Showing posts with label Nagasawa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nagasawa. Show all posts

10 March 2018

Inks: Price and Variety

More reflections on ink prices in Japan.

On my previous Chronicle I mentioned the idea of how 50 ml inkwells might be too big for this time and age. Apparently, variation –i. e. large selection of colors— is a  lot more relevant than the price of the ink or than being able to replace that exact color we grew fond of.

The, commentator Brian suggested that most users do not really think in terms of price per milliliter but in price per ink or, I might add, price per inkwell regardless its actual size.

These two arguments seem key to understand the recent policy of Sailor to market the rebranded but traditional inks of the company (::1::, ::2::, ::3::, ::4::). But Sailor’s shrinkflating moves –preserving the nominal price while reducing the amount of product— is very detrimental to the consumer. The rest of makers will surely feel the temptation of copying the example of Sailor.

The following graph shows how Sailor’s are –in the Japanese market and among Japanese manufacturers— the most expensive inks. Hakase inks, those made of real squid ink, are not included on it because their presence in the market is marginal.


The graph shows how Sailor inks are, in general, more expensive than those by any other maker in Japan. There are some exceptions to this trend:
1-The 15 ml inkwells of the Pilot Iroshizuku ink at a cost of JPY 46.7/ml.

2-The soon-to-be-released (April 2018) presentation of 20 ml of Mix Free inks by Platinum at JPY 50/ml.
3-The basic triad of the old Jentle inks by Sailor (black, blue-black, and blue) for JPY 20/ml. This particular point in the graph is hidden under a Platinum point of the same coordinates: 3 inks at JPY 20/ml.
The number of inks of Nagasawa Kobe (69 on the graph) and of BunguBox (42 on the graph) is in actual terms subject to frequent changes.
All prices quoted are catalog prices (MRSP), in Japanese Yen (JPY) without taxes (8% in Japan).

On the graph we can see how the cheapest of the Sailor inks –the pigmented inks Kiwaguro and Seiboku— are more expensive than any other made by Pilot and Platinum save for the 15 ml inkwell presentation of the Pilot Iroshizuku Mini.

On par with the most expensive Sailor inks are those marketed by stationer BunguBox that are also made by Sailor. These original inks have a very limited distribution in Japan, although it is possible to buy them online. Its catalog comprises 42 different colors, albeit the shop often runs out of stock of some of them.

The fundamental paradox of the new pricing policy of Sailor is the fact that the current line of Kobe inks is now the cheaper Sailor ink in the Japanese market. Kobe inks, let us remember, are Sailor-made inks for Kobe-based Nagasawa shop. However, these inks are available in Tokyo by the hand of Itoya (at its headquarters in Ginza) and of Maruzen (at its Ikebukuro branch). As a consequence, the 69 inks of the Kobe lineup have become a lot more attractive to the user.

The question, now, is how long this paradox will last.


Ban-ei, wide ring with Henckel nib – Noodler’s Zhivago

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 9th 2018
etiquetas: Sailor, mercado, tinta, Nagasawa, BunguBox, Japón, Pilot, Platinum

Post Scriptum (March 13th, 2018).

I have changed the graph I originally published on March 10th. The new version solved an inexcusable omission and has more data following some recent news.

These are the modifications:

i. Sailor does have three inexpensive (in relative terms) inks at JPY 20/ml. These are the basic triad of black, blue-black and blue in the old Jentle formulation. This is, obviously, the inexcusable omission.

ii. This coming month of April Platinum will market the Mix Free inks in a new presentation: smaller 20 ml inkwells. Needless to say, smaller inkwells mean higher specific prices: JPY 50/ml. (Thanks, Rafael).

iii. In April as well, Sailor will release a new pigmented ink NOT belonging to the Storia lineup. From April on, there will be three pigmented inks: Kiwa-guro, Sei-boku, and the new Sô-boku.

However, despite these additions, the basic picture remains the same: Sailor is the most expensive brand, although there exists an inexpensive option at JPY 20/ml.

Platinum, on its side, keeps on pushing its ink prices up. The decision of marketing a new and more expensive presentation of the Mix Free series is just consistent with this policy.

