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 spacial 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

28 July 2019

Bring Pilot's Pen Station Back

Pilot's Pen Station was the museum of pens Pilot had at its headquarters in Tokyo, not far from Ginza. The museum open in October of 2002, substituting an older and smaller exhibit, and closed down on March 31st of 2016 (::1::, ::2::), when the company closed the building to demolish and reconstruct the headquarters at the same site.


The old building...


... and some of its contents.

Three years later the new building was completed and becoming operative. Now the site is shared with a hotel of the Hankyu company and some restaurants.


The new building, now shared with a Hankyu hotel.

However, Pilot has no plans to reopen the old museum. Some of the items on display were moved to the production plant in Hiratsuka, where the company had already created a small museum on maki-e pens. But the available space is limited and the old gunpowder building can hardly host a larger museum space. Hiratsuka, at the same time, is over one hour away from Tokyo.


The gunpowder building at the Hiratsuka plant of Pilot's.

In view of all this, and missing that lovely museum so much, I have decided to campaign for Pilot to reopen it somewhere in Tokyo. And I invite all of you to show your interest and support.


Let's fill up this label: #pilotpenstation!

On Instagram, where I go as @brunotaut_fp, I am using the label #pilotpenstation to group together all the related posts. And some of you, active as you are on other social media, could start similar labels and actions on those.

And, who know, Pilot might listen to us!


Pilot Super Ultra 500 – De Atramentis Beethoven

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 27th 2019
etiquetas: redes sociales, Pilot, Tokyo, Japón

21 July 2019

Updates to the Tokyo Pen Shop List

I have just updated the page Tokyo Pen Shops. This was long overdue after two years since the last time I revised it. Fortunately, the Google Map service that allow for the map is a lot easier to edit now.

The main changes are the inclusion of some shops to the list:

Tsutaya at Ginza Six. This shop offers a regular selection of pens, plus a handful of unique models made in collaboration with Wajimaya Zen-ni. Re inks, this shop also offers a small selection of original colors on top of a solid supply of the regular brands.

TAG – Takeda Jimuki in Gotanda. TAG is a chain of stationery shops owned by the company Takeda Jimuki. The Gotanda branch seems to be the biggest in Tokyo. Its main appeal are the TAG inks. Although these are also available at other shops (Itoya, Angers, Okamotoya,...), prices here are slightly better.


Takeda Jimuki inks at TAG.

Okamotoya in Toranomon. This is an old office supply shop newly restored as a modern stationer with a very Japanese flavor. It displays a regular selection of pens and an interesting gamut of inks, including TAG and the Korean brand Tono & Lims.


Okamotoya in Toranomon.

Eboya in Arakawa. This is the shop of Nikko Ebonite to sell Eboya pens. This is the only stable place where to purchase this brand. The alternatives are regular sale events –usually at department stores in Japan-- or a through a handful of online shops.


Eboya shop in Arakawa.

I have also updated information on other shops: Kingdom Note (Map Camera) changed the location of the pen section. Kinpendo created a website.

On the negative side, some shops went under –Daiya Sutoa in Ameyoko--, or moved out of town –Füllhalter is now in Abiko, Chiba. I also removed all references to Pen Station, the deeply missed museum of Pilot in Kyobashi, Tokyo.

The list, as usual, is far from complete. Feel free to email me with more information.


Pelikan M400 Rilke – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 19th 2019
etiquetas: mercado, Tokyo

24 May 2019

The Invisible Hand... (II)

… Or I told you so...

Years ago I published several texts on the actual costs of inks. At the time, 2010, inks were becoming significantly more expensive while producers were increasing the gamut of colors.


Smaller inkwells, higher prices. But what matters is variety and price per inkwell. Ink Studio inks by Sailor (2018).

“A market driven by collectors –I said in 2011-- is bound to becoming irrational”. And ten years later the scene is a lot more complicated—more ink brands and makers, more colors, higher prices, smaller inkwells...

So, ink prices have become more expensive, and a side effect is a growing market of open inkwells. What not so long ago was almost worthless is now an object of trade.


As seen at the recent Pen Trading in Tokyo (2019). A second life for the inks after trying them...

Again, the invisible hand of capitalism plays its game.


Iwase Seisakusho – Caran D'Ache Sunset

Bruno Taut
Nakano, May 24th 2019
etiquetas: mercado, tinta

15 May 2019

The Invisible Hand...

...of capitalism.


Pilot's converters and cartridges currently available in the market... more or less.

By the end of 2016, Pilot phased out the converters CON-20 and CON-50. And the substitute was the new CON-40.


Prices of Pilot's cartridges and converters in JPY without taxes. It is possible to find some of them at discount.

Nobody really misses the CON-50, a small piston whose problems with the surface tension were never completely solved. But many do miss the bladder-type CON-20—it was capable (0.8 ml), inexpensive (JPY 200) and efficient. The CON-40 is the opposite—small (0.5 ml), unreliable and twice more expensive at JPY 400.

Then, many an aficionado started looking for remaining stocks of CON-20 in small and out-of-the-beaten-path stationers in Japan.


CON-20 on the left; CON-40 on the right. The second is twice the price of the discontinued CON-20.

The result? In the black market –sorry, in the second hand market— the price of the CON-20 is now JPY 500.

Did Pilot make a good move discontinuing the CON-20? The invisible hand of capitalism says they did not.


Iwase Seisakusho prototype – Caran d'Ache Sunset

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, May 14th 2019
etiquetas: conversor, Pilot, mercado

13 May 2019

Tokyo Pen Scene in 2019

The 19th edition of the Pen Trading event in Tokyo was celebrated on the weekend of May 4th at the KFC building in the district of Sumida. And for the first time, this event lasted three days.

But all in all the figures of the show have not changed much along recent years—about 20 to 25 traders, and 200 visitors. And these numbers hardly justify such a long duration.


The first day, Friday 3rd, had Platinum as protagonist—Mr. Masa Sunami gave a lecture on the history of the brand, and the president –Mr. Nakata— answered some questions previously submitted by the attendees. However, the answers were to be kept strictly intramural, and any leak through social media was prohibited. Trading started at 12:30, albeit restricted to non-gold nib pens and assorted goods.

Saturday and Sunday were more of a traditional pen show –no restrictions of the type of pens to be on offer--, and were combined with a number of workshops.




Pen Trading in Tokyo, 19th edition.

Along this past year there has been a wealth of activities in the fountain pen world in Tokyo. The Wagner group has extended its events in order to attract younger aficionados, for instance. In October, the Tokyo International Pen Show (TIPS) worked well as a meeting point for aficionados previously disconnected, thus enlarging the pen community.

All this should imply that the trading events like that of Spring should become more important in the basic figures, but that was not the case ten days ago. The second edition of TIPS, to be celebrated in October 5th and 6th, looks like the best chance for the local activity to become something more according to the relevance of Japan in the international market.

And the only way to do so is to become more international.


So, next stop, the second edition of the Tokyo International Pen Show in October 5th and 6th. Hope to see you there.


Iwase Seisakusho prototype – Wagner 2008 ink

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, May 9th 2019
etiquetas: Tokyo, Japón, evento, mercado

28 April 2019

Pilot's Small Inset Nibs

The Pilot Elite 95s was marketed on the year 95 of the Pilot era—that is, in 2013.

This pen, apparently quite successful, recuperated the design of the pocket pens on the 1960s and 1970s in Japan. But it went further on reviving the very interesting inset nibs of the 1970s, which at the time of release in 2013 was limited to a steel variation on a desk pen. So, with the Elite 95s, the inset nib recovered some of its past glory through the 14K gold of its composition.


Pilot's desk pen DPN-200.

However, in the 1970s, these inset nibs were made of 18 K gold in two different compositions—yellow gold and white gold, and the yellow variation was also rhodiated.


From left to right, three Elite 95s in all three colors, the cross-hatch Elite (1978), black Elite (1977), non-Elite Sterling silver pocket pen (1975).



Six nibs and four possibilities. The three nibs on the right belong to the Elite 95s--14 k gold. The nibs of the left, from top to bottom: 18 K gold, 18 K gold rhodiated, 18 K white gold.

These older pens were always on demand among pen aficionados, and the existence of the modern Elite 95s made that appeal even bigger.

(As a final note, I should add that the larger inset nib of the Silvern series has been continuously on production since the late 1960s. Just to prevent misreadings of my words.)


Platinum 3776 Century Chartres Blue – Rohrer & Klingner Blu Mare

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 28th 2019
etiquetas: plumín, Pilot, mercado

23 April 2019

Japanese Parochialism

A number of stylophiles outside of Japan complain about how Japanese pen companies keep some of their products limited to the domestic market. Some even go to the extent to say that Japanese companies keep their best products for themselves—for the domestic market.

I am the first to admit that Japanese companies seem, in general, quite reluctant to accept the reality of the globalized market.


However, those limitations do not always favor the Japanese customer. An obvious example is the stub nib Pilot manufactures... for other markets. Those stub nibs are not available in Japan, and should the Japanese stylophile wanted them, online shopping seems the only option.


This stub nib for the Pilot Capless is not available in Japan.

Just like Western buyers do when craving for any Japan-only pen.

Japanese parochialism works both ways...


My thanks to Mr. Fukucho.


