Katherine: My pairing for the month is, once again just based on usage — a Ban-ei Kamakura-bori vintage urushi pen + Diamine Eclipse. I bought this pen while I was in Japan last month, but it only arrived a couple weeks ago since Eurobox had to complete the restoration. I paired it with Diamine Eclipse because the pen holds a whopping 3ml of ink — and I really like Eclipse and haven’t used in a while. I predict I’ll be using it for weeks to come. I really like Eclipse since it’s a dark, dark purple ink that’s very work friendly, but has some hidden character. The pen, on the other hand is full of fantastic detail… but doesn’t really match the Eclipse. Oh well. 😛
Pam: The skies are clearing up and the hotter spring nights are great for seeing the stars. So my ink and pen pairing for May is the Sailor Pro Gear Slim in the Galaxy finish with Private Reserve Electric DC Blue.
The dark blue ink has an incredible red sheen that reminds me of the night sky and the depths of space. The sheen shows up even with the EF nib on the Pro Gear Slim, granted, the nib has a great balance of fine line and wetness. In my not so discerning opinion, the sheen rivals that of the famous Robert Oster inks like Fire and Ice.
Some people have reservations about Private Reserve or Noodlers inks potentially causing damage to a pen. I can only attest for the Electric DC Blue, but I have not had any issue with this ink in my beloved Galaxy.
Franz: My pairing for May is a personal (read as emotional) one and please be advised that this will have a different feel from my usual write-up. I inked up my Teal Parker 45 with Sheaffer Skrip Peacock Blue ink. I believe the pen matches this turquoise ink quite nicely. It’s also a great vintage ink for a nice vintage-y pen.
I chose to ink the Parker 45 as a homage to the Queen of ink, Susan Wirth. She recently passed away unexpectedly this month. I acquired this pen from Susie’s table at the 2016 LA Pen Show and it has an italic nib. If I’m not mistaken, the Parker 45 is one of her favorite pens as well. She’s also a great advocate of writing with Italic nibs.
Susie was the first person who taught me about writing with an italic nib. I can still hear her distinct voice in my head as she says, “An italic gives you traction in your writing. Without it, it’s like a car that goes all over the road.”. I met Susie at the 2012 SF Pen Show and I immediately learned a lot from her. At the time, I did not know that she went to every US pen show and that she had been attending shows since mid-1980’s. But as I continued to attend the LA and SF Pen Shows annually, I’ve learned how much of a big part of the community she is. At the 2016 LA pen show, I brought my mom along and when she met Susie, she got the Susan Wirth Experience. This resulted with my Mom buying her first flexible nib fountain pen. So just like me, my Mom learned a lot from Susie at her first pen show.
Susie is already missed in the pen community but I know that she will live on in our hearts and in our writing. Thank you for everything Susie!
Update 05/15/2017 : We are adding the information that the Turquoise Sailor Pro Gear pictured above was a 2016 limited edition pen release via the Japanese shop, Wancher. Pam purchased this online via the global marketplace, Rakuten. And the Kingfisher finish that Claire is holding below is another Japanese limited edition Sailor Pro Gear. These limited edition finishes are currently unavailable via US retailers. We apologize for not establishing this bit of information. Our main focus for our pen reviews is to show how different pen sizes feel on different hand sizes and we hope that we continue reflecting this point.
Hand Over That Pen, please!
Katherine: I love the look of the Pro Gears — the clean lines and squared-off cap just look really classic, but aren’t boring. The one pictured above is Pam’s, and I think the translucent material is gorgeous, and the gold trim, while louder, really makes the green look more rich. I own a Pro Gear in the Keio Atman “Kingfisher” limited edition colors… That’s another upside, no matter what kinds of colors you liked, there’s a Pro Gear out there for you! (It might just not be cheap…)
Pam: In a previous review, I made terrible analogies comparing my love for the Sailor Pro Gear’s smaller sister, the Progear Slim to the ardent love that Darcy had for Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice fame. Just like last time, my love for a Sailor is of literary proportions. I was originally attracted to the Progear Slims as they are only slightly smaller than the Progear, but at a significantly lower price. That being said, you don’t always get to choose what limited edition you love and must have so my collection expanded to the Progears as well. Let’s just say I felt remiss for missing out on such a wonderful pen for so long. The relationship status I I have with my wallet on the other hand is “complicated.”
