30 October 2018

Katana or Kimono?

A play in one act. Based on actual events.

Characters: He, She, a Clerk.

A big stationery shop in Tokyo, buying a Nakaya.

The kimono? Maybe not.

HE: Among the pen community, the silk pen case is known as “the kimono”.
SHE: No Japanese would ever call that a kimono.

SHE: (Facing the clerk.) What is the name of that pen case?
CLERK: We call it “katana bukuro”.
HE: A bag for the sword?
SHE: I told you—no one in Japan calls it a kimono.
HE: Did anyone in Japan hear about pens being mightier than swords?


A “katana bukuro”, a bag for the sword. Besides the obvious meaning, it is also an ornament carried by women in their kimono at their wedding. Apparently, Japanese women needed some form of self-defense on those dire situations... The irony is that the “katana bukuro” is merely ornamental and inside there is nothing but a cylindrical cardboard instead of the traditional dagger, the “kaiken”.

The ornamental (and empty) "katana bukuro" with the elaborate knot and the two tassels.

A pen would be a better filling—provided the name of the bag changed accordingly.

Pilot Custom Heritage 912 – Wagner 2008 ink

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, October 30th 2018
Etiquetas: Platinum, Japón

29 October 2018

Datation of Japanese Pens. VII. Sailor's Nibs (II)

Some years ago I spoke about dating marks on Sailor nibs: up to 2016, the manufacturing date on Sailor nibs was encoded in the form


where a was the last digit of the year, and bb was the ordinal of the month: 01 for January, 02 for February, and so on.

710. On this case, October of 1957.

212. December of 1982? Maybe 1972?

A Naginata Togi nib from October 1999 (910).

Starting at some point in 2017, Sailor changed this code for another one in the form


Now, cc are the two last digits of the year, and X is a letter that encodes the month of production in the form A for January, B for February, and so on until L for December.

July of 2017 (17G). Photo courtesy of Inktraveler.

17K: November of 2017.

And now, the former ambiguities (does this 9 mean 1979, 1989 or 1999?) are eliminated.

Muji Aluminum pocket pen – Pelikan Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 29th, 2018
etiquetas: Sailor, plumín.

24 October 2018

The Case of Naginata. II. The Two-Year Hiatus

Allegedly, Sailor stopped the distribution of specialty nibs (Naginata Togi and derivatives) in Winter of 2016-17. Or so we were told. The reasons behind that decision were the difficulty to attend the demand of those nibs, particularly from the North American market, and the need to train more people to make them. And in the meantime –until further notice, they said-- no more Naginata were to be distributed.

A collection of (old) Naginata nibs.

Or were they?

Indeed they were, albeit in small numbers and through selected retailers. On the following pictures we can see a Naginata Togi nib produced in 2017. The pen was purchased at a well-known stationer in Tokyo.

An old Naginata?

Not so old --2017--, but the old engraving. (And on another Chronicle I should speak about the dating codes on modern Sailor nibs).

That nib displays what now we know as the old engraving. This shows how this nibs predate the new policy –new prices, new distributions, new decoration-- of Sailor re specialty nibs.

Nibs like this –and it is not the only example-- are the last examples of the second generation of Naginata nibs, and the later pricing decisions of Sailor is making them all the more desirable.

Pilot Custom Heritage 912 – Wagner 2008 ink

Bruno Taut
Bunkyo, October 23rd 2018
etiquetas: mercado, Sailor, plumín

16 October 2018

Anonymous Music

My latest acquisition is an anonymous pen with a very non-anonymous nib. And this combination make the whole pen all the more intriguing, and, for some, appealing.

The pen, in essence, is a Japanese eyedropper, made of ebonite with a very discreet maki-e decoration –a "tanzaku" (poem cards) pattern. The clip is of the teardrop shape, just like many Ban-ei pens.

An anonymous pen. Other than the inscriptions on the nib, the only text on it says R14K, and is on the cap ring. The very discreet maki-e --a "tanzaku" pattern-- is not signed.

And this clip, together with the overall shape of the pen and the shape of the section, and even the geometry of the ebonite feed point out at Ban-ei (Sakai Eisuke) as the master mind behind it. However, this idea is nothing but a guess, although this pen is very likely to have been made in the 1960s at Asakusa area in Tokyo.

