Sunday, November 12, 2017

Kyôto Colors

Takeda Jimuki is a company based in Kyôto dedicated to supply office equipment. As part of its business, Takeda Jimuki also runs a small chain of stationers called TAG with branches, among other places, in Tokyo.

In collaboration with the corporation Kyôto Kusaki Zome Kenkyujo, dedicated to develop and market dyes out of plants, Takeda Jimuki manufactures some inks for fountain pens.

As of today, November of 2017, these two companies produce two lines of inks: Sounds of Kyôto (Kyô-no Oto), and Colors of Kyôto (Kyô-no Iro). Each of them is formed by six inks with, of course, poetic and allegoric names.

The Kyô-no Oto line:
-- Azuki Iro, the color of Vigna angulares. Purplish brown.
-- Nureba Iro, wet crow. A black ink.
-- Imayô Iro, trendy color (at least in the Heian period). Purple.
-- Koke Iro, moss color. Green.
-- Yamabuki Iro, Kerria japonica. Yellow.
-- Aonibi, dull blue. A grayish blue.

Some of the "sounds of Kyôto" (Kyô-no Oto).

The Kyô-no Iro inks:
-- Arashiyama-no Shimofuri, frost in Arashiyama. An orange brown ink.
-- Gion-no Ishidatami, cobblestones in Gion. Green.
-- Higashiyama-no Tukikage, moon shadow of Higashiyama. Orange.
-- Fushimi-no Shunuri, gates of Fushimi. Red.
-- Keage-no Sakuragasane, pink color on a kimono collar. Pink.
-- Ohara-no Mochiyuki, soft snow in Ohara. Purple.

Some of the "colors of Kyôto" (Kyô-no Iro).

Some of those colors might nit be currently in production. That could be the case of Azuki Iro and Arishiyama-no Shimofuri. But at the same time there are some limited edition inks like the “secret color”, Hisoku; a pale blue. This ink is part of the Kyô-no Oto line.

Another sound of Kyôto: Hisoku.

These inks come in 40 ml. bottles at a price of JPY 1400 (taxes included). That is JPY 1296 without taxes, and about JPY 32.5/ml. This price is JPY 2.5/ml more expensive than the Pilot’s Iroshizuku inks.

The packaging is very attractive while simple.

Gion-no Ishidatami and Koke Iro.

As long as I can see, these inks have a very limited distribution both inside and outside of Japan, albeit some companies are selling them overseas.

Romillo Nervión – Sailor Blue Iron (personal ink)

Bruno Taut
Nakano, November 6th 2017
labels: Kyôto, tinta, Takeda Jimuki

Monday, November 6, 2017

Strange Marketing by Sailor

Some days ago I reported on the new presentation of the old line of Sailor Jentle inks together with the release of four new colors—Yonaga, Shimoyo, Yozakura and Yodaki. And from now on, the name of these inks is going to be “Shikiori”.

The new four colors of the Shikiori inks. Only these are new.

The unfortunate side effect of this move by Sailor is the dramatic increase in the price. The old presentation cost JPY 1000 per a 50 ml inkwell—that is, JPY 20/ml. The new one costs, again, JPY 1000, but for only 20 ml of ink in a fancier inkwell. That is, JPY 50/ml.

The full catalog of Shikiori inks. Note how 16 of them are the well-known seasonal inks.

At the time of that text (October 6th 2017), I wondered whether this new policy was temporary. Now, from Sailor I have heard that this new price is definitive and that the new old presentation will remain in the market as long as stocks remained in existence.

By doing this, Sailor positions their inks among the most expensive tier of inks in the Japanese market, including some pigmented inks made by themselves and by rival companies.

Another shocking detail is the decision of allowing both old –50 ml inkwells— and new -20 ml inkwells— to coexist at retail shops. In these way, Sailor blatantly show the huge increase in the price –a 2.5 factor- while putting the retailer in an uncomfortable situation in front of the customer.

But such is the new policy of Sailor. The rationale? The same sources said that the old inkwells looked too cheap and needed an update; and that the ink was too inexpensive compared to that of the competitors.

The old inkwells used by Sailor. Now they are deemed as unfashionable.

And Sailor seems to forget they also had this other inkwell...

But with this new prices, Sailor inks become significantly more expensive than those of the original inks that Sailor themselves make for a (big) number of shops. Typically, these original inks cost JPY 2000 (plus taxes) for 50 ml. That is, JPY 40/ml. Nagasawa’s Kobe inks (::1::, ::2::), with its very large collection of colors, are even cheaper: JPY 1800 per inkwell, or JPY 36/ml.