Claire: Hang with me here, I can wax poetic about the Sailor Pro Gear all day long. This is by far my favorite pen available on the market. I currently own three Pro Gears and one Realo. I love the way this pen looks, the flat finials pull the pen together in the best possible way. The size and weight is perfect for my hand. If I had to choose one pen to write with for the rest of my life, a Pro Gear would be that pen. I love how many colors are available, especially if you’re willing to do the leg work on Japanese exclusives.
Franz: A turquoise-y disposition! (Yep… that will now be a term and a hashtag, thank you very much!) For the past six months I have come to appreciate Sailor pens more and that’s due to both Katherine and Pam. Largely, Pam is to blame though for she has set out to collect some special/limited edition Pro Gear Slim and Classic pens available. And what’s not to like? It’s a pen that Sailor designed almost 15 years ago so the aesthetic works.
The Professional Gear has been on my “list” of pens to own for the longest time. Just like the three ladies above, the flat ends definitely appeal to my taste. The gold trim blends well with the color of the pen and gives it a warm feel.
The Business End
Katherine: The MF is fun to write with — fine enough for daily use but just wide enough to see the character of one’s ink. My Pro Gear (which I’ve written with more) has a H-F nib, which is extremely fine, but also wet. It’s a magical combination of wet and fine, which leaves me with saturated but very fine lines. Additionally, despite being labeled a “hard” fine, it has some bounce to it. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I can get line variation out of mine. And, at the risk of sounding overly enthusiastic, I also love the feedback on this nib. It’s a nice pencil-y feeling that isn’t too smooth, it’s got character!
Pam: I have had some variability in my experience with the Sailor 21k MF nibs. I have seen some that are more on the fine and harder end of the spectrum while some are broader and slightly wetter. Given that the MF nib is broader than the F or EF, the nib is wonderfully smooth and really shows off the ink qualities like shading or sheen really well. Surprisingly, I didn’t consider grinding the MF down, probably because I paired this turquoise demonstrator Progear with Robert Oster’s Fire and Ice; be still my heart, the sheen!
Claire: The 21k hard fine Sailor nib is my favorite. I love how hard the nib is; though it isn’t too hard. It’s hard to quantify what makes this a Goldilocks nib in my opinion. I love the pencil like feedback that these 21k nibs give so consistently. All three of my fine nibs have given me the same lovely out of the box performance. The only qualm I have with this pen is the converter isn’t the best. Sailor converters don’t hold very much ink and are notorious for having issues. Typically when I get a new Sailor converter I open it up and put silicone grease on the threads and piston. That so far has saved me from running into any of the issues I’ve heard others to have.
Franz: In my experience, Sailor nibs are well tuned out of the box. And this H-MF is no exception at all. I enjoyed writing with this nib for hours. (I have held it hostage from Pam for a while now) And like Katherine, I found the feedback to be pleasant like writing with a pencil.
Write It Up
Katherine: This pen surprised me with how small it is for the not “slim” version. And it’s a wonderful size for my small hands. Both this and the Pro Gear Slim are comfortable for me to use for extended periods of time, but I do prefer this to its smaller sibling (Which is unfortunate for my wallet. And there are slightly fewer limited/store editions available in the Pro Gear). This pen isn’t too narrow, it’s well balanced and the nibs are a delight to write with — I regularly toy with the idea of collecting on in each nib size, but haven’t quite convinced myself not to stick to my pen limit.
Pam: As all pen addicts know, the smallest differences can make all the differences turning a good pen to a great pen. Fortunately, going between the Progear Slim and the Progear isn’t such a large difference that it’s an issue. In my hand, the Progear is a bit longer, equally well balanced and slightly girthier than the Slim. The extra girth is great for longer writing sessions in my opinion. Even in more petite hands, the Progear is comfortable and well balanced, capped or uncapped. Honestly, if the Slim is comfortable for you, the Progear would be equally comfortable. If the Slim is slightly uncomfortable for you, the Progear will be just right. All I can say is, beware of picking up a Progear, you won’t want to put it down.
Claire: I can write with a Pro Gear all day long without running into any hand fatigue. Many times when I’m taking notes for school I’m switching between Pro Gears so I can have a variation in ink color. The way the section tapers fits my hand perfectly. The section on the Pro Gear is really what makes the pen. The more I write, the more I want to find more to write. I really can’t write enough about how much I enjoy writing with this pen.
Franz: The Pro Gear is slightly bigger in girth and length compared to the Pro Gear Slim. Because it is larger, it’s more comfortable to journal with. And I wrote blissfully for a good ten minutes. I even got to finish a letter for a friend with it. But once I unposted the cap, it became a bit tiresome even after only five minutes of writing. So definitely for my large paws, I gotta have it posted for longer writing sessions.
Katherine: This is a great EDC pen — not terribly expensive, not too small, not too big, fantastic nib, durable plastic body, what’s not to like? The clip is solid too! Plus, because the converter is mediocre… even if everything goes wrong, you’ll never get lots of ink on your clothes! (Honestly, because the F I have is so fine, I get plenty of writing out of one converter, so capacity isn’t an issue for me EDC-ing this pen, as long as I remember to check my ink level regularly)
Pam: I have at least one Progear or Progear Slim in my rotation at all times. The nibs can’t be beat and the finer nibs (EF in 14k or F in 21k) performs admirably on cheap office paper for work. The clips are secure without being overly tight and the pens do tolerate being in white coat pocket easily and well. Additionally, depending on what colorway you choose, the pen can be subtle, professional and classic looking or bold, loud and modern. For those in the office setting, this pen can be like a tie, the pop of color or a small, subtle way to show off some personality.
Claire: If I had a job where a fountain pen would be useful in day to day work, this would be the pen I would bring with me every single day. The Pro Gear is often the first pen I reach for when taking notes for class. When I graduate and move to a desk job, you can bet this will be one of the pens I carry with me on a day to day basis. At home, this is almost always the first and only pen I reach for for my evening journaling.
Franz: I once again echo the three ladies above and agree that the Pro Gear is a nice pen to use on a daily basis for my workplace. The pen was clipped securely onto my dress shirt and was always ready to write. You do need to rotate the cap twice to deploy the pen but I just accepted this since it gives me happiness to use the pen. With signing my name multiple times at work, I didn’t feel the need to post the cap and the medium-fine nib was perfect for the copy paper used in the office.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: I really like this pen. It comes in so many colors and I’ve been very tempted to collect quite a few. But, alas, my pen limit has prevented me from doing that and instead I only own one Pro Gear, but it’s a solid pen and I love writing with it. It’s a very comfortable pen and a very solid one. I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of purchasing — and it’s fun (and frustrating…) to hunt down crazy colors and limited editions to find the perfect one (or ten).
Pam: My love for Sailor Progear or Progear Slim has been effusive to say the least. However, once you pick up one of these pens, you will understand. The pen is well made, the nib is beautifully crafted, the shape is elegant and the color ways can be unique. (Speaking of nibs, Sailor makes some amazing specialty nibs like the zoom nib.) Like the Lamy 2000, everyone should at least try this pen, and I would surmise that it’s pretty inevitable that you will own one. Additionally, if it’s a limited edition Progear, I am sure one of us would be happy to “insure” the purchase…
Claire: The size of this pen is perfect, it’s just long enough to fit perfectly in my hand. The balance is exactly what I look for in a pen. The tapered section allows the pen to be comfortable to write with without adding additional weight to the pen. I only have one gripe with this pen: the converter. While I haven’t run into any of the glaring issues I’ve heard of with this converter, I really wish it could hold more ink.
