Showing posts with label Japón. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japón. Show all posts

04 August 2020

Safari in Japan

The well-known Lamy Safari is a popular pen in Japan. And that despite the high price this pen commands—JPY 4000, plus tax, at this moment. Yes, you can find it for less at discount shops, but the starting point is about twice the price in Europe.

The popularity in Japan can be seen on the large number of editions made exclusively for this market and for specific shops. The last example of this is the following Vista model (transparent Safari) with the brand name imprinted on the barrel both in alphabet and in the Japanese syllabary katakana (ラミー).


The Lamy Vista Katakana.

This pen is for sale at just one shop in Japan, and its price is higher than usual: JPY 4500, plus tax.

As I said, this is just the last example of a special edition focused on the Japanese market. The following picture shows some of them:


From front to back,

1. 2005. Griso edition made for the magazine Shumi-no Bungubako.

2. 2008. Vista made for Shumi-no Bungubako. 100 units.

3. 2010. White with red clip and red dot. Re-issued in 2013. Edition for Japan.

4. 2011. Black with yellow clip and red tassie. 150 years of friendship between Japan and Germany.

5. 2018. White with red clip and grey cross tasie. Edition for Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

6. 2019. White with black clip. For Japan.

7. 2020. Vista with Lamy in katakana on the barrel. Exclusive for a shop in Japan.


For more information on special editions of the Safari in East Asia you can check KMPN's blog. However, it seems that a comprehensive list of editions and variations of the Lamy Safari has not yet been compiled.

And the rehashing continues...


Pilot Capless LS – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 3rd 2020
etiquetas: Lamy, Japón, mercado, Shumi no Bungubako

26 February 2020

Cancellation and Virus

The planned Japan Premium Pen Show (JPPS) has been canceled by the organizers.

This was a project initiated by the organizers of the Tokyo International Pen Show (TIPS). It was planned for the first weekend of May (in coincidence with the Chicago Pen Show), and aimed at the “discerning collector” avid to find “high-end fountain pen brands”.

The nominal excuse for the cancellation is the spread of the Wuhan Coronavirus (COVID-19). This has become a common argument these days—a deus ex machina under which to hide likely failures and disappointments. And that regardless the actual danger of the situation, or how premature the call might be.


Extract of the message sent by the organizers announcing the cancellation of JPPS 2020 and promising the organization of a similar event in 2021.

The rumor goes that the organizers of the JPPS were having a hard time finding traders to fill the 40 tables allocated at the luxurious hotel Chinzanso. In fact, there was a healthy doses of skepticism among aficionados  about the interest if a pen show based on new pens and on well-known retailers. Who would pay JPY 3000 (about EUR 25) to check on pens otherwise available at shops with no entry fee? Who would come to Tokyo instead of to Chicago given the option?

In any event, those potential problems are no more. However, the organizers are promising to try again in 2021. Hopefully with much better sense and knowledge about the pen world.


Iwase Seisakusho N-model prototype – Noodler's Beaver

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 25th 2020
etiquetas: eventos, Tokyo, Japón

05 February 2020

Platinum in the Market 2020

During the last months Platinum has released about four new models: the Procyon, several variations of the 3776 Century (allow me this stretch), the Prefounte, and the Curidas.

Two of those are mere variations of well-known and easy available pens. Not much is needed to explain this re the variations of the 3776 in fancy colors and with notable characters. The Prefounte, on its side, is just a fancy Preppy. The other two are indeed new and different to any other model in the catalog: the Procyon and the Curidas.


The Platinum Procyon (2018).


Variations on a well-known theme.

Then, what do all these pens say about Platinum?

My interpretation is that Platinum is focusing on the medium and low end of the market of fountain pens. And this is surprising given the recent activity of Chinese makers, whose manufacturing costs are much lower than those in Japan.

This strategy can work as long as these pens were attractive and original. But that can be said about of pens in any price range. In any event, the hugely expected Curidas could fit this bill, but that is not the case of the Procyon, whose sales are not up to what Platinum expected.

This section of the market is a very tough one, and nothing will be easy for Platinum.


Pilot steel overlay, Yamada seisakusho nib – Sailor Blue-black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 3rd 2020
etiquetas: Japón, Platinum, China, mercado

31 January 2020

Premium Pen Show in Tokyo

The organizers of the Tokyo International Pen Show (TIPS) have announced the celebration of another event, the Japanese Premium Pen Show, this coming month of May. This “premium” pen show will take place at the luxury hotel Chinzanso in Bunkyo Ward between May 1st and May 3rd.


Good for the pen community in Tokyo? These are my reflections:

First, it is surprising how quickly –in Japanese standards-- this event is being organized. In a country where improvisation is almost a taboo, announcing this even with less that six months is surprising. But so be it!

Second is the inability of Tokyo actors in the pen scene to create a single important and relevant pen event with an international significance. Instead, all we get is a multiplicity of small events scattered along the calendar.

Let us remember here that the TIPS events (::1::, ::2::) fall short of real pen shows, as the organizers implicitly acknowledge when they declare that “the (Japanese Premium Pen) show will focus on high-end fountain pen brands from around the world for the discerning collector.”


Tokyo International Pen Show 2019. Not a pen show but a stationery salon.

This event, however, could change the parochial scene in Tokyo should it become a resounding success in attracting foreign traders. But that doesn't seem to be the case so far: it is being quickly organized, and Japan is not particularly close to where most traders live and circulate in the world tour of pen shows.


Madrid Pen Show 2019. There are more pens on this table that on the whole of TIPS 2019.

The pricing policy for traders doesn't seem very adequate for that purpose. The cost per table is in the order of USD 700 (in fact, JPY 70000 if booking before Jan 31st; JPY 90000, booking after that date). In comparison, the well-established Madrid Pen Show (16 years of history, a three-day event) charges about USD 300. And the newly created Dutch Pen Show in Utrecht, just USD 80.

But we will see how it works in about four months. I will be there.


Yamada raden – Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 30th 2020
etiquetas: Japón, Tokyo, evento, mercado

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

31 December 2019

Tokyo Pen Trends 2019

(This review is part of a collective initiative to summarize and analyze the relevant events of 2019 in the pen scene. The other members are Fudefan and Inky.Rocks:
Fudefan's take on 2019: https://www.fudefan.com/2019/12/2019-in-review/
Inky.Rocks' video: https://youtu.be/L2M372smNEg ).


A lot might have happened, pen wise- in this year of 2019, but not everything is equally interesting, and each of us has a different view on those. These are my selection and of the relevant events, and my reflections on them.

1. Pen Scene.
2019 was the year of the 100th anniversary of Platinum. This company managed the celebration a lot better than Pilot, whose centenary was celebrated in 2018, but Platinum quickly lost momentum after a promising start.

In Japan, the only new pen released in 2019 was the Pilot Custom NS (the Procyon, let us remember, was released in 2018). The NS is the first steel nib in the Custom family, and its price is about 20% lower than that the Custom 74 with a gold nib. Is this a correct strategy in the Japanese market?

Other than this Custom NS, there have not been any new pen—all there is are rehashed pens, minor cosmetic changes on well known models. The Prime, the Platinum pen to commemorate its 100th anniversary, is little else than a 3776 in silver costume. Sailor, on its side, is mastering the art of generating original models –this is the name they use— to be sold exclusively at a certain shop. It seems a very successful system to raise the attention of customers by creating a false sense of scarcity.


A sample of Platinum 3776 Centuries. All of them are essentially the same pen.


As this, The Prime, is also a 3776 in disguise. The Prime was the pen Platinum released to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Anyway, not much new.

(The Capless LS has just been released in Japan and barely speaks about what went on along 2019. However, this is something new in the pen scene in Japan.)

In contrast, Taiwanese and Chinese pens are becoming a lot more active and innovative. They are offering new recreations of old filling systems with new models almost every month in the case of pens from the PR of China. Their distribution is also becoming more open and all those pens are easier to purchase.


This Wing Sung, obviously inspired on the Twsbi Vac700, in an example of the activity of many Chinese brands.


2. Ink Scene.
More colors more expensive. And the inflation continues.

The only positive side effect is the surge of small ink companies—Krishna in India, Trouble Maker in Philippines, Three Oysters in South Korea, Kala in Taiwan... But only time will say whether there is enough room for so many people. Or enough customers for so many colors...

But the radical approach to this would be to return to those old colors in unassuming inkwells for about JPY 400 per 30 ml: good and inexpensive ink.


When initially marketed, Irishizuku's inks were very expensive. Now they are among the most inexpensive in the Japanese market. And even cheaper are the regular Pilot inks (the inkwell on the right): JPY 400 (plus tax) for 30 ml. This is the radical approach to the present inflation in inks and their prices.


3. Paper.
Paper, or good quality paper, is also becoming a luxury good. But the production costs might be at the heart of this phenomenon. The paper industry relies heavily on the economy of scale and a small community like that of fountain pen aficionados is unable to generate a big demand. The result--producing small batches to fulfill the demand of such small group is inherently expensive.