Sailor Profit Naginata Togi – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Bunkyo, March 26th 2019
etiquetas: plumín, Pilot, Capless, mercado

08 April 2019

The Case of Naginata. V. Results

On the previous Chronicle, I wondered whether the alleged virtues of the Naginata Togi nebs were real and detectable. To do so, I published a picture with seven sets of ideograms --焼肉定食, yakiniku teishoku--, all of them written by the same Japanese hand using seven different pens. Then I asked if we could find out which one had been written with a Naginata.

From top to bottom, the pens were as follows:

- Kubo Kohei nib. Unlabeled point, but it is about an MF.
- Montblanc 149 (F?)
- Henckel nib, architect grind.
- Sailor Naginata Togi, NMF.
- Pilot #5, music nib.
- Pelikan M200, F.
- Pilot Vpen, F.


The solutions to the question of last Chronicle.

The most popular answer –both on comments to my text and on Instagram-- was number 5; that is, the music nib by Pilot.

This result is surprising—either people love the results of writing with a stub nib or most of us do not really know how a Naginata nib is actually cut.

On second position came number 3 –a Henckel nib with an architect grind--, and on third, the actual Naginata Togi. This is more reasonable, as the Naginata nib can be seen as a smooth architect's nib.


The architect's grind on a Henckel nib.


A Naginata Togi nib.

The conclusion is that the alleged beautifying effects on the writing come only through practice with the Naginata Togi nib itself. But if so, many people, in Japan and overseas-- buy Naginata pens without really knowing how to use them and take no benefit of their supposed advantages.

But Naginata Togi nibs are excellent writers for whatever script, Eastern or Western. And christening a nib with an exotic name is an excellent marketing strategy.


Sailor Profit Naginata Togi – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Bunkyo, April 2nd 2019
etiquetas: plumín, Sailor, japonés (idioma), mercado

27 March 2019

The Case of Naginata. IV. Writing

On the previous text I tried to deconstruct what a Naginata Togi nib was. I concluded that in essence, a Naginata Togi nib is a variable nib. My friend and fellow blogger Fudefan reminded me how Sailor marketed these nibs as optimized to write beautifully in Japanese.


A Naginata Togi nib.

Now, how true is that?

The following picture shows the same text (焼肉定食, yakiniku teishoku) with seven different pens. Only one of them is a Naginata Togi.


焼肉定食 with seven different pens. Some were Japanese, some Western.

Can anyone figure out which one was written with a Naginata Togi?

Which one do you think is more beautiful?

Finally, does this matter?


My thanks to Fudefan and to Poplicola-san.


Iwase Seisakusho prototype – Hôgadô Doroai (Sailor)

Bruno Taut
Bunkyo, March 26th, 2019
etiquetas: Sailor, plumín, japonés, mercado

23 March 2019

The Case of Naginata. III. The Brand

After the two year hiatus in the production of Naginata Togi nibs we have them back in the market at a significant overprice. With this price hike, Sailor tries to cash the very good name of this nib.

But what is, in actual terms, a Naginata Togi nib? Is it worth the price Sailor is asking for them?

First and foremost, a Naginata Togi nib is a variable nib―a nib whose line width changes with the angle between pen and paper. Then, a Naginata Togi is a longer than usual nib, and this allows for some experiments to create new points―bending the nib, duplicating and triplicating the nibs, etc.


Three Naginata Togi nibs in three different sizes.

The question now is whether these features were so unique in the market as to justify Sailor in its bold move.

Variable nibs are not new at all―they have existed for more than a century. Nowadays, though, they are not that common, but they are not exclusive to Sailor. The paradox is that Sailor offers a much cheaper alternative―the zoom point available on various models including the very affordable Young Profit (JPY 5000, plus tax), also known as Somiko.


Sailor's Zoom nib in medium size. Photo courtesy of Zeynep Firtina (Write to me Often).

Then, what about the experiments nibmeister Nobuyoshi Nagahara performed on these nibs? Brilliant as they are, facts show that they do not need a Naginata Togi as a base. And nowadays there are a number of nibmeisters out there, in Japan and overseas, recreating those two- and three-fold nibs.


Nibmeister Nagahara Nobuyoshi in October of 2011.


Three Sailor Cross nibs (2-fold nibs). Note how the nib on the lower right side is made over an old nail type nib.


Two cross nibs: the one on top was made by nibmeister Yamada over a Pelikan M800; the other is a Sailor nib made for the 90th anniversary of the company in 2001.

What is left, then?

What might be left are some of the cuts Sailor offers or used to offer on these specialty nibs―the King Cobra, the King Eagle... But mostly, what is left seem the name Naginata Togi as a brand in itself. And time will tell is Sailor's strategy to cash it is correct or not.


The new and expensive Naginata Togi nib.


My thanks to Zeynep Firtina.


Iwase Seisakusho prototype – Hôgadô Doroai (Sailor)

Bruno Taut
Chiyoda, March 20th, 2019
etiquetas: Sailor, plumín, mercado, nibmeister Nagahara Nobuyoshi