Franz: Sailor has done right with the Professional Gear design. Proportions are great and the build quality is awesome. And just in case you still aren’t sure what my thoughts are, this pen is awesome. It is perfect for me posted, and “okay” unposted. I seem to have always hesitated to buy this pen due to its size in my hand. But after spending some time with Pam’s Pro Gear, I may just get one myself when I find a finish that attracts me.
In closing, every serious pen user should pick up and write with a Sailor Professional Gear. You never know, this pen may just appeal to you and change your mind as it did mine.
Sailor Professional Gear Comparisons (Left to right: Pro Gear Slim, Pro Gear Classic, and Pro Gear King of Pen)
Many of you followed Katherine on her adventures through Japan, including many store exclusive inks. In the meantime, The Well Appointed Desk‘s Col-O-Ring ink testing book debuted! So we’re giving away a great bundle to try out and test some less common Sailor inks — 21 (We have BB Emerald in the picture twice, sorry) 4ml samples of uncommon Sailor inks + 1 Col-O-Ring ink testing book!
Follow us on instagram, @handoverthatpen & regram our giveaway image or post a picture of your favorite fountain pen and ink with the hashtag #inkyHOTPgaw (Please make sure your account is public so we can find it! And no giveaway accounts.)
Comment on this blog entry with your favorite fountain pen and ink (not necessarily a pairing)
The giveaway is open from now, 05/07/2017 until 05/15/2017 11:59pm Pacific time. One entry per person please.
The giveaway is open internationally, but we aren’t responsible for any taxes, customs fees or duties that may be applied, and will be shipping without tracking due to cost.
Katherine: It’s still March as I write this — I’m picking a little early since I’ll be out of town for a lot of April. But, even though it’s March, I have no doubt I’ll keep this pen inked through April. 🙂 My pairing for the month is my new Newton Pens Prospector and Montblanc Tolstoy. I chose BSea’s Galaxy Trek resin, which reminds me of the deep ocean. It’s a dark, almost black, blue in many areas with swirls of lighter blue and even white and an occasional brown. I had to pair it with a blue ink, and I chose Tolstoy. There could be lots of reasons for this pairing… blue and blue, reminders of my childhood (swimming off islands in the Philippines and wondering what lurked in the dark waters… and my numerous failed attempts at reading War and peace as a 13 year old), but really it’s just because that’s the blue ink I had on hand when I ripped open the Prospector’s box a few days ago. I only had the presence of mind to record an unboxing video because my boyfriend, Shamiq, suggested it. Then I grabbed the bottle of ink on my desk, filled the pen and proceeded to oooh and aaah over the pen and the shiro nib. And, because I can see into the future, I’m sure I’ll still be ooohing and aaahing over this pen in a couple weeks.
Pam: Spring is in the air! The air is still crisp and a breeze is still about. We still get the occasional rain this season, which just makes me want to curl up with a *mug* of coffee and a good book. In lieu of that possibility, I chose Pelikan M200 Cafè Créme to be paired with Robert Oster Caffè Crema! This particular pen has a wonderful architect nib done by Dan Smith of the Nib Smith fame. It shows off the subtle shades of this pen quite well and keeping a crisp line.
I considered this combination for more of an autumn month, but my love for coffee, Robert Oster inks and Pelikan flocks is year round.
Franz: April’s pairing for me is the Pelikan M800 Grand Place Special Edition release, and the newly released Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz which is their Ink of the Year for 2017.
