31 October 2015

The New Itoya

Over two years ago, Itoya closed the flagship builing in Ginza for renovation. The main operation was transferred to a nearby building in the meantime. Things were back to normal this past Summer –the renewed headquarters on Chuo Dori, the main street in Ginza, open with the corresponding fanfare.

The new façade of the Itoya flagship store in Ginza.

Back to normal, I said. Really?

Maybe Itoya is back to normal, but not to the way Itoya operated before the renovation. At that time, this shop was a reference in Tokyo for all things stationery. Its stock, and the number of displayed items were impressive. Itoya was the place to go in search for very specific stationery.

Some inexpensive fountain pens are also displayed in the main building. Lamy, Kaweco, the Itoya's series Color Chart... are some of them.

But that does not seem to be the case now.

Now, Itoya is something else. Now, in Itoya you can find many things unrelated to stationery. Now you can find coffee machines, for instance. Now, Itoya is more of a “lifestyle” shop where to look for fashionable and trendy goods. In fact, Itoya now resembles to a Japanese chain of “lifestyle” shops: Loft.

One section Itoya has apparently invested on is the area of customized products –personalized notebooks and printed matters. A lot more space is dedicated to them after the renovation at the expense of many other goods previously present—from notebooks to pens to any accessory--, whose space has been drastically reduced.

Samples of papers for custom prints. At least, beautiful.

Paper samples for custom notebooks.

The fountain pen section, itself a reference in Tokyo and in Japan, has been preserved in the K.Itoya building in the back alley from the headquarters. Stylophiles still have this particular mecca in Tokyo where to go to see what is going in the fountain pen market nowadays.

The café on the top floor. The name says it all. But at least it has some stylographic flavor.

Recently published book. The title, Ginza Itoya. Stationery. And then, "better life". Clear enough?

I wonder what the rationale lies behind this change in the orientation of Itoya, and I cannot see whether this makes economic sense. I do know, however, that right now there are better shops in Tokyo where to find very specific products, no matter Itoya –and many others, for that matter—could take your order.

Itoya’s headquarters now might be a lot more beautiful, but that is about it. Itoya has lost a lot of the previous appeal as stationery shop.

Pilot Penmanship – Montblanc White Forest

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, October 29th, 2015
etiquetas: mercado, Tokyo, papelería, Itoya

21 October 2015

70th Anniversary

The strategy of Pilot in the last 30-something years is consistent: a commemorative pen is launched as a limited edition, and then that model, albeit with minor variations, might become a regular model. That was the case of the Custom 845 (based on the 75th anniversary model), and of the Custom 67 and 74 (65th anniversary pen).

And in between, the 70th anniversary model. This one was marketed in 1998 1988 as a limited edition of 7000 units at a price of JPY 38000. It is a flat top, also called “vest” style in the Pilot jargon, and followed the design of some old Pilot models from the 1920s and 1930s. And, in fact, the subtle barleycorn engraving on the plastic body follows the pattern of many a vintage Pilot. However, the filling system relies in clean and reliable cartridges and converters.

A "vest type fountain pen", according to the text. The 70th Anniversary Pilot in its wooden box.

The insides of the pen do not match the classic look. The filling system is by cartridges and converter (CON-70). The cartridge is protected by the black sheath visible in the picture.

The nib is, for once, quite interesting. The very simple engraving says it is a size 10 in a FM point, and this was the only option. But this nib is not any regular size 10-nib—the tip clearly bends downwards, but unlike the Pilot posting nib, available as well in size 10, this FM point is fairly flexible.

The FM nib in size 10. The nib points down, but it is not rigid.

A regular posting nib in size 10. A posting nib always points down, is very rigid, and draws a very fine line.

These are the dimensions of this pen:

Length closed: 139 mm
Length open: 128 mm
Length posted: 165 mm
Diameter: 14 mm
Weight: 19.0 g (dry, with empty cartridge)

On top, the 70th Anniversary Pilot. On bottom, the Custom 72. Note the wider cap ring of the later. Both pens carry a similar decoration on their bodies. This time, the regular model. the Custom 72, was not a simplified version of the limited edition.

Then, two years later, Pilot launched the model named Custom 72: a flat top in black plastic. This time, however, the regular non-limited model was not a simplified version of the 70th anniversary pen.

Twsbi Diamond 530 with Kubo Kohei music nib – Nagasawa Bokkô

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 2015
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín