As some of you may know, I, Katherine, am currently in Japan! I spent the last few days in Tokyo, and am now writing this from my Airbnb in Kyoto. I’m here primarily to see the sakura — so look! They’re so pretty! We lucked out and hit Tokyo right as the blossoms hit full bloom, but before it rained.
But I know you’re here for my notes on fountain pen shopping in Tokyo, so I won’t bore you with any more pictures of sakura. 🙂 As a disclaimer, there are much more complete lists of fountain pen stores in Tokyo. This is by no means an exhaustive list — for that I like this one. This is my first time in Tokyo, so while I certainly hit up some fountain pen stores, I didn’t spent a lot of time pen hunting.
Ameyoko – Bruno (the link above) mentions that there are a couple stores here. I couldn’t find them. Instead I got distracted eating takoyaki, eyeing trays of sashimi and trying to figure out what the other edible offerings were. Fun place, but not terribly easy to navigate.
This was my first stop. I was trying to get to Maruzen Nihombashi, walked out of Tokyo station, crossed a street… and looked up to see a MARUZEN sign. The pens are on the top floor (I think? I was pretty tired) and while there’s only one long counter — there’s a lot of good stuff here!
And an ink shelf to the right of the pen counter. The green boxes in the bottom left are their exclusive brand — Maruzen Athena. They had black, blue, blue black and sepia in stock. Each bottle is ¥2000 plus tax (8%).
This branch had a slightly larger (I think) selection of pens spread across several counters in the basement. Additionally, the Nihombashi branch has some exclusive inks (and they come in the old style Sailor bottles!) — also ¥2000.
Eurobox is a small and somewhat hard to find purveyor of used pens in Ginza. It took me a couple attempts at peering into different buildings to realize that it’s NOT on the ground floor. There is no street facing Eurobox sign. Walk into the door way in this picture (the right one, not the random antiques store next door):
Then go up four flights of stairs… and ta-da!
The owner, Eizo, wasn’t in when I visited, instead it was his son. I’ve emailed Eizo before and he’s always been helpful and speaks pretty good English. His son was also very helpful and nice. He insisted on ducking out of the picture above.
They carry a fantastic selection of vintage pens, primarily American and German. Their prices seem to be fair, but aren’t a bargain. They know what their pens are worth. 🙂 A couple pens caught my eye, but the one I want most still needs restoration, so I’ve been emailing back and forth with Eizo. Fingers crossed everything works out!
The selection here is tiny — I’d suggest going to the Nihombashi branch instead. I didn’t make it because I ran out of time. The Ginza branch carries a handful of brands, but nothing super interesting or unique compared to other stores. And no ink that I could find.
Itoya really deserves a post of it’s own. It’s a massive stationary/art/neat stuff store that spans two buildings. Fountain pens are in the main building, on the third floor. The annex still has a section where you can build a custom notebook. Neat!
They carry a wide selection of the typical brands you’d expect, but also a handful of less common brands like Manu Propria, Danitrio and Nakaya.
Sorry for the glare-y photos, the store is very well lit and my phone doesn’t know how to deal with that.
And, they stock Kobe inks! Only one bottle per person per color though. No hoarding. ¥2000 each.
Additionally, if you’re in Japan on a visitor visa and have your passport, you can go to the 6th floor and your 8% tax will be refunded to you. Just don’t be a late evening shopper like me — then you feel bad keeping people at work after store close. (More on that at the bottom of this post)
Kingdom Note is primarily famous for their incredible selection of custom inks. But they have quite the selection of pens too. As I was there, they were helping two people pick pens — each pen was lovingly handled and tested.
Here’s the crazy wall of inks behind the counter — the far bottom corner is the home of their custom inks. You can see the little black boxes with white labels. Each is ¥2000 plus 8% tax.
They also still had their current line of vegetable sailor pens on display (though I didn’t check availability) and a handful of other exclusive designs.
Yodobashi Camera (Shinjuku, I think?)
Not worth a trip. But if you’re already hitting up electronics stores while looking for a Nintendo Switch — you should certainly pick up a couple bottles of Iroshizuku at a great price! (¥1620 + 8% tax)
I know I said no more sakura pictures… but Takashimaya borders a beautiful street, aptly named Sakura-dori. Crazy. Why stand in a crowded park when you can eat delicious karaage (8 blocks down from Takashimaya), take a lovely stroll, then go buy some pens?!
Takashimaya has its own line of store-exclusive inks. I have no idea what availability is like, but they had all of them in stock when I went. My self control is terrible and I got three bottles. Each is ¥2000 + tax. Writing samples to come. Eventually. If you want a tax refund (more on that later), Takashimaya requires you to buy at least ¥5000 of “consumables” — and seals them so you can’t open them in Japan.
The pen selection is nothing special — but is decent and the staff were very, very nice. They also had a case of Namiki maki-e pens. No Nakayas though.
They did have this neat Pilot nib-tester thing! The only other place I saw this was Maruzen Nihombashi. Maybe the others had it and I just didn’t notice.
All in all, this is what I bought myself:
- Maruzen Athena Hatobanezu ink (Nihombashi only)
- Kingdom Note blue shelfy mushroom
- Kobe #51 (Itoya)
- Maruzen Athena Blue Black (Nihombashi and Oazo both had it)
- Three bottles of Takashimaya ink
- Pilot Sunset Blue Capless
- 2 Nakaya Maki-e converters
A note on sales tax:
I mentioned this above, but I wanted to elaborate a little more, since I didn’t know much about the tax refund process when I started shopping. All the stores add on 8% in sales tax. I’m not sure if that’s Japan wide or just Tokyo. As a visitor (foreign passport and a visa that lets you stay less than six months) you can get this tax refunded if your purchase is over ¥5000. Some stores can process it for you in house (Takashimaya, Itoya, probably any of the big department stores) and some can’t, you have to go to a separate tax counter (Maruzen, Kingdom Note) somewhere in the city. But you have to get your refund on the day of your purchase. So plan ahead! Also, you should google the tax refund process yourself — I could be wrong. 🙂