Translated by Greg
Amazing Works of Art! Japanese Handcrafted Fountain Pens
Written by Keisuke Yamada
Utilizing unusual materials and showcasing beautiful designs, Japanese fountain pens are works of art. It's rather impressive when one is pulled out from someone's pocket or pencil case, isn't it? From simple yet attractive pens to pens resembling works o
What do YOU usually use when writing a letter or memo? In recent years writing instruments have continued to evolve and develop; now there are even pens with erasable ink. But when the ink gets used up we throw the pen away, don't we.
A fountain pen is different; it will last almost indefinitely if it is regularly maintained and the ink is refilled. Also, over time, the nib (tip) of the fountain pen will gradually change according to how the pen is used, making it the perfect writing tool for that person. We will introduce some Japanese fountain pens and look at some background factors that shaped their development.
Where Can You Buy a Fountain Pen?
As soon as you exit the Marunouchi north exit of Tokyo Station, you will see "Marunouchi Oazo". It is a building with offices, restaurants and various shops. Oazo, which is an abbreviation for Office & Amenity ZOne, also means oasis (a place of rest and relaxation) in Esperanto. The shop we will be introducing today, Maruzen's main store in Marunouchi district, occupies four floors within Oazo.
You can buy a fountain pen in the stationery section on the fourth floor. There is a wide selection of fountain pens including ones made in Japan and overseas as well.
Japanese Made Fountain Pens
This is the Hina Doll Series from Namiki, showing the Male Doll (on the left) and the Female Doll (on the right). These images depict one of Japan's annual events, Hinamatsuri. Hinamatsuri (also called Momo no sekku), is a festival in which people pray for the good health and happiness of young girls. During the festival, the Hina Dolls are put on display and everyone celebrates by eating Chirashizushi, a bowl of sushi rice topped with raw fish and vegetables, and clear clam soup.
This pen with a picture of Yabusame painted on it, evokes a feeling of dynamic energy. Yabusame, or horseback archery, is a Japanese ceremony in which an arrow is shot at a target while atop a running horse. Just one of these pens will cost you a cool 1,200,000 yen(about US$11,700).
There are also other fountain pens with an array of pictures painted on them. Every one of them has been hand-painted by craftsmen, and are beautifully finished in great detail. It's the perfect way to treat yourself and also makes an ideal gift for someone who likes Japanese-style images.
This is a pen made of cedar wood from the island of Yakushima in Kagoshima prefecture. At the present time, Yakushima cedar trees have been designated as a special national treasure and therefore their logging is prohibited. Only trees that have fallen due to natural causes and tree stumps dating from the Edo period are used in making these precious Yakushima cedar fountain pens. These exquisite pens are touted for the rarity and the warmth of the cedar wood that is used.
This pen is made of bamboo.
These pens are made using Aritayaki. Aritayaki is chinaware made in the town of Arita in Saga prefecture. The pens are the result of a collaboration with a shop that inherited the 400 year tradition of Arita ware. The white surface of the pens are hard and exhibit a feeling of transparency.
Making the most of a traditional Japanese technique called "Kōshūinden", this pen's pattern has been painted onto deer skin with lacquer. The Kōshūinden process starts by dyeing the tanned deer skin, then painting a pattern onto it with lacquer. This technique is often used with bags and accessories.
The use of lacquer painting gives depth to the pen's glossy surface. This lacquer comes out of the Urushi tree like sap and possesses strong adhesive qualities and gives a lustrous sheen. When this lacquer is applied, the pen's surface takes on a fresh and wet appearance.
This is the "Kawaguchi Pen", part of the Fuji-Goko Series which is being sold by the Platinum Pen Company. Fuji-Goko is a collective term referring to five lakes (ko) near the base of Mount Fuji in Yamanashi prefecture: Lake Motosu, Lake Shoji, Lake Sai, Lake Yamanaka and Lake Kawaguchi.
The Platinum Pen Company has put many fountain pens on the market, each with its own distinctive name. The Kawaguchi Pen which goes on sale on July 1st, 2016, will close out the Fuji-Goko Series as the final showpiece. It expresses the beauty of Mount Fuji and the placid surface of Kawaguchi Lake amid a tranquil backdrop.
Maruzen's Original Fountain Pen
Only sold for commemorative purposes such as a shop's ten year anniversary, the "Maruzen Finest Quality Multi Pad Holder", which retails at 6,800 yen (about US$66), is designed perfectly for fountain pen lovers. Most notepad covers have the pen holder on the inside, but Maruzen has a different idea. Their belief, that it's better for the pen holder to be on the outside so that everyone can see the sophisticated and sharp-looking fountain pen for what it truly is, spawned this unique design.
The fountain pen is an item that lasts a lifetime. When a Japanese-made fountain pen is pulled out from someone's pocket or pencil holder, it's a real attention getter. At Maruzen's main store in Marunouchi district, they have a big selection of fountain pens; from simple, yet attractive pens up to pens resembling works of art. Should you ever be in the area, we think it'll be worth your time to go up to the fourth floor and have a look.
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Maruzen - Marunouchi Store
Location: Tokyo, Chiyoda ward, Marunouchi 1-6-4
Hours: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm
Closed: Only on January 1st and special designated days
Credit Cards: Accepted
Nearest station: JR Tokyo Station
Access: 1 minute on foot from Tokyo Station
Homepage: Maruzen - Marunouchi Store