18 January 2018


Japanese people end the year with a traditional clean up of the house--and of the office at times. This is called ôsôji: big clean up. On the way, many forgotten or out of use goods end up in the garbage. But your junk might be someone else’s treasure.

The Wagner “end-of-the-year” bazaar is a mixture of an end of the year party and a small market where to sell all those pens –and accessories you might no longer want. Or at least that was at some time. Nowadays, it has become a small pen show for local traders perfectly comparable in size with the “Pen Trading” (such is the name) event celebrated in Tokyo in Spring, usually by the end of April or beginning of May (::1::, ::2::).

So, this past December 30th, pen aficionados in Tokyo gathered at the end-of-the-year bazaar organized by the Wagner group. Between 150 and 200 visitors, and about 15 traders conformed this event where the commercial activity dominated over any other aspect. Fair enough… save for the exhaustion of the formula: too few traders with small variety and selection of pens for a very active pen community. The paradox is that other events in Tokyo organized by Maruzen (World of Fountain Pens) and by Mitsukoshi (Fountain Pens of the World Festival; ::1::, ::2::, ::3::), both focused on new pens—attract a lot more people and generate a higher economic activity.

Japan seems faithful to its tradition of isolation. The Galápagos syndrome is alive and well in a number of areas in this island nation. It is not easy to pinpoint a single reason to explain such attitude, but Economics might provide some arguments—are there real incentives to open the market to Barbaric influences?

Now, how long can this isolation last?

Romillo Nervión – Sailor Blue Iron

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 8th 2018
labels: evento, Tokyo, mercado, Japón


Nikos said...

Keeping up the tradition of isolation in regards to this particular event is something I can definitely understand. How long can this tradition last especially with such a limited number of traders and pens? Vintage pens are becoming scarcer and as I far as I am concerned, collectors seems to be getting more polarized. Perhaps it's my imagination, but I feel that there are those who buy almost exclusively vintage and those collectors/users who only buy modern. Since there are so many other new pen events in Japan as you pointed out, I can't see the reason/need for Wagner to adopt this model, but at the same time I struggle to see the continuity of the event. Perhaps it will just turn into a year end party in the end! Thank you for showing and explaining this event!

Bruno Taut said...

My text, I reckon, was arguing on the isolation of the Japanese pen community with the excuse of the end-of-the-year fair. And you are right, Nikos--this event can hardly be exported... But it could open to other traders. However, my point on the Galápagos syndrome extends further and should also be applied to the Pen Trade event in Spring, which I think could become a lot more cosmopolitan.

Re their continuity, the continuous influx of vintage pens though online auctions and a couple of traders importing them in Japan ensures certain amount of business among aficionados. Now, it seems that they are willing to pay premium (the middle men, for instance) and to put up with limited offer.

Thanks, Nikos, for your reflections.



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