Now, this Sailor-made Kobe inks marketed by Nagasawa are cheaper than those made by Sailor themselves.

Is Sailor going to push all those shops to increase the prices of the original inks?

Sailor 21 K, full size (1970s) – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, November 2nd 2017
labels: Sailor, mercado, tinta

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


It is already here—the announced Pilot Custom Urushi in vermillion is already in the shops.

The new, although not so much of a novelty, Custom Urushi in vermillion.

Now it becomes crystal clear which parts of this pen are made of ebonite, and coated with urushi, and which parts are made of plastic. As we already knew, the Custom Urushi follows the patterns of the Pilot Custom 845, whose red urushi model –sold only at the stationary shop Asahiya Kami Bungu—is shown on the picture.

The well-known Pilot Custom 854 in red urushi sold at Asahiya Kami Bungu, in Tokyo.

The price of this red Custom Urushi is the same as of the original black pen—JPY 88000, plus tax.

Clavijo Velasco Ro-iro – Pilot Irsohizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Nakano, October 24th 2017
labels: Pilot, maki-e, mercado

Saturday, October 21, 2017

10 Years of Color Drops

Time flies.

By the end of this year of 2017, Pilot’s Iroshizuku inks will become 10 years old. The first “color drops”, such is the meaning of 色彩雫, “iroshizuku”, showed up in the market in December of 2007: Asa-gao, Aji-sai, Tsuyu-kusa, Kon-peki, and Tsuki-yo. All of them blue tonalities.

All in all, Pilot has released a total of 27 ink colors under the label Iroshizuku at an irregular pace:

December 2007 (5): Asa-gao, Aji-sai, Tsuyu-kusa, Kon-peki, and Tsuki-yo.

July 2008 (5): Ku-jaku, Sho-ro, Shin-ryoku, Kiri-same, Fuyu-shogun.

November 2008 (4): Yu-yake, Momiji, Yama-budo, Tsutsuji.

January 2009 (3): Shimbashi-iro, Edo-murasaki, Fukagawa-nezu.

May 2009 (3): Tsukushi, Fuyu-gaki, Yama-guri.

August 2011 (4): Ina-ho, Kosumosu, Murasaki-shikibu, Chiku-rin.

November 2011 (3): Take-sumi, Shin-kai, Ama-iro.

Those released in January of 2009 formed the Tokyo Limited Edition, and are no longer available. In fact, their distribution was also very limited. The final result is that the actual gamut of ink comprises only 24 colors.

The price –in Japan, at least— has not changed in all this time, save for the increase in sale tax in 2014 from 5% to 8%. JPY 1500 (JPY 30/ml) is the catalog price (MSRP), although it is easy to find these inks for less.

In October of 2010, another presentation of the inks was marketed: three 20 ml-bottles for JPY 3000 (JPY 50/ml). These sets were fixed-there was no possibility of choosing the colors. That presentation was very short lived.

In January of 2015, a second version of smaller inkwells was launched—the Iroshizuku Mini. Now, it is composed of three 15 ml inkwells at a price of JPY 2100 (JPY 47/ml). On this occasion, the buyer can generally choose the colors included in the set. At some shops it is even possible to buy the inkwells individually for JPY 700 (minus some possible discounts).

And now, what? Platinum recently launched its new line of iron-gall inks. Sailor has rebranded the old line of inks as Shikiori, and not so long ago offered some smaller bottles of the nanopigmented Storia inks. Pilot is, in comparison, very relaxed on the ink front.

So, will Pilot take benefit of this opportunity to start a marketing campaign?

(NOTES: 1. Prices quoted in Japanese yen without taxes. 2. The names of the inks have been written following the more standard Hepburn Romanization, and the names of a couple of inks might look misspelled. This is completely intentional and only shows the problems Japanese people often have with the alphabetic transliteration of their own language).

Nakaya Portable Writer – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, July 6th 2017
labels: Pilot, tinta

Monday, October 16, 2017

Masahiro Again

Past July, I wrote a text –“From Shizuoka”— about the small pen maker by the name of Masahiro Seisakusho. Its website, I said at the time, was only written in Japanese and was also very confusing. That, together with some questions asked on the Fountain Pen Network made that Chronicle of mine extremely popular. I wonder now if that new information translated into more sales…

A thick Masahiro. The engraving on the nib is the only brand sign.

