Crónicas Estilográficas

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Crisis of Growth?

Sailor has made a couple of shocking announcements in the last months. First was the suspension of the production of specialty nibs, including the basis for them all, the Naginata Togi nib. Then came the news of the discontinuation of the possibility of re-ordering original inks created with the invaluable help of Mr. Ishimaru, Sailor’s ink mixer. However, the creation of these personalized inks is still possible at the ink workshops regularly organized by Sailor throughout Japan.


My original ink, named Hiroko's Green.

Why would any company eliminate two of the elements that truly separated it from the rest? Why is Sailor giving up on his features of distinction in the market of fountain pens?

The issue with ink seems to be that many a user have been selling those original inks online at a premium cost, but I wonder if that should pose any problem for Sailor. More relevant could be that the ink production might have reached its limits with the popularization of some shop-original inks, particularly those by Nagasawa and by Bung-Box.


A Naginata Togi nib.


The Cross-Music nib.

That seems, in fact, to be the problem of the specialty nibs—the troubles of Mr. Nagahara to cope with the demand. Increasing the price of those nibs could ease the problem, but that is also an almost irreversible step.

Then, in summary, is Sailor suffering a growth crisis?


My thanks to Tinjapan.


Sailor Profit, Naginata Togi – Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 18 2017
etiquetas: Sailor, tinta, plumín, mercado

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Friend and Foe

Now and then I need to rant. Or reflect aloud.

Members of the stylophile community like to brag about how wonderful we are, about how we are willing to share information and resources. And there is some truth to it. However, it does not take much thinking to realize that your friend in the community is also a potential competitor in the market. And then the attitude changes—information then becomes precious and treasured, and even rationed. Few people reveal where they found their exotic pens, almost nobody speak of prices paid… All these gestures are rarely disruptive—a smile can do wonders when refusing to reveal those secrets. But the competition is real and can reach the point of plain rudeness when spotting an interesting pen—the basic politeness of “you saw it first” is not always honored.


Then, are we friends or are we foes? And what is the value of all the information the community as a whole continuously publish online? Sheldon Cooper quoted (The Big Bang Theory 3.15 The Large Hadron Collision) economist Fred Hirsch to explain the concept of “neener-neener”—a pen is valued by some because it is not possessed by others, and therefore the need to display it. That exposure does not come without consequences, both positive and negative: that display can trigger some additional interest in the market and generate some inflation. It can also appreciate the displayed pen when reselling was the goal.

And at the end, the guy with the thicker wallet wins.


Sailor Profit, Naginata Togi – Tomikei Blue

Bruno Taut
Nakano, April 18 2017
etiquetas: metabitácora, mercado, estilofilia

Thursday, March 30, 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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Onoto Type by Sakai Eisuke

Ban-ei pens have shown up several times on these Chronicles and the basic data are is well known. But the devil is in the details: Sakai Eisuke and his team did not leave much information behind and any pen can be a source for more knowledge.


The following pen seems to have been made in the 1960s. It is an “Onoto-type” pen, so popular in Japan even nowadays. On the information sheet accompanying we can read that this is a pen inspired on the Onoto model of 1918, with a plunger filling system. Needless to say, the Japanese pen does not use any self-filling operation but the very dear Japanese eyedropper system (::1::, ::2::) derived from the old Onoto plunger.


On this picture, both threads of the ink deposit and of thr shut-off valve are half unscrewed.


This pen is designed to be posted, although the final length is quite long--180 mm.


Classical design of the section of an "Onoto-type" Japanese pen.

The information sheet also states that the pen is the work of just two people—Kabutogi Ginjiro, nib, and Sakai Eisuke, body. And the two other regular actors of the Ban-ei group, Tsuchida and Takahashi, are absent, which points out at the idea of this being a precursor of what later would become the Ban-ei/Tsuchida brand of pens. But, to what are we calling Ban-ei or Tsuchida pens?


The information sheet signed by Kabutogi Ginjiro (兜木銀次郎) and Sakai Eisuke (酒井栄助).

The nib, made of 14 K gold, is engraved with the name of one of the Kabutogi’s registered brands—Steady: “K14 / Steady / Special / Perfect / -<3>- / Pen”.


The Steady nib made by Kabutogi Ginjiro (JIS no. 3233, although there is no JIS mark on this nib).

These are the dimensions of this Onoto-style pen:

Length closed: 147 mm
Length open: 142 mm
Length posted: 180 mm
Diameter: 11.0 mm
Weight: 11.8 g (dry)
Ink deposit: 2.8 ml

This particular pen was commissioned by Seibu Department Stores in Tokyo.


The weak point in the Japanese eyedropper pens--the point where the rod operating the shut-off valve enters the ink deposit.

The weak point of this pen is the back seal between the valve rod and the ink deposit. This is the main source of problems in Japanese eyedropper pens.


Sailor Profit, Naginata Togi – Tomikei Blue.

Bruno Taut
Nakano, March 21st, 2017
etiquetas: Ban-ei, Kabutogi Ginjiro, Steady, Onoto

Monday, March 6, 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

Monday, February 27, 2017

Changes in Tokyo. 2017 Edition

More movements in the retailer scene in Tokyo re fountain pens. These changes are now related to two well known shops—Itoya and Bung-Box.

Itoya’s headquarters in Ginza. Somehow, the dream if fountain pen loves is over at Ginza’s Itoya. Previous changes in the min building truly affected the whole concept of the shop, but the fountain pen section had been kept in a wonderful bubble. Most fountain pens were confined to the K.Itoya building in the back alley from the main building on Chuo Dori. And those two floors dedicated to pens and inks were indeed a small paradise for any stylophile. But this arrangement might not have been that profitable…


In the last reform during Fall of 2016, the fountain pen section of Itoya was moved to the main building in the third floor. As a result, pens have lost space and tranquility.

The essential problem of this new arrangement is that the whole main building became a long corridor after the two year refurbishment that ended in 2015. And a corridor is always a passing place.

The consequence of these changes in Itoya is that right now there are more appealing places to have a look at medium and high end pens.

Bung-Box. This is, by now, a well-known shop despite being located in the remote –for a Tokyoite— city of Hamamatsu, in the province of Shizuoka. The big success of the Bung-Box line of inks created some stress on the production of those inks that was solved with a dramatic increase of their price.



On December 17th of 2016, the Hamamatsu shop opened a branch in Tokyo. This is a very small place dedicated to pens and inks, with a special attention to the original products –by Sailor and by Pilot— Bung-Box sells so successfully.

The opening hours and days of this shop in Tokyo seem a bit erratic, and checking its website is strongly recommended before attempting a visit.


Bung-Box original inks, by Sailor. JPY 3240 per inkwell (50 ml).

Its address is
4-8-6 Jingumae
Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
Phone: 03-6434-5150

This information has been included on the page on fountain pen shops in Tokyo.


Oaso “Safari” – Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo

Bruno Taut
Shinjuku, February 24th 2017
etiquetas: Tokyo, mercado, papelería

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pilot Cartridges and Converters 2017

The Chronicle on Pilot converters and cartridges is the single most popular text on this blog. However, there are some misconceptions and some news, and a revision of that old text, from 2011, is in order.

The current situation is as follows: Pilot markets three different converters and two different cartridges. Two of the converters reported in 2011, CON-20 and CON-50, are discontinued.

The three converters on production are named CON-40, CON-70, and CON-W. The number refer to their price in Japan: JPY 400 for the CON-40, and JPY 700 for the CON-70. The CON-W only works on the pens that implemented the "double-spare" cartridge in the 1960s. Nominally, it is only served as a spare part and some retailers demand the “broken” pen to be sent for fixing. However, Maruzen and Itoya at their main shops in Tokyo (at least) sell the CON-W without any problem. Its price is JPY 700.


The new guy in town, the CON-40. It holds about 0.5 ml of ink and costs JPY 400.


All the cartridges and converters covered on this Chronicle. From left to right, CON-70 in steel and in black, CON-50 new and old, CON-40, CON-20, two "single spare" cartridges, two Petit cartridges, CON-W. With the obvious exception of the CON-W, all of them share the same mouth dimensions and, provided they could fit inside the barrel, could be used in any "single spare" cartridge/converter Pilot pen.

As for cartridges, the two types are the regular one, formerly named as “single-spare”, and the cartridge specific for the Pilot Petit pens (::1::, ::2::, ::3::). Single spare cartridges do not fit inside the Petit pen, and the only problem of the Petit cartridges to fit in regular Pilot pens are two small plastic notches at the opening of the cartridges. They can easily be removed with a blade.


Petit cartridge on top. Single spare cartridge on bottom. Note the small notches on the former. They prevent the use of the small cartridges on many Pilot pens that, otherwise, could use them. Removing them is easy with a blade.

The following table summarizes the present situation and includes the data of the recently discontinued converters CON-20 and CON-50.


Prices quoted without taxes. In Japan, the sale tax is, at the moment, 8%.


Pilot Custom Heritage 92 – Gary’s Red Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, February 2017
etiquetas: Pilot, conversor
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