Crónicas Estilográficas

20 September 2019

Japanese Eyedropper Today (II). Opus 88 Koloro

In 2016, Eboya stopped the production of Japanese eyedropper pens. These pens were always more expensive that the equivalent versions with cartridge/converter or with button filler systems—the Japanese eyedroppers were between JPY 59000 and JPY 83000, plus taxes. But despite these prices, these pens were the cheapest eyedropper in the market. The next step was –still is— the size 50 Namiki Urushi at JPY 148000.


An old Eboya with Japanese Eyedropper.

On this scenario, the Opus 88 Koloro made its appearance in 2017.


The Opus 88 Koloro in its package.

The company Opus 88 –Jin Gi industrial Company— has been in the market since 1977. But from 1988 on its main business  was the production of OEM pens for other companies, Danitrio and Taccia among them. In the local market of Taiwan, Opus 88 sold some over-run of those OEM pens under its own brand.

Then, the Koloro model showed up in the foreign market in 2017. Its combination of an affordable price –in the range of EUR 100-- and an unusual filling system called the attention of many in the West. As I explained in the previous text, it is not that the Japanese eyedropper system was new at all, but its availability was very limited and expensive.


Nowadays, the Koloro is a family of pens that come in two nib sizes—size 5 and size 6, both by JoWo. The nibs are made of steel –no gold option--, and the feeds are made of plastic. The nib size conditions the overall dimensions of the pen. But in all cases, the filling system is the Japanese eyedropper.


Opus 88 Koloro. Made in the Republic of China. German nib (JoWo). Plastic feed.

Opus 88 could make these pens even more attractive by using in-house nibs or, at lest, nibs locally made. The implementation of ebonite feeds –and there are makers producing them-- would also increase the appeal of the pen. However, these two drawbacks are common to many pen companies.


The Koloro with an ebonite feed by Flexible Nib Factory.

These are the dimensions of the Opus 88 Koloro demonstrator sin size 6:

Length closed: 148 mm
Length open: 136 mm
Length posted: this pen does not post.
Diamter: 16.4 nn
Weight: 30 g (inked)
Ink deposit: about 3 ml

In conclusion, this pen is an attractive product –well made, affordable, original— that fills a gap in the pen scene. And that is more than most other companies offer nowadays.


Parker 51 (Inky.Rock's) – De Atramentis Beethoven

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 2019
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas, Eboya, Opus 88, mercado, JoWo, Taiwan

13 September 2019

Japanese Eyedropper Today (I)

The so-called Japanese eyedropper system –inki-dome shiki (インキ止め式) in Japanese— was in fact invented by Onoto in the beginning of the 20th century. Those Onoto reached Japan imported by Maruzen and the system –an eyedropper with a shut-off valve— clicked among the locals. The final result was that this system was copied and reproduced by most Japanese pen makers along its history up to today.


An Onoto with the shut-off valve system. Not yet a Japanese eyedropper, I guess.


A Japanese Swan (Nobuo Ito's Swan) with the Japanese eyedropper system.

The inki-dome, however, fell out of favor by the late 1950s when Platinum introduced the ink cartridge and most other makers followed the example. Only minor makers –I am thinking of Sakai Eisuke's operations— kept the system alive till the 1980s.


A Sakai Eisuke's pen made in collaboration with Kabutogi Ginjiro (::1::). Possibly from the 1960s.

In 1985, Pilot commissioned lathe master Sakai the creation of a prototype based on the style of the Pilot pens from the early 1930s, The result was what later became the Pilot (and Namiki) size 50 Urushi, and it implements the Japanese eyedropper system.


The Pilot Urushi in size 50--a modern Japanese eyedropper. This pen is incorrectly named by many as Namiki Emperor, but the Emperor model is decorated with maki-e techniques according to the Namiki catalog.

But who else followed? Not much.

Eboya used the system for some years (::2::, ::3::), but its production relied in the know-how of lathe master Kanesaki Noritoshi. Eboya's boss, Mr. Endo, has announced the new production of Eboya pens with this system, but there are no final dates for their release.