Now I’ve got quite a few.. ahem.. a lot of inked up pens especially after March’s 6 Pen Challenge so this month’s pairing is a true winner at the moment. The ink is definitely a very nice brown which matches the creamy swirls of the pen. The nib of the M800 is a juicy fine cursive italic nib ground by Dan Smith (The NibSmith), and that generous flow creates spots in my writing wherein the ink pools to an almost black. So far, I’ve got only bought the ne bottle of this ink to test it out but I think a second bottle will be in my inventory sooner than later.
While writing with the M800 Grand Place, I catch myself sometimes just pausing admiring the chatoyant swirls of the pen. It’s almost hypnotic.
Writing Samples (click to enlarge)
Thanks for your time, and keep enjoying your pens. And please tell us what new ink pairings you’ve discovered recently.
Katherine: The 149, like its little brother the 146, is a very classic style. As I mentioned in our review of the 146, I find the design inoffensive but a little boring.
Pamela: I am not a huge fan of cigar shaped pens. Despite my appreciation of the 146 proportion and finish, I found the 149 to be “too much.” It’s a BIG pen! It’s has a great classic, vintage feel, just not my cup of tea.
Franz: Oversize pen alert! Here’s a big one. The Montblanc Diplomat 149 is a simple black pen and is quite pleasant to hold. The resin is smooth, and scratch resistant. Its iconic torpedo shape speaks to me. I’ve been aware of this pen ever since I started using fountain pens but I’ve only seen and held one in person two years into the hobby. I had to have it!
Carrying over from our review of the Montblanc 146, the Montblanc Diplomat 149 is part of the Meisterstück line (Masterpiece) and was first introduced in 1952. It is a piston-filled pen which contains a large ink capacity. The number of the pen meant that: 1 – Meisterstück Line, 4 – Piston-filler system, and 9 – nib size.
The Business End
Katherine: The nib on Franz’s specimen, like the other Montblanc nibs I’ve tried, is fantastic. It gets the job done smoothly and flawlessly. The pen is smooth without being glassy, with just enough character not to be boring. I suppose having a grind by Masuyama-san doesn’t hurt either. 🙂
Pamela: Montblanc and Masuyama? Yes please! The nib is a joy to write with and as always, smooth.
Franz: The medium 14K nib of this 149 was a very smooth and juicy when I bought it in January 2015. This was the third Montblanc nib I have written with and so far Montblanc is 3 for 3 in terms of nib quality. I loved the nib’s springiness which gives the writing some character. At the 2015 LA Pen Show, I had Mr. Masuyama turn this nib into a cursive italic and it has been one of my favorite nibs ever since.
Write It Up
Katherine: While the nib on this pen poses no problems… the size of the pen does. This pen is quite the monster for me. It’s a little too long and a little too girthy to be comfortable. Small hands, huge pen… just ain’t a fit. 146, please!
Pamela: The pen is really unbalanced for me due to my grip and the length of the pen. I felt that my hand fatigued more easily using the larger 149. This pen gave me hand muscle quite the work out.
Franz: During my journaling, the 149 was comfortable for me for the first ten minutes. As I wrote longer with it, my hand felt a bit fatigued. The grip section is about 13 millimeters and it’s one of my wider pens. Lengthwise, I prefer to write with the cap posted but it’s not as secure as I want it to. There was a moment when the cap came loose.
(Daily use at work/home, at least a day or two)
Katherine: Honestly, I didn’t even try. I borrowed Franz’s pen for a week, but found that it never left my desk. It’s just barely comfortable for me to use, but certainly isn’t a size that I’m comfortable putting in my pocket. Not to mention, it doesn’t fit any of my pen cases. Womp.
Pamela: The pen is not a shy one. It’s also far too large for me to carry around without being stopped for brandishing a weapon. This pen stayed in my backpack as I transported it around, however, it was bit too heavy and large to be an EDC for me.
