08 October 2019

TIPS 2019. Again a Stationery Fair

This past weekend, the second edition of the Tokyo International Pen Show (TIPS) took place in the Ward of Taito in Tokyo. I attended it and these are my reflections.

The plain figures are very clear and straight-forward: about 2000 visitors, 1200 on the first day; about 200 foreigners; 86 tables with 71 traders. This means a big success and a significant improvement over the results of 2018: 1600 visitors and 50 traders.

People and inks. Are those the argument of TIPS?

My criticism this year is, in essence, the same as on 2018——this event was not a pen show, this was a stationery salon (like some others in Tokyo: Bungujoshi, Kamihaku, and Inkunuma (::1::, ::2::)) where you could find some fountain pens. Vintage pens, on their side, were limited to four or five tables——Wagner group, Seoul Pen Show, Andre Mora, Stylus Aurea, and Pen Land/Komehyo. And not even the parallel Wagner meeting on Sunday at a different venue, could correct this deficiency.

The table of the Seoul Pen Show with some vintage pens.

However, this didn't mean that there were no fountain pens. Many of the traders were well established stationers from all over Japan who have their own special pen models and inks, mostly made by Sailor. This was the case of BunguBox, Kingdom Note, Nagasawa, Ei-Publishing Co. (Shumi-no Bungubako)… And in fact there is a demand for all those somehow different pens—if only because of their colorful decoration.

This prevalent presence of Sailor –even if indirect-- made Leigh Reyes say that this was the pen show of Sailor. The presence of the other two big companies was marginal.

Sailor inks, Sailor pens. Kingdom Note.

The international presence was more important this year: Franklin-Christoph, Schon, Yaching Style, Armando Simoni Club, Andre Mora, Stylus Aurea, Aesthetic Bay... But they accounted to just about 10% of the traders.

Aesthetic Bay, from Singapore.

Franklin-Christoph, from USA.

All in all, the most interesting aspect of the show was, as is often the case, the community of users. On this edition, and much to my surprise, the number of visitors coming from overseas was particularly big. Organizers speak of 10% of the attendees being foreigners. That means about 200 people. I don't know how they came with this number, but I am afraid they considered any long term resident in Japan as foreign visitor. Anyway, this edition attracted visitors from Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, United States, Canada, France, Italy, Spain... This fact is indeed remarkable and contributed to provide a cosmopolitan air to an otherwise very parochial show.

An active and enthusiastic group of foreign visitors.

TIPS is not a pen show, and TIPS is barely international. But 2000 visitors move a lot of money and are a powerful argument not to change the business model.

At the end, the stationery market is a lot more important and lucrative than that of fountain pens.

Paper, paper, paper...

NOTE: TIPS 2020 will take place on November 7th and 8th in Hamamatsucho area in Tokyo.

My thanks a Inktraveler for several of the pictures here included.

Parker 51 Demi 1948 – Kobe Nagasawa Bokko

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 8th 2019
etiquetas: mercado, evento, Sailor, Tokyo, papelería


Inky.Rocks said...

I think the biggest demographic for fountain pens in Japan is the younger new-pen crowd, and as a result, the money (and supply) flow in that direction. The vintage pen crowd seem a little more insular, though I think TIPS can not be ignored. The vintage pens will come eventually...

Bruno Taut said...

Thanks, Inky.Rocks, for passing by and commenting.

You might be right, but Japan is also a very old country in demographic terms. Actually, over 1/3 of the population of Japan is over 60 years old. And in most countries fountain pens attract older aficionados.

Now, your point on the insularity --parochialism I said-- of the old aficionado in Japan might very well be right and those aiming at the globalization of the hobby might be bound to fail for the years to come.

Nothing comes fast in this country...

Thanks, Inky.Rocks.


hiroyoshi_go said...

I wonder why fountain pens skew older? I myself, a person at middle age is now more focused on fountain pens more than ever. I used to go for inks when the variety was less bewildering about 5-7 years ago. These days I shun many inks because I realize I want to use very safe inks for my pens. Not too interested in shimmer or sheen. Seeing this many variety of inks at the show makes me excited because it brings in new blood to the collecting community but I wonder what pens are used by those who are buying these inks?

Bruno Taut said...

Good question, hiroyoshi_go. But I do not have an answer.

However, that trend --fountain pens appealing to older aficionados-- is not general. That is the case in Europe and America (should I say "the Americas"?) whereas in East Asia, save Japan, younger generation do buy and collect fountain pens.

Now, I suspect that among older aficionados there is a mixture of economic power, nostalgia for a durable tool, and the knowledge that modern technology has a very sort lifetime. And, well, life becomes a bit slower with age...

Anyway, just my impressions.

Your approach to inks makes a lot of sense, but my dislike for the current ink market is well known on these pages. What pens are used with those fancy and risky inks? Cheap Chinese pens...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


Unknown said...

This is an excellent post. I attended the event and I quickly got bored by the repetition of the formula exclusive ink cum new color limited edition. I spotted only a couple of things that would appeal my fountain pen interests. The Wagner event was a let-down: very few sellers and the main two (Mr Pilot and Seoul Pen show) already present at Tokyo Pen Show. I enjoyed the company of like-minded people, but the event was not central. They should have teamed together instead of dispersing the visitors' attention. Finally, asking to pay again the entrance fee on the second day... just a small disincentive to go back.

Bruno Taut said...

Thanks, unknown, for your comments. The problem here is the lack of incentives to change the current model. And TIPS might not be the pen show Tokyo needs and deserves. But such are the ways of Capitalism...



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