An old Eboya (2013) from the Kanesaki time. It implements the Japanese eyedropper system. At that time, the brand name was still Nebotek.

More recently, as of 2018, the sort-lived Iwase Seisakusho also marketed some pens with the Japanese eyedropper system. These were either old incomplete pen bodies by Ishi Shoten (owner of the brand Yotsubishi) or new pen bodies made by lathe master Momose. But Iwase Seisakusho had a very brief life and very few units of it made to the market.


An Iwase Seisakusho based on a body by Momose Yasuaki.

From California, Danitrio makes some models with Japanese eyedropper. These are usually expensive models with urushi or maki-e decoration.


Some Danitrio pens as exposed at Itoya Ginza (Tokyo) in 2010. Photo courtesy of Moskva.

Finally, a surprising actor is the Taiwanese brand Opus 88 (Jin Gi Industrial Co.). But these Japanese eyedroppers deserve a Chronicle on their own.


The Opus 88 Koloro. A surprising new actor in the Japanese eyedropper business.



Opus 88 Koloro – De Atramentis Beethoven

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 12th 2019
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas, Pilot, Eboya, Danitrio, Iwase Seisakusho, Opus 88, mercado, Onoto, Japón, mercado, Kanesaki, Sakai Eisuke, Momose Yasuaki

09 September 2019

Heisei vs. Reiwa

These two pens are 30 years apart—the 30 years Emperor Akihito occupied the Japanese throne.


Two commemorative pens by Pilot.

In 1989, at the death of Emperor Hirohito, the Showa era reached to an end and started a new one—the Heisei period. And to celebrate this new era Pilot released the “Heisei pen”--a flat-top based in the Pilot 70th anniversary (1988) decorated with maki-e. It was a limited edition of 1000 units.


The Heisei pen, 1989.


Kyusai Yoshida. Kokkokai.


The nibs of these two pens: Heisei nib on top, Reiwa on bottom. But the later is not specific to the Reiwa pen.

This “Heisei pen” was made of plastic, but its decoration –a male and a female phoenices— was signed by its creator Kyusai Yoshida. The nib –an 18 K unit of size 10-- displays a specific decoration for the occasion. On the book Fountain Pens of Japan, the authors mention that the nib was engraved with the words “for strong progress”, but that is not what we see on this particular pen.

Thirty years later, in 2019, Emperor Akihito abdicated and his son Naruhito reached the throne—the new era Reiwa started. And Pilot repeated the operation—a commemorative pen.


The Reiwa pen, 2019.

This limited edition –800 units-- is a torpedo based on the Custom 742, but with an internal core made of brass. The nib is a bicolor made of 18 K gold with the same decoration as any other size 10 by Pilot (Maki-e Zodiac collection, Ishime series, Hannya series, etc.)


The Kokkokai as the collective author of the decoration on the Reiwa pen.


The whole package of the Reiwa pen. JPY 150,000, plus taxes.

The maki-e decoration is now a single phoenix and is signed collectively by the whole group of Pilot maki-e artisans, the Kokkokai. The price, JPY 150000, plus tax.

Two pens, 30 years apart. One with a fully signed decoration, and plastic body; the other, heftier with a brass core, and a simpler decoration. They are not so different to some of the regular models present in Pilot's and Namiki's catalogs, but limited editions sell very well.

My thanks to Mr. Hoshino.


Parker 51 aerometric (Inky.Rocks') – De Atramentis Beethoven

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 6th 2019
etiquetas: Pilot, Japón, mercado, maki-e

04 September 2019

Pelikan in Japan (III)

Some weeks ago I spoke about how a fountain pen should perform correctly regardless of the script and that Japan was not such a special place (see ::1::).

Well... today I might be saying the opposite, but just regarding Japan as a special and sometimes strange market.

Story goes that after Pelikan had phased out the 400NN model in 1965, repeated requests from Japanese retailers made Pelikan to reconsider its decision. However, instead of putting its machinery to work, Pelikan outsourced the production of models 120 and 400NN to another company—Merz & Krell. And the 400NN M&K was made again between 1973 and 1978. The 120 M&K had a slightly shorter life: between 1973 and 1977.