Franz: I’ve used the 149 in rotation at work for quite a while now, and it’s great for quick notes and perfect for signatures. I appreciate the quick uncapping with just one rotation of the cap, as well as the medium cursive italic nib that writes well on the office copy paper.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: This feels like a pretty short review for me. Take everything I loved about the 146… and resize it to be too big for my hands. Sadness. The 146 is a perfect size and weight for me, versus the 149 feels like I’m out to club someone. Maybe some baby seal stationary. (That’s gotta exist, right?)
Pamela: I agree with Katherine that my review of the 149 is shorter than usual. The 149 is a great pen for those who love GREAT (big) pens, enjoys the quality of Montblanc nibs and has the “paws” proportional enough to use larger pens comfortably.
Franz: Talk about iconic! Yep, the Montblanc 149 is one of the most recognizable fountain pens. As evidenced from both ladies above, this pen isn’t for everyone. But one should at least write with it for a period of time and decide for themselves. The 149 fits right at home in my bear paw. Even though it can get tiring for my journaling/letter writing, I love it for quick notes during meetings, and perfect for signatures.
There are quite a few oversize pens comparable to the Montblanc 149. Photos were taken below for comparison. I honestly prefer the size of a Pelikan M805 as it’s almost the same length uncapped, but a little bit thinner and allows me to grip the pen better.
Hello Osaka! This follows my (Katherine’s) posts on pen shopping in Tokyo and Kyoto.
My very first stop was at Daimaru, but I apparently forgot to take pictures, and their pen selection was pretty underwhelming. Instead I bought a bunch of Jinbei-san stationary. And a plush. I do need things to write on!
Next up, Hankyu! This store is in Hanshin-Umeda station (right next to the JR Osaka Station), which makes it easy to access (Hanshin is also in the area, and Nagasawa is within walking distance). I think there’s also a Tokyu Hands nearby.
Hankyu stocks a large variety of pens — including some Nakaya and high end Sailor stuff. They still had a Sailor 105th year Zuisei in stock!
And a selection of Nakaya…
And their own store exclusive inks! Swabs and swatches will be coming soon. I got all three. I have great self control. Hah.
Next up, Yodabashi in Umeda is actually one of those giant multi-level camera/electronics stores, so I was expecting a small display. But surprisingly they have a pretty extensive Platinum display. (As context, we kept going to electronics stores to look for Nintendo Switches)
And a selection of converters and inks.
Walking distance from Umeda Station is Nagasawa, which is inside a Maruzen. Nagasawa is by far my favorite store of this trip. And also the only store with interesting Nakaya in stock — they had several with rollstops and non-yellow gold nibs. Amazing! (And bad for my wallet. That toki-tamenuri decapod with the rose gold goldfish stop? It’s mine now.)
They also carry several limited edition pens — here is the Platinum Censke, in pink and yellow gold: (I was very tempted to get a yellow gold one to put a Nakaya Maki-e converter into!)
And the store exclusive Sailors in pretty pastel hues:
And, of course, their inks!
In addition to their own line of Sailor inks, they also had a great selection of other brands’ inks.
It’s actually a little kiosk thingy inside Maruzen. And they can handle tax free for you as you pay — so no need to shuffle around to another counter.
Next was Morita, which was a ten minute walk from the closest subway stop from Hanshin-Umeda:
Mr. Morita was super friendly, but was also the pushiest person I met in Japan. He kept offering to show me different things. More funny than annoying though. He also has a line of exclusive Sailors — third row from the top, right and center of the divider — robin’s egg blue! And two exclusive colors of ink, Red Wine and Shade Green — swatches to come!
Also at Hanshin-Umeda station was Hanshin department store. They had a small selection, but I wouldn’t go out of my way and instead spend more time in Hankyu or at Nagasawa.
The Namba Takashimaya has a Maruzen inside it — in the basement and slightly across the subway station. Like the other Maruzens, a decent pen selection and they carry their Athena inks in black, blue, blue black and sepia.
And they had this Duofold on display. I think it looks a little derpy. But wow that’s a lot of money.