"Fountain Pen Friendly Paper Collection", by Yamamoto Paper. Some of those included on this pad are no longer available because some mills are no longer in business.

The alternative, for the time being, could be to go back to old Japanese scholar notebooks, some of which are made of good quality paper, albeit not labeled or advertised as “fountain pen friendly”. Kokuyo Campus, and regular Tsubame notebooks are two obvious options easily available.


This Tsubame paper is excellent and inexpensive. There are other rulings...


4. Events.
The Tokyo International Pen Show (TIPS) is here to stay after a very successful second edition. Its main feature –from my perspective— was the ability of gather people from far away locations. TIPS acted as the meeting point for aficionados from places as far away as Spain and Australia, and that despite being more of a stationery salon than of a pen show.


Tokyo International Pen Show. Not a pen show, but a meeting point.

In contrast, the active Tokyo pen community seems isolated and detached from the rest of the World.


5. Social Media.
I am new to this environment, and I am therefore very naïve –or simply skeptical- about it. However, it is hard to miss the huge activity on social media, and the personal connections created through them. The result is a much better connected pen community where parochial attitudes –like those of Japanese brands- are bound to fail.


Japanese companies have not understood anything related to social media, and behave following patterns anchored in the twentieth century, with segregated and separated markets. They do not seem to understand online shopping across borders.

On the contrary, Chinese and Taiwanese pen companies have embraced this new world and are taking benefit from their constant presence on them.


I am sure there is a lot more that could be said about this year 2019, but this is what called my attention.


WiPens Toledo – Montblanc Irish Green

Bruno Taut
Nakano, December 8th 2019
etiquetas: Japón, China, Taiwan, mercado, evento, redes sociales, Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, tinta

13 September 2019

Japanese Eyedropper Today (I)

The so-called Japanese eyedropper system –inki-dome shiki (インキ止め式) in Japanese— was in fact invented by Onoto in the beginning of the 20th century. Those Onoto reached Japan imported by Maruzen and the system –an eyedropper with a shut-off valve— clicked among the locals. The final result was that this system was copied and reproduced by most Japanese pen makers along its history up to today.


An Onoto with the shut-off valve system. Not yet a Japanese eyedropper, I guess.


A Japanese Swan (Nobuo Ito's Swan) with the Japanese eyedropper system.

The inki-dome, however, fell out of favor by the late 1950s when Platinum introduced the ink cartridge and most other makers followed the example. Only minor makers –I am thinking of Sakai Eisuke's operations— kept the system alive till the 1980s.


A Sakai Eisuke's pen made in collaboration with Kabutogi Ginjiro (::1::). Possibly from the 1960s.

In 1985, Pilot commissioned lathe master Sakai the creation of a prototype based on the style of the Pilot pens from the early 1930s, The result was what later became the Pilot (and Namiki) size 50 Urushi, and it implements the Japanese eyedropper system.


The Pilot Urushi in size 50--a modern Japanese eyedropper. This pen is incorrectly named by many as Namiki Emperor, but the Emperor model is decorated with maki-e techniques according to the Namiki catalog.

But who else followed? Not much.

Eboya used the system for some years (::2::, ::3::), but its production relied in the know-how of lathe master Kanesaki Noritoshi. Eboya's boss, Mr. Endo, has announced the new production of Eboya pens with this system, but there are no final dates for their release.


An old Eboya (2013) from the Kanesaki time. It implements the Japanese eyedropper system. At that time, the brand name was still Nebotek.

More recently, as of 2018, the sort-lived Iwase Seisakusho also marketed some pens with the Japanese eyedropper system. These were either old incomplete pen bodies by Ishi Shoten (owner of the brand Yotsubishi) or new pen bodies made by lathe master Momose. But Iwase Seisakusho had a very brief life and very few units of it made to the market.


An Iwase Seisakusho based on a body by Momose Yasuaki.

From California, Danitrio makes some models with Japanese eyedropper. These are usually expensive models with urushi or maki-e decoration.


Some Danitrio pens as exposed at Itoya Ginza (Tokyo) in 2010. Photo courtesy of Moskva.

Finally, a surprising actor is the Taiwanese brand Opus 88 (Jin Gi Industrial Co.). But these Japanese eyedroppers deserve a Chronicle on their own.


The Opus 88 Koloro. A surprising new actor in the Japanese eyedropper business.