Anyway, another Masahiro pen became available for me to inspect, and writing about it was only natural.

On this occasion we have one of the bigger models, and therefore it implements a Pilot size 15 nib. The body, as usual on this brand, is made of (probably) German ebonite.

The nib is a typical Pilot unit: "PILOT / 14K-585 / 15 / ". Closer to the section, the manufacturing date: 314.

However, despite the size of the nib –similar to a Bock size 6, or a Pelikan M800—, it seems too small for the very wide pen body. Sure enough, its girth allows for a big amount of ink thanks also to the old fashioned and efficient A-shiki filling system. This system, let’s remember, was briefly used by Pilot in the 1950s, although it is very common nowadays in the form of the Pilot’s CON-70 converter.

As was the case with the other Masahiro pen here analyzed, the feed is made of ebonite, which is a significant change with respect to Pilot pens implementing these nibs, whose feed are made of plastic.

The very beautiful ebonite feed, custom made by Narihiro Uchino.

These are the dimensions of this Masahiro pen made in Shizuoka:

Length closed: 143mm
Length open: 133 mm
Length posted: 170 mm
Diameter: 17 mm
Weight: 43.9 g (inked)

The tail of the pen is the handle of the pulsated piston (A-shiki system).

Pens like this go over JPY 100000 (actually, almost JPY 110000), according to Masahiro’s website. Now, it is up to us to decide whether this pen is a good value and how it compared to Pilot pens with the same nib.

My thanks to Mr. Minagawa.

Romillo Nervión – Sailor Blue Iron

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, October 11th 2017
labels: Masahiro, Pilot

Friday, October 6, 2017

Even More Sailor Inks

Shikiori –meaning “four seasons” in Japanese--  started as a series of fountain pens, ball pens, and mechanical pencils. They came in different colors and were associated –creative marketing at work— to, of course, the four seasons. One of the fountain pens in that series, a slim Professional Gear in whitish color by the name of Meigetsu, became particularly popular among young users in Japan.

Now, Sailor has enlarged this collection with a tricky marketing operation that includes some new inks.

On one hand, Sailor has rebranded the old line of Jentle inks –all those 16 inks that started in 2010 as seasonal inks— as Shikiori inks, with the additional label of “Izayoi-no Yume” (“sixteen nights”). They come in a new presentation, 20 ml inkwells, and a (much) more expensive price per milliliter. As of now, the old (50 ml inkwells) and the new packaging coexist at the shops.

The new inkwell of 20 ml, and the four new colors.

A lot of news are included on this picture. From top to bottom: On the first row, Sailor converters in assorted colors. On the second and third rows, the newly marketed Shikiori inks in their 20 ml bottles. And on the last row, the well-known Jentle inks in colors black, blue and blue-black in their new presentation of 50 ml inkwells. The same inkwell is used for the pigmented "Kiwa-guro" and "Sei-boku" inks. Finally (bottom right), the "ink reservoir" just released by Sailor to use up the ink of any bottle.

On the other hand, there are four new colors have been added to the Sailor catalog. These are the Shikiori “Tsukuyo-no Minamo” inks (something like “water surface under the moonlight”). These inks only come in 20 ml inkwells. These colors are called Yonaga (blue black or purple black). Shimoyo (black or very dark grey), Yozakura (light purple), and Yodaki (a brownish red).

The four new colors of the Shikiori line of inks. But make no mistake--these are Jentle inks with their very characteristic smell.

The catalog of the Shikiori inks. On the left, the new inks under the name "Tsukuyo-no Minamo". On the center-right, the rebranded seasonal inks now called "Izayoi-no Yume".

These Shikiori inks –20 in total— have a price of JPY 1000 per 20 ml. This implies a steep increase in the price with respect to the old presentation: JPY 50/ml versus JPY 20/ml (tax excluded). For comparison, Pilot’s Iroshizuku inks come at JPY 30/ml in the 50 ml inkwells, and at JPY 47/ml in the set of three colors in 15 ml bottles.

More marketing? Of course this is. And the final result might simply be a dramatic increase in the cost of the not-so-new inks. It might be worth to remember that this was the case some years ago when Sailor marketed the at-the-time called Seasonal Inks.

But, how much ink can the market digest? It seems that a lot!