A Ban-ei pen (top) and the anonymous pen with an interesting nib. Note the similarities in the shape. The Ban-ei pen is larger in all dimensions.

Feeds and sections of the pens on the previous picture: Ban-ei on top, anonymous on bottom. This geometry of the feed was very common in Japan from the 1960s till well into the 1990s on smaller pen makers.

The comes the nib—a beautiful music nib perfectly identifiable as made by nibmeister Kubo Kohei. In fact, the nib inscription NK stands for Nobel Kubo, where Nobel is one of the brands Mr. Kubo created during his career as nib maker. The nib is likely to be a replaced unit, but it could also show the origin of the pen itself. Then, is this a Nobel pen? Many a Nobel pen were anonymous –no brand name was imprinted on the pen--, but ebonite was not a typical material on that brand as Mr. Kubo doesn’t work with the lathe.

The music nib by Kubo Kohei. It is made of steel and is gold plated. The inscriptions read " STANDARD / NK / (JIS mark) / IRIDIUM / < 3 > / NPK ".

All in all, not much we know for certain about this pen, but the nib, and the unpretentious decoration make it most interesting.

These are the dimensions of the pen:

Length closed: 138 mm
Length open: 119 mm
Length posted: 166 mm
Diameter: 13.7 mm
Weight: 16.7 g (dry)
Ink deposit: 2.3 ml

And the search for information continues…

Twsbi Eco with Kubo music nib – Aurora Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 16th 2018
etiquetas: nibmeister Kubo Kohei, maki-e, Ban-ei, Nobel, marca desconocida, plumín, plumín musical

04 October 2018

The Case of Naginata. I. The Press Release

Sailor has finally spoken out—Naginata Togi nibs and other special nibs will be back in the market on October 5th (2018). But that is the extent of the good news. The rest is not so positive.

An old Cross Music, and an old Naginata Togi.

The price of the Naginata nibs will double—from the former JPY 25000 to JPY 50000. And this price increase propagates through the whole line up of Special nibs:

Naginata Concord: from JPY 30000 to JPY 55000.
Naginata Fude: from JPY 25000 to JPY 55000.
Naginata with emperor: from JPY 35000 to JPY 60000.
Cross nib: from JPY 45000 to JPY 70000.
Cross Music: from JPY 50000 to JPY 75000.

The new design of the Naginata nibs. Photo courtesy of Inktraveler.

The pens implementing these nibs will change their appearance. The nib decoration will be simpler than the old one, as can be seen on the pictures. The pen will carry a wider cap ring with the inscription “SPECIAL NIB”.

New prices, new designs... old nibs. Photo courtesy of Inktraveler.

And, finally, the whole distribution network of this nibs will be dramatically reduced: only 50 dealers worldwide –25 of them in Japan— will handle these pens. And to make matters worse, some rumors say that few of these special nibs will make their way outside of Japan.

Sailor, at this point, has not released any information regarding the plans for the “super big” (“King of Pen”) size Naginata and related nibs.

These special nibs are becoming more special than ever.

Pilot Capless FCN-500R - De Atramentis Jeans Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 3rd, 2018
etiquetas: Sailor, plumín, mercado

03 October 2018

Tokyo International Pen Show 2018. A Stationery Salon

The first Tokyo International Pen Show (::1::, ::2::) took place this past weekend (September 29th and 30th) in the ward of Taito in Tokyo. And the results were impressive.

The event was celebrated at one of the lounges of the Taito Metropolitan Industrial Center –Taito Kan–: 1400 m2, 60 tables, 50 traders for a total of about 1500 visitors. On the first day –Saturday 29th–, 1100 visitors filled the room, 600 of which arrived within the first hour.

(Photo courtesy of Inktraveler).

The key for this success was, in my opinion, based on two elements: a very eclectic list of traders, and the almost completely absence of vintage pen vendors. The result was a lounge centered on stationeries instead of on pens. In actual terms, there were about half a dozen traders offering used and vintage pens: Pen Land Café (Nagoya), Komehyo (Japan), Mora Stylos (Paris), Erfobay, Hayashi Katsuro,... New pens were displayed by the hand of the creators themselves―Tetzbo, Ohashido, Manu Propria, Eboya, StyloArt Karuizawa, Helico, Taccia, Azonx, Chriselle,... The rest of vendors were focused on dedicated pens (shop-special limited editions), inks, papers and assorted paraphernalia.