And Pilot, finally, is the most stable company regarding inks, although this company also made an inflationary move—the release of the Iroshizuku Mini presentation in January of 2015.


Platinum pocket, Yamada Seisakusho – KWZ Brown #2

Brunot Taut
Nakano, March 13th 2018
etiquetas: Sailor, mercado, tinta, Pilot, Platinum, Japón.

30 September 2017

Kobe in Tokyo (II)

Some months ago I wrote about how Nagasawa Kobe’s inks were available in Tokyo at Itoya's main shop in Ginza. And the prices of those inks were the same as in Kobe, which made those inks all the more appealing.

Now it is not only Itoya offering them but also its natural competitor in the fountain pen scene—Maruzen. At least at some branches. The pictures of this text were taken at the newly open shop in Ikebukuro (Toshima).


Maruzen in Ikebukuro.

And again, like at Itoya, the prices are the same as at Nagasawa in Kobe—JPY 1800, plus tax.


This is probably good news for the consumer—more competition should translate into higher qualiy and lower prices. But what does Sailor, the actual maker of those inks, think about these moves by Nagasawa?


The well known chart of the colors of the Kobe inks.

And, how big is the ink market? How much offer can the dwellers of the ink-swamp --インク沼—support?

Finally, is there a bubble in the market of fountain pen inks?


Gama “The Wand” – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Nakano, Sept 28 2017
etiquetas: tinta, Tokyo, Sailor, Nagasawa, Maruzen

30 March 2017

Kobe in USA

The Kobe-based stationery shop Nagasawa started selling its rage of inks—the Kobe inks—in Tokyo last February. The Tokyo partner for this operation is Itoya, and its headquarters in Ginza are the only place where these inks are sold in the big city.


Nagasawa in Kobe.

This marketing decision seems successful, and the pile of Kobe inks at Itoya does shrink down. The arrangement is stable, though, and the stock of inks should be replenished regularly.


Kobe inks at Itoya. They seem to go fast, but not being a limited offer, the shelves should be replenished regularly.

But the more interesting news are that Nagasawa intends to sell these Kobe inks in the US market in a near future. Not much more information is available now. In particular, not about what retail channel the Kobe shop will use for this move. However, it is only reasonable to think Itoya America could be in charge of the distributing these Kobe inks made, after all, by Sailor.


Pilot Prera – Gary's Red-Black (Wagner ink 2012)

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, March 29th 2017
etiquetas: tinta, Nagasawa, Tokyo, Estados Unidos, Sailor, mercado

06 March 2017

Kobe in Tokyo

On the previous text I spoke about a new arrival in the Tokyo pen scene. Hamamatsu’s shop Bung-Box has recently opened a branch in Tokyo. An obvious effect of this move the availability of a wide range on original inks in the big city.

The other big name in original inks —that is, inks made by Sailor for specific retailers— is Nagasawa, in the city of Kobe. Kobe inks, as Nagasawa calls them, were the first gamut to receive a wide attention from stylophiles both in Japan and overseas.


Kobe ink in Kobe. Picture by Randall Stevens. Used by permission.

The new move of Nagasawa is to market these inks in Tokyo as well. But this time in partnership with one of the main shops in Tokyo—Itoya.


Kobe ink in Tokyo.


That’s it—now Itoya sells a wide variety of Kobe inks at, at least, its flagship shop in Ginza. The price of this inks is the same as in Nagasawa shop—JPY 1800, plus tax, for 50 ml. And this is indeed remarkable—Kobe inks are JPY 200 cheaper (for a 50 ml inkwell) than any other original ink, of course Sailor made. But there is an exception—Bung-Box inks are a lot more expensive at JPY 3000.


Kobe inks in Itoya Ginza.

Are these moves by Nagasawa and Bung-Box mere timely coincidences?

My thanks to Randall Stevens.