I also made it out to Kobe, to eat beef. And we finally found a Nintendo Switch at the Toys R Us in Kobe Harborland. There is a Nagasawa there too, but it’s primarily a stationary store, not a fountain pen store. And they had a no picture policy. So, no pictures.
Instead, here are pictures from the Kobe Nagasawa Pen Style Den. It’s on the third floor of a small ish building (and one train stop away from Harborland), once again a kiosk inside a larger store. But, unlike the other Nagasawas, this one carries vintage! (At crazy prices) And two store-exclusive designs of Nakaya Maki-e converters.
And has samples of the different Nakaya finishes to touch and see:
And a good selection of ready to go Nakaya, including one in the now discontinued Shiro-tamenuri. (But not as many pens will roll stops as the Umeda Nagasawa)
And a case of this year’s Oeste Prera. (Which the other Nagasawa had too, I just forgot to take a picture).
We also stumbled upon this Stationary Store (that’s what Maps calls it, I can’t figure out what it’s called otherwise) that is ENTIRELY CAT THEMED. They do carry a small selection of fountain pens, but also cats everywhere!
And a small selection of pens, both fountain and not:
But omg so much cute cat stuff:
Because I don’t know the name, here’s the address: (It’s also next to the “NMB 48 official shop”, which might be easier to map to)
Chūō-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 542-0075
I had been warned that there wasn’t much fountain pen shopping to be done in Osaka — so I was pleasantly surprised. The Nagasawa stores had the largest and most varied selection of Nakayas, as well as their own interesting exclusives.
And Osaka was full of delicious okonomiyaki. But I forgot to upload pictures.
My visit to Kyoto was fairly brief, and I’d done a lot of shopping in Tokyo, so I didn’t go out of my way to hunt down any pens. (I promise Osaka will be more exciting!)
My first stop was Isetan — it’s the giant department store attached to Kyoto Station. Fountain pens are waaaaay up (floor 10, I think) They have a small pen and stationary section, but nothing particularly interesting. There didn’t seem to be any limited edition anything… But if you’re in the area and want to pick up something at Japanese prices, not bad! Also, if you take the escalator all the way up, you’ll stop through several floors of random quirky stuff, like rocks with faces painted on for $15.
And a tray of “American Taste” pens on a side shelf. Hah.
The other store I made it to in Kyoto was Tokyu Hands. If you’re unfamiliar with Tokyu Hands, it’s not a Kyoto-specific store — they have branches all over Japan, and some in Singapore too! They sell a variety of things from cooking utensils to handbags to… fountain pens! The Kyoto branch is very close to Nishiki Warai, a well known shopping/eating street.
Tokyo Hands stocks a pretty generic selection of inks and pens — including ones at several price points, capping out at about $200. No Nakaya or Namikis here. But they also carry a solid selection of inks, no exclusives, but much more than a couple department stores that have seemed to only stock Pilot blue and black.
In addition to many of the usual subjects, Tokyo Hands also stocks Kyoto Celluloid — I didn’t see this at other branches, but I’ve been told that the Singapore branch also stocks these.
And, because I actually came to Kyoto to see temples, here’s a picture of one of the temples within Enryaku-ji, on Mt. Hiei. Kyoto was amazing, and I think there were a couple more ink places I could have stopped by, but priorities!
Pelikan M805 demonstrator, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
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.
Chidori-ga-fuchi boat ride
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!
They had all the brands I would expect and a handful I didn’t recognize.
And a small selection of beautiful Nakaya. That green + silver chinkin really caught my eye.
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 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. 🙂
This is our first post with a guest! Claire, a friend of ours from the SF Pen Posse. She has more “average” sized hands than the extremes that the three of us represent. Also, she makes and sells pen wraps on Etsy. Check them out! (Review to come!)
Hand Over That Pen, please!