Pelikan M200 Cognac – Diamine Graphite

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, October 6th 2017
labels: Silor, tinta, mercado

Saturday, September 30, 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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Madrid 2017

Autumn is here and that also means that the biggest pen event in Europe is coming.

The Madrid Pen Show will take place between November 18th and 20th –this is a three day event—at the NH Collection Madrid Eurobuilding Hotel, and is sponsored by retailer Iguana Sell.

The nominal access fee is EUR 3 per day or EUR 5 for the three days. However, as it was the case on previous years, the sponsor will offer free tickets on its website. It might also be worth to check some of the fountain pen fora in Spanish (::1::, ::2::), where those invitations were also published.

In 2016, about 1300 visitors and 65 dealers, plus some illustrious guests (::1::, ::2::), contributed to create a truly exciting experience. It is also the major celebration –the “fiesta mayor”— of the very active Spanish pen community.

I will be there.

Romillo Nervión – Sailor Iron Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 27th 2017
etiquetas: Mdrid, evento

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pattern, Made in Japan

The history of fountain pens is mostly written by the major brands. However, on the side there have always been a bunch of small companies struggling for a place in the market with a number of arguments. We have seen some of those pens on these pages on these pages—Vanco, Surat, Mitaka, Capless Kogyosho, Sakai Eisuke, etc… Little we know about most of them, but some are interesting on their own merits.

"Pattern". Made in Japan.

Nothing we know, indeed, about this particular brand: “Pattern”. This particular model is made of celluloid and employs the well-known Japanese eyedropper system. The body is perfectly engraved with the company and brand names: “PATTERN” / THE FURUTA (logo) MFG. CO. LTD. / MADE IN JAPAN.

A Japanese eyedropper pen made of celluloid.


The nib, made of steel, is also engraved: WARRANTED / KOKUJU / IRIDIUM / POINT / -<3>-. It is questionable, though, whether it is the original unit of this pen. The feed, on its side, shows the typical shape found on pre-war pens. All in all, albeit with many reservations, indicated a production date around 1940.

WARRANTED / KOKUJU / IRIDIUM / POINT / -<3>-. A replacement or the original nib? I would say the first...

These are the dimensions of the pen:
Length closed: 127 mm.
Length open: 115 mm.
Length posted: 157
Diameter: 13 mm
Weight: 18.0 g (dry)

The flat feed.

But what matters here is the existence of a well-made pen of an unknown brand. Sometimes it pays off to look for unknown and anonymous pens at flea markets and similar places. There are interesting surprises out there even though, like in this case, further research was needed.

Pilot Capless 1998 – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 13th 2017
etiquetas: Pattern, Japón

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pilot Custom 743 with Oblique Nibs

Contrary to how it used to be in Germany –but not anymore!—, oblique nibs are a rarity in Japan. Sure enough they exist, and I have shown an example of those in a Pilot Custom 67 on these Chronicles, but they are conspicuously absent from today’s catalogs of the Japanese makers. This absence is all the more striking given the very wide variety of nib points offered on those same catalogs. Some of them are truly exotic -–two and three folded nibs, multiple tines, bent up and down, etc.--, but none of them is slanted, none of them is oblique.

Well, that is the usual situation, but there are exceptions now and then, but they do not make it to the general catalog.

Recently (August 2017), at stationery Itoya in Ginza, three oblique nib points were on display. They are size 15 nibs made by Pilot, and were implemented on the model Custom 743.

Three Custom 743 with unusual nibs ready to be tested. The two pens on the background implement more usual nibs: posting and falcon.

The following table summarizes the characteristics of the nibs.

The (left) OB nib named as L3.

Two of them are left oblique, with cut at angles of 20 and 30 degrees, labeled as L2 and L3 respectively. The third nib is a right oblique at an angle of 20 degrees (R2). The imprint on the nibs shows the original nib out of which the special point as cut: two B nibs and one FM. The results can be seen on the written sample: the L3 --an OFM nib-- draws a finer line than the other two, which are OB nibs.

Writing sample of the three oblique nibs made by Pilot.

The (left) OFM nib (L2), on both sides.

The (right) OB nib (R2), on both sides.

These nibs are a limited release offered by Itoya. They are available while stocks last. There are no differences in the price of the Custom 743 implementing these oblique nibs—JPY 30000, plus tax.

So, there exist some oblique nibs in Japan! In small numbers, with almost clandestine distribution… but they exist.

Pilot Custom 823 – Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 9th 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, plumín, Itoya
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