Sailor Profit, Naginata nib – Nagasawa Bokkô

Bruno Taut
Chuo, March 3rd, 2017
etiquetas: Sailor, tinta, Tokyo, mercado, Nagasawa, Itoya

01 July 2016

Urushi Fermo

Nagasawa is, in a sense, THE stationery shop in the city of Kobe in Japan. Sure enough there are some other stationers in the area, but this centenary old store, founded in 1882, does attract most of the attention in the area. The reasons for this success deserve a detailed analysis, but that is not today’s topic.


Today I wanted to present a quite unique pen made for Nagasawa by Pilot. The excuse seems a bit lame –134th anniversary of the company--, but probably any excuse is valid to make some noise. The name of this pen is the non-descriptive “Urushi Japan”.



The pen in question is rather unusual—it is a limited edition fountain pen based on the well-known Pilot Fermo. The variations over the regular model are small but relevant:

-- The metal parts are now golden in color as opposed to the silver trim of the usual Fermo.


-- The nib unit, made of 18 K gold, is also golden in color and is not rhodiated. This is the only Fermo model to use such nibs instead of the rhodiated units. The nib is engraved with the logo of Nagasawa--a key.


-- The knurled knob that operated the nib is now smooth and of the same color as the rest of the pen.

-- Finally, and most important, the pen is decorated, or colored, with urushi lacquer.


Nagasawa ordered a total of 150 numbered units in two different colors—60 units in jet black (shikkoku, 漆黒) and 90 in red (shu, 朱). The price is the same for both colors: JPY 60000, plus tax.


Both "Urushi Japan" pens as displayed on the magazine Shumi-no Bungubako (issue 38) together with the real thing in red.

Size-wise, this urushi Fermo is less than one gram heavier than the regular model. The rest of the dimensions are nominally identical:

Length closed: 141 mm
Length open: 148 mm
Diameter: 12.3 mm
Weight: 34.4 g


On top, the red "Urushi Japan" of Nagasawa; on bottom, a regular Fermo in black.



Eboya Hôga – Diamine Graphite

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 1st, 2016
etiquetas: Pilot, Capless, Kobe, mercado, maki-e, Nagasawa

05 October 2013

Jentle on the Side

Sailor inks are well known by now even overseas from Japan. And, as of today, after the transitional period of the seasonal inks (between December 2009 and July 2010), Sailor settled down its offer in April 2011 with nine ink colors. All these are the so-called Jentle inks, as opposed to the permanent, nanopigmented ones, of which only two colors are available: the black Kiwaguro and the blue-black Seiboku.

But Sailor is also known in Japan for producing inks for some shops. The better known example, at least outside Japan, is the case of Kobe inks made for the Kobe-based stationery shop Nagasawa. These inks, in fact, predate the day –December 2009— when Sailor sharply increased the price of their inks. Regular, Jentle, inks went from JPY 600 to JPY 1000 (plus taxes), which represented a 66% increase. This information is relevant because the custom made inks for shops always cost twice the price of the regular line. So, initially, Nagasawa inks cost JPY 1200, and the price increase was reflected in the current price of JPY 1500 (plus taxes).


Sailor ink made for the Nagasawa stationery shop in Kobe.


Sailor ink made for the Maruzen shop. It carries the traditional name of the fountain pen-related products made by this traditional shop--Athena.

Custom made inks created in later years cost, therefore, JPY 2000. There are numerous examples of them: Maruzen shops, Ishidabungu in Hokuto (Hokkaido), Bung Box in Hamamatsu (Shizuoka), Nakajima/B-Stock in the West side of Tokyo and Kanagawa, Kingdom Note in Tokyo… Many of them are Sailor Friendly Shops where some specific pens, not present in the general catalog of the company, are available. Some of those shops can be found on my map of fountain pen shops in Tokyo.


Sailor inks made of the small chain Nakajima/B-Stock located in several location on the West side of Tokyo and in Kanagawa prefecture. The price is clearly printed on the box--JPY 1260, taxes included.

In some cases it is still possible to find old custom made inks. And the price remains unchanged: JPY 1200 per inkwell (plus taxes).


Pilot Capless CS-100RW – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Machida, October 3rd, 2013
etiquetas: Sailor, tinta, mercado, Nagasawa