These later sectors were responsible for the crowds on the first day. And this public was very young and very female―just the opposite of the usual demographics of pen collectors: male and middle aged.

(Photo courtesy of Inktraveler).

(Photo courtesy of Inktraveler).

In conclusion, the First Tokyo International Pen Show was resounding success, but at the expense of vintage pens and through becoming a stationery fair addressed to the final consumer.

The organizers deserve all the credit of the right decisions to attract 1500 potential buyers. The 2019 edition of the Tokyo International Pen Show will take place on October 5th and 6th of 2019.

Pelikan M800 Kodaishu – Sailor Red Brown

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 2nd, 2018
etiquetas: Tokyo, evento, papelería

27 September 2018

Nakabayashi Again

The name Nakabayashi is not new on these Chronicles. It is a Japanese company making stationeries and office supplies, and some months ago entered the market of fountain pen inks through a collaboration with Sailor.

Now, Nakabayashi is back on the spotlight with another line of inks—Taccia inks. And these inks deserve some comments.

Taccia inks, by Nakabayashi.

First are the news of Nakabayashi becoming the primary owner of Taccia pens since last April. At that time, Itoya of America handed its share to Nakabayashi.

The second issue if about the actual maker of these new inks. As I said before, the first Nakabayashi inks –those themed after ukiyo-e colors—had been made by Sailor, and being a recent development (June-July of 2018), it was reasonable to assume that the connection between Nakabayashi and Sailor continued.

No news from Sailor on the label.

But that is not the case, and Taccia inks are made by Nakabayashi itself. Then, will there be new batches –new revolutions- in the ukiyo-e line of inks? Who will make them?

13 new colors: kuro, tsuchi, cha, daidai, aka, momo, ebi, murasaki, ao, aoguro, sora, midori, uguisu.

Aoguro. Blue-black.

The Taccia inks are a collection of 13 colors with Japanese names. The inkwells contain 40 ml of ink and cost JPY 1000 (plus taxes). That means JPY 25/ml of ink.

Not an inexpensive ink, but a lot more economical than most Sailor inks, including those made for Nakabayashi.

Is Taccia becoming finally Japanese?

Montblanc 149 – Pelikan Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 27th, 2018
etiquetas: Nakabayashi, Taccia, tinta, Itoya, Sailor, mercado

20 September 2018

1937 Plunger Fillers

Plunger fillers arrived in Japan by the beginning f the 20th century by the hand of Onoto, one of the first brands imported in this country.

The idea of the plunger filler was quickly copied by a number of local companies, as we have already seen on these pages (::1::). Pilot named this filling mechanism as System P (P-shiki), and implemented it in the 1920s.

Two plunger fillers from 1937.

The two pens on display today are a bit more modern. Both are Pilot, implement plunger fillers, and were made in 1937.

The reddish pen is made of ebonite and semitransparent celluloid. The nib is a size 6 made of 14 K gold with no indication of the point. The manufacturing date on the converse side reads 1.37: January of 1937.

Ebonite and celluloid. Size 6 nib.

The second pen is made of black ebonite. Its nib is a size 3, made of 14 K gold, and labeled as “manifold”. The manufacturing date is 4.37: April of 1937. This manifold point is one of the options described on the booklet included in the box. The others described on it are posting, stenographer, coarse, falcon, and oblique.

Classic black torpedo in ebonite.

Size 3 nib, manifold point.

Both pens are very similar in dimensions despite the differences in the nib size. In fact, the size 6 nib is associated to the smaller pen.

Red pen, #6 nib Black pen, #3 nib
Length_closed 133 136
Length_open 117 119
Length_posted 165 168
Diameter 13.6 13.7
Weight (g, dry) 17.9 17.2
Nib size 6 3

Both nibs, side by side. On the left, the size 6 attached to the red pen. The inscription: "WARRANTED / 'PILOT'/ 14 K / MADE IN JAPAN / -< 6 >- / POINTED / HARDEST / IRIDIUM". On the right, the size 3 nib of the black pen: "MANIFOLD / WARRANTED / 'PILOT'/ 14 K / MADE IN JAPAN / -< 3 >- / POINTED / HARDEST / IRIDIUM".