Opus 88 Koloro – De Atramentis Beethoven

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 12th 2019
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas, Pilot, Eboya, Danitrio, Iwase Seisakusho, Opus 88, mercado, Onoto, Japón, mercado, Kanesaki, Sakai Eisuke, Momose Yasuaki

09 September 2019

Heisei vs. Reiwa

These two pens are 30 years apart—the 30 years Emperor Akihito occupied the Japanese throne.


Two commemorative pens by Pilot.

In 1989, at the death of Emperor Hirohito, the Showa era reached to an end and started a new one—the Heisei period. And to celebrate this new era Pilot released the “Heisei pen”--a flat-top based in the Pilot 70th anniversary (1988) decorated with maki-e. It was a limited edition of 1000 units.


The Heisei pen, 1989.


Kyusai Yoshida. Kokkokai.


The nibs of these two pens: Heisei nib on top, Reiwa on bottom. But the later is not specific to the Reiwa pen.

This “Heisei pen” was made of plastic, but its decoration –a male and a female phoenices— was signed by its creator Kyusai Yoshida. The nib –an 18 K unit of size 10-- displays a specific decoration for the occasion. On the book Fountain Pens of Japan, the authors mention that the nib was engraved with the words “for strong progress”, but that is not what we see on this particular pen.

Thirty years later, in 2019, Emperor Akihito abdicated and his son Naruhito reached the throne—the new era Reiwa started. And Pilot repeated the operation—a commemorative pen.


The Reiwa pen, 2019.

This limited edition –800 units-- is a torpedo based on the Custom 742, but with an internal core made of brass. The nib is a bicolor made of 18 K gold with the same decoration as any other size 10 by Pilot (Maki-e Zodiac collection, Ishime series, Hannya series, etc.)


The Kokkokai as the collective author of the decoration on the Reiwa pen.


The whole package of the Reiwa pen. JPY 150,000, plus taxes.

The maki-e decoration is now a single phoenix and is signed collectively by the whole group of Pilot maki-e artisans, the Kokkokai. The price, JPY 150000, plus tax.

Two pens, 30 years apart. One with a fully signed decoration, and plastic body; the other, heftier with a brass core, and a simpler decoration. They are not so different to some of the regular models present in Pilot's and Namiki's catalogs, but limited editions sell very well.

My thanks to Mr. Hoshino.


Parker 51 aerometric (Inky.Rocks') – De Atramentis Beethoven

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 6th 2019
etiquetas: Pilot, Japón, mercado, maki-e

04 September 2019

Pelikan in Japan (III)

Some weeks ago I spoke about how a fountain pen should perform correctly regardless of the script and that Japan was not such a special place (see ::1::).

Well... today I might be saying the opposite, but just regarding Japan as a special and sometimes strange market.

Story goes that after Pelikan had phased out the 400NN model in 1965, repeated requests from Japanese retailers made Pelikan to reconsider its decision. However, instead of putting its machinery to work, Pelikan outsourced the production of models 120 and 400NN to another company—Merz & Krell. And the 400NN M&K was made again between 1973 and 1978. The 120 M&K had a slightly shorter life: between 1973 and 1977.

Anyway, this story is well known (see some sources of information at the end fof this text), and nothing truly new can I offer save a group picture of the four variations of the model 400NN made by Merz & Krell: black, black striped, tortoise brown striped and green striped.


The number and color of the four variations is well known, but the complete picture of set is rare.

These pens and their origin on the demands of Japanese retailer pose some interesting questions:

– That important was the Japanese market for Pelikan at the time?

– Are Pelikan nibs so well suited to write in Japanese?

– And conversely, do we really need specialized nibs to write in Japanese? (::2::, ::3::, ::4::)



The black and the black striped versions of the 400NN M&K, side by side.

Notes: Some sites with more complete information on the Pelikan 400NN Merz & Krell:

-- The Pelikan's Perch: https://thepelikansperch.com/2014/10/05/merz-krell-who-were-they/

-- Pelikan Collectibles: https://www.pelikan-collectibles.com/en/Pelikan/Models/Revised-Piston-Fillers/400NN-Basis/index.html

-- Pens and Sensibility: several posts (::5::, ::6::, ::7::).

-- Tony Rex's thread on FP Geeks Forum offered additional information on how to disassemble the piston of this pen: https://fpgeeks.com/forum/showthread.php/7349-Merz-and-Krell-Pelikan-400NN

-- Ruettinger Web: http://www.ruettinger-web.de/e-pelikan-modell-400.html


Ohashido BCHR, music nib – Bril Turquoise Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 3rd 2019
etiquetas: Pelikan, Japón, mercado

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 special 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