Japan is one of the countries with an interesting fountain pen scene and it’s completely different from Europe. Fountain pens, and stationery in general are more common items. I saw a man browsing the pens and was looking for his first pen. He knew nothing of them but really wanted one. The seller took her time and shared her extensive knowledge before he made his decision. Of course, I understood little of it as their conversation was entirely in Japanese.
This is not the kind of conversation I overhear in Europe. Hell, most people who don’t know fountain pens stay clear of them. The fountain pen departments are usually empty, even in busy German department stores where they’re more integrated and the popular brands also have different kinds of stationery. People still see it as a luxury product, something a regular person doesn’t use. It’s expensive and impractical. While it’s true that fountain pens can be expensive, they shouldn’t be seen as a luxury product. It’s a tool and you can make it as impractical or expensive as you want. Most people are afraid to use one or believe the myths surrounding them.
I missed the Kobe Pen Show by two days. We weren’t close to begin with, but if I knew, I might have booked a detour. From what I saw on social media, the visitors are much younger than what I experienced in the Netherlands where grey was the most common hair colour. It seems Japanese people are more open-minded about using them and they do see it as a tool which will make their lives easier, or as a way to express themselves beyond the black or navy suit.
If you’re going to Tokyo and love pens, I made a small guide on where to find them. I’ll be updating it soon with more information and photos.
Sailor Promenade Sparkly Red – Medium
I really wanted another Sailor after I got my Purple Cosmos with zoom nib. This time no zoom nib though, but a medium. I tried the fine but it was a little too fine for me. I felt more comfortable with the medium. The Promenade wasn’t a model I was looking for, but between all of the thousand pens Itoya had, this one caught my eye. The service from Itoya is excellent and they even offered a leather pen sleeve to go with the pen, either red or black. I went with black. You get to choose between the colours of the cartridges too. The pen didn’t come with a converter, but I can still pick one up later when I’m done with the cartridges.
Silver, chrome, or rhodium trim pens have my preference, but there was something about this one I couldn’t resist. It’s so classy while still deviating from the standard cigar-shaped black pen. Most of the pictures you see online seem black with a red shade, but it’s a deep dark red with even more sparkle than the Pelikan M205 Star Ruby.
Pelikan M205 Star Ruby – Broad
You probably already know that the M205 is one of my favourite pens, so when Pelikan announced the Star Ruby version with glitter, it was a must-have. It looks gorgeous next to my demonstrator and aquamarine pens.
We bought the two Pelikans in one of the pen shops hidden in Ameyoko, a market street located beneath the train tracks in Ueno. We didn’t go looking to buy, but my husband saw his Pelikan and was sold. Then I saw the one I wanted had a good discount and with tax-free, it’d be crazy not to buy it. Fortunately, we could use our credit card to pay which made it even easier to justify the buy.
Pelikan M200 Green/Grey Marble – Medium
Ok, officially, it’s not my pen, but my husband’s. But I did want to include it in the haul since it’s fountain pen related and we bought it in Japan. The gold trim stands out against the black and cool colours of the marbling. It’s a green/grey coloured combination and looks like a stormy sea. I think the Pilot Iroshizuku fuyu-shogun ink is a perfect match for it.
I wanted a few more of these to just keep near my PC where I don’t use pens a lot. But if I do, I still want to use a fountain pen instead of a ballpoint. One of my other pens might dry out too quickly, so buying another Preppy was a good idea. The Preppy has a nifty slip-and-seal mechanism that keeps the pen from drying out. I’m still using my two year old Preppy with it’s original cartridge.
The Platinum Preppy is one of the cheapest fountain pens available with amazing quality. One of the biggest pros is its ability to be converted into an eyedropper pen if you so desire. No need for converters or cartridges. Goulet Pens has an old video on how to eye dropper a Preppy if you’re interested.
Kingdom Note by Sailor
Kingdom Note has its own line of inks made by Sailor. It’s hard to pick just one ink, especially since they have an extensive ink bar and you’re free to try all of them. I was looking for a specific colour (Narratess blue) but also tried out a few of their exclusive inks. Their older lines include the crustacean line and vegetable line. Both have a wide variety of colours, but not as bright as their new line.
Their latest collaboration is a series of five sea slugs with matching Pro Gears and inks. The pens were out of my price range, but the inks are also beautiful. All of them looked great, but decided on just two. I was looking for a pink colour like this, and the blue reminded me a bit of the Kobe #56 which was also on my wishlist. I have a thing for blue/purple ink mixes (see the Pilot Iroshizuku Ajisai and Kobe #57).
Pilot Iroshizuku inks are so much cheaper in Japan. That’s why I held off from buying them until I was there. I bought four colours, and none of them were my first picks. It’s funny how a nice ink can sneak up on you. That’s why trying an ink can be the decisive factor in buying an ink. Swatches from other people don’t honour the true colour, plus it always looks different when you’re just writing with it with a regular pen. The Pilot Iroshizuku ink stations are wonderful although the quality depends on where you try them out. The ink station at Kinpendo was well maintained while the one in Tokyu Hands were often dry or empty. I tried nearly all of the colours and these stood out to me.
I still have Yama-budo, Kon-peki, and Chiku-rin as samples, but would love to have bottles of. Maybe some day.
Sailor Studio 841
The Sailor Studio inks were the only brand I missed in the Kingdom Note ink bar. I couldn’t see the real colours of the inks, but have done my research (Thank you, Macchiatto man, for sampling every ink!) so I knew which one I wanted. This ink is the colour of my logo so of course, I had to have it. Wouldn’t it be cool if I signed my books with my colour ink? The Sailor Studio inks is a set of a hundred different inks. All beautiful, with different colours, properties, and levels of saturation.
841 looked like it was the closest to my logo’s colour from the pictures I’d seen online, but no matter how much you colour correct, a screen can still deceive you. So I still wasn’t sure if it was the one. When I inked it up at home, I was pleasantly surprised. There’s supposed to be a reddish sheen in there, but it’s hard to see in regular writing.
Kobe Ink #57
This one has been on my list forever. #56 too, the two hydrangea colours. I only picked up this one because I thought the #56 might be too similar to either the blue angel Kingdom Note ink or Pilot Iroshizuku Ajisai. #57 is pastel purple with a light blue line if the ink is wet enough.
After a few years of only going for deep or vibrant colours, I finally added a few pastels to my collection and none of them has a shimmer (my favourite property). This might be a bit out of my comfort zone, but I already know it’ll infuse my life in a positive way.
If you want to see more inks, check out my Instagram for daily posts of the Diamine Inkvent calendar.
Below are two photos of the inks with a quick writing sample. These photos haven’t been edited or colour corrected to the right hue. More and better photos will come later. Click the images for a larger size.