The manufacturing dates as engraved on the nibs: 1.37 and 4.37 (upside down).

On both pens, the tail knobs show the feature Pilot used to identify their plunger fillers―a row of short parallel lines near the base. This detail is, in actual terms, a very safe way to identify this filling system on (early) Pilot pens given the vulnerability of this mechanism. A non-working plunger could be mistaken as a Japanese eyedropper (inki-dome). Both systems are often in need to service, particularly when those pens had been found in the wild (like in a pen show).

The tail knobs of Pilot's plunger fillers carry that line close to the barrel. The inscriptions are the same on both pens: " 'PILOT / THE NAMIKI (N logo) MFG. CO. LTD. / MADE IN JAPAN ".

Finally, it might be worth to remember that from 1938 on, the restrictions on the use of gold in Japan became strict (albeit with some exceptions) . Therefore, these two pens from 1937 with gold nibs are some of the latest such pens from before the War.

Pelikan M800 Kodaishu – Sailor Red Brown

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 18th, 2018
etiquetas: Pilot

08 September 2018


The newest pen in the Japanese market is the Platinum Procyon, released in July 2018.

Not so long ago I spoke about the latest trends in the pen market. One of them was the Chinese avalanche of interesting pens at very reasonable prices. My contention was then that entry and mid level pen by Western and Japanese makers were at risk should Chinese makers create a reliable distribution network.

The Platinum Procyon could be seen as reaction of the Japanese company to those Chinese moves. It is a well made, no-frills, and sturdy pen.

The Platinum Procyon.

In essence, it is a cartridge-converter pen, with a wingflow nib made of steel with two nib points --F and M. All the threads on the pen are metallic: cap to barrel, and barrel to section. The section is semi-transparent, but no ink is visible through it. The cap implements the “slip and seal” mechanism patented by platinum to keep the ink fresh while the pen is stored without use.

The semi-transparent section and the metallic threads. A well made pen.
On the nib, the inscription is very simple: "(P logo) / F". Or M...

But the selling point of this pen is the ability to ink it –when using a converter— with a much smaller amount of ink than Most other pens. To do so, the Procyon feed has a small hole through which the ink circulates on its way to the converter. This system is not particularly new, but neither it is a common feature.

The wingflow nib, and the feed with a hole for an easier filling.
On the cap lip, two inscriptions. On one side "PROCYON"; on the other, "PLATINUM / MADE IN JAPAN".

These are the dimensions of the Platinum Procyon:

Length closed: 137 mm
Length open: 119 mm
Length posted: 155 mm
Diameter: 13 mm
Weight: 27.9 (inked)
Ink deposit: 1.1 ml (cartridge) / 0.6 ml (converter)

"Slip and seal", easy filling, JPY 5000 (plus tax).

Five different colors; two possible nibs.

All in all, the Procyon is an interesting newcomer to the Japanese pen scene. It might be a reaction of Platinum to the Chinese changes in the pen industry of just another move in the very competitive Japanese market.

Its price in Japan is JPY 5000, plus taxes.

Montblanc 149 – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 2018
etiquetas: Platinum, mercado, soluciones técnicas

17 August 2018

Signs of Change? (Ink Market)

On July 25th I wrote about a new line of inks by Sailor commissioned by Nakabayashi, a stationery company. As is often the case with Chronicles on new inks, I expected a big impact resulting in an increase in visits and a number of links point out at these pages.

But that was not the case at all. In fact, the news on these new inks on English-speaking fora barely raised any brow. This is a sharp contrast with the passionate reactions new inks, particularly by Sailor provoked not so long ago.

The "Blue Revolution" did not mobilize the masses.

Are ink aficionados saturated with all these new colors? Or is the market saturated of inks? The ironic detail is that at JPY 54/ml, these Sailor-Nakabayashi inks were not the most expensive Sailor inks in the market

Maybe the reasons are completely different. Maybe the colors of the “Blue Revolution” were not attractive. Maybe 50 ml inkwells were too big… All this is, so far, mere speculation, but I also think that the ink market has grown into a bubble of colors and prices.

And we might be seeing some signs of change.

Pelikan M800 "kodaishu" by Iwase – Sailor Red Brown

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 17th 2018
etiquetas: Sailor, tinta, mercado, Nakabayashi