LS.

The newly released Capless LS.
Source: Pilot press release at (retrieved on 4/Jan/2020).

And the price is also a combination of both the regular Capless –JPY 15000—and the Fermo –JPY 2000—: JPY 35000, plus taxes.

But more exciting news are those of Platinum's: this company will release its own version of a capless model in March of 2020. Its name will be “Curidas”, after the Japanese word “kuridasu” (繰り出す, くりだす)--to roll out.

This document has been published on a number of social media, including Facebook. Intentional leak?

The Curidas will be an inexpensive model –JPY 7000— aimed at the business market, according to the leaked leaflet, although some other sources speak of the student market.

The lineup includes five different body colors, all of them transparent. There will be two or three nib points on steel nibs. The pen clip will be detachable.

The big question is whether the nib is a totally new unit or an adaptation of one of the several steel nibs Platinum currently manufactures. The filtration (intentional?) did not go that far.

Pilot Short – Bril Turquoise Blue

Bruno Taut
Kusatsu, January 3rd 2020
etiquetas: Pilot, Platinum, capless, mercado

31 December 2019

Tokyo Pen Trends 2019

(This review is part of a collective initiative to summarize and analyze the relevant events of 2019 in the pen scene. The other members are Fudefan and Inky.Rocks:
Fudefan's take on 2019:
Inky.Rocks' video: ).

A lot might have happened, pen wise- in this year of 2019, but not everything is equally interesting, and each of us has a different view on those. These are my selection and of the relevant events, and my reflections on them.

1. Pen Scene.
2019 was the year of the 100th anniversary of Platinum. This company managed the celebration a lot better than Pilot, whose centenary was celebrated in 2018, but Platinum quickly lost momentum after a promising start.

In Japan, the only new pen released in 2019 was the Pilot Custom NS (the Procyon, let us remember, was released in 2018). The NS is the first steel nib in the Custom family, and its price is about 20% lower than that the Custom 74 with a gold nib. Is this a correct strategy in the Japanese market?

Other than this Custom NS, there have not been any new pen—all there is are rehashed pens, minor cosmetic changes on well known models. The Prime, the Platinum pen to commemorate its 100th anniversary, is little else than a 3776 in silver costume. Sailor, on its side, is mastering the art of generating original models –this is the name they use— to be sold exclusively at a certain shop. It seems a very successful system to raise the attention of customers by creating a false sense of scarcity.

A sample of Platinum 3776 Centuries. All of them are essentially the same pen.

As this, The Prime, is also a 3776 in disguise. The Prime was the pen Platinum released to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Anyway, not much new.

(The Capless LS has just been released in Japan and barely speaks about what went on along 2019. However, this is something new in the pen scene in Japan.)

In contrast, Taiwanese and Chinese pens are becoming a lot more active and innovative. They are offering new recreations of old filling systems with new models almost every month in the case of pens from the PR of China. Their distribution is also becoming more open and all those pens are easier to purchase.

This Wing Sung, obviously inspired on the Twsbi Vac700, in an example of the activity of many Chinese brands.

2. Ink Scene.
More colors more expensive. And the inflation continues.

The only positive side effect is the surge of small ink companies—Krishna in India, Trouble Maker in Philippines, Three Oysters in South Korea, Kala in Taiwan... But only time will say whether there is enough room for so many people. Or enough customers for so many colors...

But the radical approach to this would be to return to those old colors in unassuming inkwells for about JPY 400 per 30 ml: good and inexpensive ink.

When initially marketed, Irishizuku's inks were very expensive. Now they are among the most inexpensive in the Japanese market. And even cheaper are the regular Pilot inks (the inkwell on the right): JPY 400 (plus tax) for 30 ml. This is the radical approach to the present inflation in inks and their prices.

3. Paper.
Paper, or good quality paper, is also becoming a luxury good. But the production costs might be at the heart of this phenomenon. The paper industry relies heavily on the economy of scale and a small community like that of fountain pen aficionados is unable to generate a big demand. The result--producing small batches to fulfill the demand of such small group is inherently expensive.

"Fountain Pen Friendly Paper Collection", by Yamamoto Paper. Some of those included on this pad are no longer available because some mills are no longer in business.

The alternative, for the time being, could be to go back to old Japanese scholar notebooks, some of which are made of good quality paper, albeit not labeled or advertised as “fountain pen friendly”. Kokuyo Campus, and regular Tsubame notebooks are two obvious options easily available.

This Tsubame paper is excellent and inexpensive. There are other rulings...

4. Events.
The Tokyo International Pen Show is here to stay after a very successful second edition. Its main feature –from my perspective— was the ability of gather people from far away locations. TIPS acted as the meeting point for aficionados from places as far away as Spain and Australia, and that despite being more of a stationery salon than of a pen show.

Tokyo International Pen Show. Not a pen show, but a meeting point.

In contrast, the active Tokyo pen community seems isolated and detached from the rest of the World.

5. Social Media.
I am new to this environment, and I am therefore very naïve –or simply skeptical- about it. However, it is hard to miss the huge activity on social media, and the personal connections created through them. The result is a much better connected pen community where parochial attitudes –like those of Japanese brands- are bound to fail.

Japanese companies have not understood anything related to social media, and behave following patterns anchored in the twentieth century, with segregated and separated markets. They do not seem to understand online shopping across borders.

On the contrary, Chinese and Taiwanese pen companies have embraced this new world and are taking benefit from their constant presence on them.

I am sure there is a lot more that could be said about this year 2019, but this is what called my attention.

WiPens Toledo – Montblanc Irish Green

Bruno Taut
Nakano, December 8th 2019
etiquetas: Japón, China, Taiwan, mercado, evento, redes sociales, Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, tinta