08 January 2020

War (I)

In the pen realm many of us tend to forget the historical context to which each pen is born. We like to live in a sort of perfect world where the miseries of life, or of History, are somehow hidden in a dark background. At the same time, though, we use some historical landmarks to date pens, the most common of which is the pre-war/post-war label. War is just short for “early 1940s”, and few actually think of real meaning of the word war.

Then, History slaps on your face.

The following pen is a Platinum from 1940 with a very interesting and unique decoration in maki-e techniques: “Soldier going to Manchuria”, by Rosui, the headmaster of the maki-e craftsmen of Platinum's.

Not much to add to the caption. This pen was part of the exhibit organized by Platinum in January of 2019 at Itoya in Ginza to cellebrate its 100th anniversary.

Japan had invaded Manchuria in 1931, and created the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. This territory was a source of tensions as it was the Japanese base to invade China. Some scholars speak of the Marco Polo Incident (July 1937) and the Battle of Beiping-Tianjin as the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and even of the Second World War. Therefore, by 1940, after a number of conflicts with the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of Mongolia, and China, the need for Japanese troops became urgent.

Close up of the soldier carrying the Japanese flag taken from one of the panels at the exhibit.

So, given this situation in Japan at the time, it is only natural to see patriotic motifs on these decorated pens.

And they remind us that pens are not alien to the historical moment in which they were created.

Parker 61 – Unknown blue-black ink

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, December 30th, 2019
etiquetas: Japón, Platinum, evento


Andrea Kirkby said...

Wow. That is a really fascinating historical witness.

Brian said...

Here and there I like to pick up vintage Pilot advertisements, but quite a few of them have military imagery I'm not comfortable with. Over here, the Japanese occupation is still within living memory. I suppose American and British pen ads of the 40s were just as jingoistic, but it still feels a bit off to look at the pictures of warplanes and battleships on Pilot calendars and imagine what they were used for.

Nikos said...

Thank you so much for a really informative post once again! Like Brian mentioned there's a lot of military imagery on Pilot advertisements and blotters, but this is the first time I see a maki-e piece with a war theme. This is as "war time" as a pen can be! Thanks for the report

Bruno Taut said...

Thank you all for passing by and commenting.

Your are right, Brian, in your comment on the ads by Pilot of the time. My point, though, is that we tend to forget those details when having the pen on our hands... unless something on them slapped on our brain, like this Platinum did to me.

Wartime pens, on the other hand, are a genre in itself, but few of those have any imagery or inscription blatantly referring to the conflict. Exceptions exist, of course: Aurora Etiopia and a very rare Aurora with the symbol of the Spanish Fascist party come to mind.

Again, thanks for your support.


Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome and appreciated.