30 April 2015

Fountain Pens of the World Festival (II)

There was more I wanted to talk about re the Mitsukoshi’s Fountain Pens of the World Festival. The initial Chronicle was filled with pictures and I decided to cut it short, and this is the second, and largely overdue, part of it. There will be a third text in a near future.

The Fountain Pen of the World Festival, as I already explained, is a one-week long event--a week to sell pens by making them more accessible to potential customers. We, pen otaku, barely need these initiatives as we are well aware of the new releases and we often visit those few specialized shops with a good selection of pens, inks and papers. But at the same time, we are a small bunch and the market cannot sustain on us alone. So, the name of the game is outreaching.

The first step is the event itself. And then, what else? During this whole week a number of activities are organized with the obvious purpose of attracting new users.

Fountain pens and paper to try. First tray. Can the reader identify all of them? The comment section welcomes any guess.

A table with about twenty pens, inked and perfectly tuned, and good quality paper welcomed the visitor on the first days. No need to speak, no need to ask. Just sit and write.

The second tray of pens. And again, readers could use the comment section to publish their guesses.

But that was not all. Pilot organized some calligraphy lessons to show the virtues of their Parallel pens.

Preparing the lesson.


Publisher AI-Books was also present to publicize its specialized magazine Shumi-no Bungubaku. An exhibition displaying the history of S. T. Dupont attracted some other people. And, of course, the pen tuners ready to adjust any nib to your taste and needs by courtesy of each company at each of their counters.

General view of the calligraphy lesson. On the background, the exhibition on the history of S. T. Dupont pens.

Outreaching… No wonder, then, the Japanese fountain pen scene was so active nowadays.

Platinum 3776 (1984) – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 17th, 2015
etiquetas: evento, mercado

28 April 2015

75th Anniversary

Pilot has often used its anniversary pens as a benchmark for new models. Later on, those editions, albeit with some minor modifications, could become regular and unlimited models.

A very obvious example was the Custom 65, which was also the first real anniversary pen by Pilot. This pen was a limited released in 1983 on the occasion of the 65th year of the company. Two years later, a simplified Custom 65 became the Custom 67. And even later (1992), it became the Custom 74.

Pilot Custom 65. Note the wide cap ring and the textured surface.

Pilot Custom 67.

Pilot Custom 74.

In 1993, Pilot celebrated its 75 years of history. Such a big accomplishment deserved a big pen—the 75th Anniversary pen. It was a flat-top made of ebonite –coated with urushi lacquer— and plastic. It followed the line of the “vest” models from the late 1920s and 1930s. An interesting feature of this anniversary pen was the implementation of the very traditional “kikuza” (chrysanthemum) clip present in many a pen –and not only by Pilot— in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

A kikuza clip of a pen from 1937.

The 75th Anniversary Pilot in its box.

Pen-wise, this unit carries a 15-size nib made of 18 K gold with a unique engraving. M was the most usual nib point, and F and B were also available by request. The feed, as is the case with all modern Pilot pens, is made of plastic. The filling system is through the well-known Pilot proprietary cartridges and converters. A CON-70 converter, painted black, was included in the package.

The insides of the pen--the black painted CON-70 converter. On the pen body, it is worth to note the bicolor nib and the rings on the cap and on the body.

These are the dimensions of this pen:

Length closed: 148 mm
Length open: 133 mm
Length posted: 165 mm
Diameter: 15.3 mm
Weight (dry, with converter): 27.7 g

7500 units were made at a price of JPY 50000.

But that is not all—the 75th Anniversary pen had an obvious descendant—the Pilot’s flagship Custom 845. By the end of 2002, about 200 units of this new pen were released at some department stores in Japan as a response to a demand for a luxury pen. It was initially made to order and its price was, again, JPY 50000. It took some time to become successful, but finally it was included as a regular model in the standard catalog.

Blue Custom 845--a special edition made for Maruzen stationery in 2014. Note that not the whole pen is painted in blue. The black parts --section and the ends of body and cap-- are made of black plastic. This is also the case on the 75th Anniversary pen and on the regular Custom 845. Note also how the nib, the rings and the clip are different with respect to the original model from 1993.

The Custom 845 showed some variations over the 75th Anniversary pen. The kikuza clip was replaced by the simpler standard ball clip of most Custom models. The rings adorning the pen were also modified, and the nib was stripped from any reference to the anniversary it initially celebrated. The materials and areas coated with urushi remained untouched. And the price has not changed in over 13 years of production.

However, needless to say, the limited edition preserves its value a lot better than the current 845. Such is the market of collectibles.

My thanks to Mr Noguchi.

Platinum 3776 (1984) – Parker Quink Blue

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, April 24th, 2015
etiquetas: mercado, Pilot

23 April 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

18 April 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

06 April 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

03 April 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