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

19 March 2019

Katana or Fude

I am responsible for what I write, not for what others understand (::1::).

Some months ago I wrote about how at certain stationery shop in Tokyo the clerks in the fountain pen section did not call the Nakaya pen pouch "kimono" but "katana bukuro".

However, some people took my words as incorrect or as a complete speculation.

Well, none of the above.

The shop was Itoya's headquarters in Ginza (Tokyo) and the clerk's words implied that in that shop they spoke of the pen pouches as "katana bukuro". That conversation took place in October of 2018.


Katana bukuro, tô tai, fude ire?

More recently I posed the question to some other people in Tokyo. Among them, a journalist specialized in the stationery market with several publications under her obi. The result was similar: "kimono" is totally unheard in Japan to name a pen pouch.

'How do people call them then?'
'There is not a clear name', they replied.

And after thinking for a while the journalist continued.

'Some people call those pouches "tô tai".

"Tô tai" is just the onyomi (Sino-Japanese) pronunciation of 刀袋, whose kunyomi (native Japanese) pronunciation is "katana bukuro".

So be it.

And most people understand when you simply say 筆入れ, "fude ire", which translates as pen container.

But not "kimono". At least not in Japan.


Montblanc 149 – Aurora Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 18th 2019
Etiquetas: Platinum, Japón, japonés, Itoya

12 March 2019

150 Years of Maruzen

Maruzen, the historical stationer of Tokyo, opens the Spring pen season in this city with the Maruzen World Fountain Pen in early March. This year this event celebrates its 10th edition, at the time of the 150th anniversary of Maruzen company. For the occasion, a limited edition pen hit the market together with some other commemorative stationeries.

Maruzen is largely responsible for the introduction of the fountain pen in Japan. Maruzen did so by importing this novelty writing tool from Britain and the US in the beginning of the twentieth century. Maruzen soon started selling some of those same pens –mostly Onoto and Waterman-- under its own brands like Zenith, Albion and Orion.

It took a bit longer for Maruzen to manufacture its own pens. The domestic production relied on the works of Sakasai Eisaburô, who by 1925 was working exclusively for Maruzen.

The Athena Renaissance 85 corresponds to this period. It was initially marketed in 1934. This is a lever filler made of ebonite with a 14 K gold nib.


Athena Renaissance 85, from 1934. A Sakasai Eisaburô manufacture.

Sakasai passed away in 1937 and Maruzen took over his factory to continue with the production of its own pens.

The factory, located in Shinagawa (Tokyo) was destroyed during the war, and a new plant in Katsushika (Tokyo) was built. Here, new pens showed up in the market in the early 1950s. Such is the case of the second pen—an urushi coated ebonite pen with a lever filler and a 14 K gold nib. It carries the JIS engraving issued by the Ministry of Industry in 1952-53 on fountain pens.


Another lever filler--a post war pen from around 1955.

A third example is the pen in the “Ultra” fashion initiated by the Pilot Super Ultra of 1959 (::1::, ::2::, ::3::). On this case, the pen was released in 1964. It is an aerometric filler, with a 14 K gold nib and a generous decoration on the section, where the brand “ATHENA” is imprinted.


An Athena pen from 1964. Its original price was JPY 2500.

The in-house production of pens ended in the 1970s, and for some time the brand Athena was limited to the Maruzen inks.


Athena ink by mid 1965. Athena Ace.

Maruzen's fountain pens resurfaced in 1994 through a collaboration with Pilot. Since then, Athena pens are Pilot pens in disguise, often implementing size #10 nibs. The Athena Basic Line (ca 2003) follows that idea.


The Athena Basic Line, from around 2004. It has an obvious similarity with the Pilot Custom Heritage 912, from 2009, with which the Basic Line shares the nib.

The 150th anniversary Athena pen has a shape that is very dear to Maruzen. This is the “Onoto type” (albeit in the quite personal Maruzen style)—a very cylindrical pen with a thinner barrel end where to post the cap. This pen also implements a size #10 Pilot nib, and the well-known converter CON-70. This edition is limited to 500 units, and its price is JPY 45000, plus taxes.


The "Athena the Pen" made for the 150th anniversary of Maruzen. Its retro packaging is particularly attractive. Photo courtesy of FudeFan. On his blog you can find a more detailed description of this pen.

So, after 150 years, Maruzen seems alive and well, and its main shop in Nihonbashi is one of the basic references for stylophiles in Tokyo. Should Maruzen make its own pens, the situation would be even better, but that might be asking too much.


My thanks to FudeFan.


Iwase Seisakusho, prototype with Henckel nib – Takeda Jimuki Hisoku

Bruno Taut
Chiyoda, March 11th, 2019
etiquetas: Maruzen, Pilot, Japón, Tokyo, papelería