Anyway, this story is well known (see some sources of information at the end fof this text), and nothing truly new can I offer save a group picture of the four variations of the model 400NN made by Merz & Krell: black, black striped, tortoise brown striped and green striped.


The number and color of the four variations is well known, but the complete picture of set is rare.

These pens and their origin on the demands of Japanese retailer pose some interesting questions:

– That important was the Japanese market for Pelikan at the time?

– Are Pelikan nibs so well suited to write in Japanese?

– And conversely, do we really need specialized nibs to write in Japanese? (::2::, ::3::, ::4::)



The black and the black striped versions of the 400NN M&K, side by side.

Notes: Some sites with more complete information on the Pelikan 400NN Merz & Krell:

-- The Pelikan's Perch: https://thepelikansperch.com/2014/10/05/merz-krell-who-were-they/

-- Pelikan Collectibles: https://www.pelikan-collectibles.com/en/Pelikan/Models/Revised-Piston-Fillers/400NN-Basis/index.html

-- The Pelikan's Perch: https://thepelikansperch.com/2014/10/05/merz-krell-who-were-they/

-- Pens and Sensibility: several posts (::5::, ::6::, ::7::).

-- Tony Rex's thread on FP Geeks Forum offered additional information on how to disassemble the piston of this pen: https://fpgeeks.com/forum/showthread.php/7349-Merz-and-Krell-Pelikan-400NN

-- Ruettinger Web: http://www.ruettinger-web.de/e-pelikan-modell-400.html


Ohashido BCHR, music nib – Bril Turquoise Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 3rd 2019
etiquetas: Pelikan, Japón, mercado

31 August 2019

Kubo's Pens

Kubo Kohei stands nowadays as the sole maker of nibs in Japan not associated with a pen maker. And this in itself is an interesting fact that deserves a separate reflection. But today I want to speak about some of the operations in which nibmeister Kubo has participated.

As of today, other that the nibs one could order directly from him, it is possible to find Kubo nibs on pens Tohma, made by Toma Kiyotaka of Pen Cluster, and on some models by Iwase Seisakusho, albeit its activity seems currently suspended.


A Model N by Iwase Seisakusho with a nib by nibmeister Kubo.

But nibmeister Kubo has a long history in the pen industry in Japan. Two brands associated with Kubo were Nobel –or Nobel's, as he likes to call it-- and Elliott.

The Elliott company was founded by former worker of SSS Uesugi Yoshizaku around 1936 or 1937 in the Kita Ward in Tokyo. Around 1960, Kubo's uncle bought the company and Kubo Kohei started working on it. The engagement with this brand lasted until around 1980.


An Elliott ad in the 1950s.


On top, a pre-Kubo Elliott pen from 1950s. Bottom, an Elliott pen that looks like a Nobel pen.

In parallel, at least during the late 1960s and 1970s, Kubo Kohei also worked on his own brand Nobel. For those pens, he used injected plastic for the bodies and adopted Platinum cartridges and converters as filling mechanisms, as was the common practice among small companies of the moment.


Two Nobel pens: the "Super Gold" model on top; and a pocket pen. Both were made by Kubo Kohei. They use Platinum cartridges.


Kubo's music nibs for his Nobel pens (::1::, ::2::). NK stands for "Nobel Kubo".

So these are some of the nibs and pens made by nibmeister Kubo. However, they are not easy to find in the market.


My thanks to Mr. Kanesaki, Mr. Sugimonto and Mr. Sunami.

Note (Sept 1st, 2019): I have changed some of the original pics form some others with better quality.


Pilot Custom 74 – Wagner 2008 (Sailor)

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 30th 2019
etiquetas: Nobel, Elliott, Nobel, Tohma Pens, Iwase Seisakusho, nibmeister Kubo Kohei

05 August 2019

A Pen Is A Pen

A pen must write well in any country. That should be a given, but not all pens perform correctly.

When a Japanese pen is at fault, the different writing scripts –Kanji and kana in Japan, alphabet in the West— have been used by some to explain why it did not work properly, and even to justify how suitable a pen is for certain market.

These are some examples:

Some years ago, it became well known that the size #10 Falcon nib by Pilot (present on the models Custom 742 and Custom Heritage 912) did not always behave properly (::1::, ::2::). Many units tended to railroad under almost any pressure. But to this obvious fault some in the West invoked the special way of writing (Japanese, that is) to explain and justify that failure.


Pilot Custom 742 with a Falcon nib.

More recently, Davidoff argued –at least in Japan-- that their nibs were perfectly suited for Japan because their nibs were Sailor's... Like if Pelikan and Montblanc pens were so bad at that and had a hard time in the Japanese market.


Davidoff pens.

The case of Naginata Togi nibs has already been discussed on these pages. In the Japanese market, Sailor brags about how suitable those nibs are to write Japanse (::3::, ::4::), but that does not prevent Sailor from selling them in the West...


Sailor Naginata Togi nibs.

All those examples are nothing but bland excuses and cheap marketing. A pen is a pen and must write well in any script. And Pilot claimed this long time ago:

A Namiki ad from 1927 in the UK explained that the Japanese writing was the perfect benchmark to ensure the correct performance of their pens under any circumstance... such as writing in alphabet!


The Bookseller & the Stationery Trades Journal, July 1927. Page 27. As seen at the Pen Station, Tokyo, in April of 2013. Japanese as the perfect test for any pen!

Japanese are not from another planet. Neither are Westerners when seen from Japan.


Sailor Profit Naginata Togi – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July - August 2019
etiquetas: mercado, Japón, japonés, Pilot, Sailor, Davidoff, plumín

30 July 2019

On Iwase Seisakusho

I have mentioned Mr. Iwase several times (::1::, ::2::) on these Chronicles—he is a pen aficionado who decided to master the craft of raden decoration.

Mr. Iwase started his training about 15 years ago. At first, he customized pens, mostly Montblanc and Pelikan, that he sold locally in Tokyo. His trade soon included some pen bodies made by lathe master Momose Yasuaki equipped with nibs by nibmeister Kubo Kohei.

In 2018, Mr. Iwase decided to become more serious and systematic on his hobby. He created the brand Iwase Seisakusho and started signing his creations. And the selling channels were Instagram and some pen shows.

The pens under the brand could be categorized in three types: customizations, a regular model, and a small number of special pens.

The customizations were made on Montablanc and Pelikan pens. Mr. Iwase applied his craft on their surface and left the operative part of the pen untouched.


A Montblanc 149 customized by Mr. Iwase.


Three customizations over Pelikan M1000.

The regular model, model N, was made over unused bodies manufactured by Ishi Shoten (owner of the brand Yotsubishi). These bodies hand to be adjusted, completed with the filling system –Japanese eyedropper-- and nib and feed sourced by nibmiester Kubo. Needless to say, the pen was decorated by Mr. Iwase with urushi and raden.


The N model by Iwase Seisakusho.

Finally, the special models –called generically Kinsei pens-- were one-of-a-kind units. The pen bodies were the work of lathe master Momose; the nibs, were, once again, the product of nibmeister Kubo.


Two examples of Kinsei pens by Iwase Seisakusho.

The problem of this operation was the very limited production that, to make matter worse, relied solely on the hands of Mr. Iwase. And as of today, July 2019, the productions is stopped and the communication channels are disabled.

Iwase Seisakusho, therefore, was alive for about a year with a total production of about 30 pens.

Too few pens, and too short life.

These pens were interesting for both the decoration and the features as pens, particularly in the case of the N model and the Kinsei pens. Japanese eyedroppers with interesting nibs and ebonite feeds... And a gorgeous and well made decoration.


Interesting nib, interesting feed.

Too good to be true? Too costly? Too expensive?

Or just too much for a very small operation?


My thanks to Mr. Iwase.


Ban-ei with Henckel nib – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 12th 2019
etiquetas: Japón, mercado, Iwase Seisakusho, Momose, nibmeister Kubo