Pam: My first Kaweco was a Skyline in the minty green color. I had no hesitations to the size of the pen, and the color was spot on! The Kaweco has a very unique design going from a cute and sturdy pocket pen to a “regular” length pen with a post of the cap. Given the portability, durability and assortment of colorways, I can see why the Kaweco is so highly recommended and appreciated by so many in the pen community.
Katherine: I love small pens and faceted pens… so the Kaweco Sport is right down my alley. I also love bright colors… so it’s taken quite a bit of self-control to not collect a rainbow of these. Grumble pen limit grumble. Anyway, I really enjoy the design of this pen — a little quirky, but not too weird. Unique and functional! And if you prefer clips, you can add a clip — they come in both silver and gold.
I own a white Sport (which will soon be doused in urushi) and a Rose Gold AL (pictured below). The Rose Gold was a special edition to Eslite, a chain of bookstores in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. To my knowledge, it’s sold out but may show up used here and there.
Claire: This is a pen I avoided purchasing for a while simply because I thought the facets of the cap make the cylindrical-ness of the barrel stick out in an awkwardly. That being said, now that I’ve owned one for a few months the overall aesthetic of the pen has grown on me. This is a sturdy little pen has stood up to everything I’ve thrown at it. I purchased an orange Ice Sport in November and have enjoyed having a decent pen to throw in my pocket. My mum gave me an AC Sport late last year since I wouldn’t shut up about the pen after seeing it on the Pen Addict’s Instagram #blamebrad.
Franz: Hello Kaweco! =) What else can I really say about the appearance of the Kaweco Sport that the ladies above have not mentioned? It really is a pocket pen with such a distinctive and unique design. Before we reviewed the Sport, I never knew how many different styles this pen has available in the market. The two models we are featuring/reviewing here are the AL Sport (aluminum body), and the Skyline Sport (acrylic body/silver trim). There are 5 more styles that this pen can be purchased as: Classic Sport (acrylic body/gold plated trim), ICE Sport (acrylic transparent body), AC Sport (aluminum body with carbon inlays), AL Stonewashed (aluminum body with weathered effect), and Brass Sport (brass body).
The Sport Series was introduced by Kaweco in the year 1911 as a short, safety pocket pen. In the beginning, the pen was called Safety Pen 616 for Sportsmen. They eventually changed it to the Sport-Series. Kaweco updated the pen’s filling system into a piston-filler pen in the 1930s, and then to a cartridge-filler in the 1970s as we know how it is filled today. Of course, you can fill the pen like they did in 1911 and choose to eye-dropper the pen as well. Just be careful when you unscrew the pen. Eyedropper-filled isn’t my preferred method for getting ink into my pens though.
Kaweco Sport history source: www.kaweco-pen.com
The Business End
Pam: Disclaimer, the EF of my Kaweco was too broad for my taste. Given that, it was still a good nib for daily use. I used the pen on cheap office paper and it performed admirably. I didn’t find the nib to be too dry, given my choice of paper at work. The nib writes more true to size on Tomoe River paper, unsurprisingly. I very much enjoy it when I am in the mood for a “bolder” EF line to show off the ink color in my hobonichi. This German EF nib does require me to change the size of my handwriting, ever so slightly, to accommodate the “bolder” line, which results ins a “bubblier” handwriting for me.
I was really surprised how much I enjoyed the 1.1 stub. It’s probably my favorite of all the Kaweco nibs that I have tried. Its a great nib that has the right amount of ink flow so that the line remains relatively crisp and shows off a decent amount of shading in the ink color. If I had to choose between an EF or the 1.1 stub, I would choose the 1.1 stub. My ongoing taste change in nib sizes is very likely due to Franz-fluence (Franz’s influence for those who are pun adverse.)
Katherine: I’ve owned a handful of Kaweco Sport nibs and had a decent out of the box experience with all of them. My Fine and BB ran a bit dry, and my 1.1 “Calligraphy” nib wasn’t too wet, but all in all, they’ve all been very usable. However, I think I’ve been lucky — I have seen quite a few reports of Kawecos with baby’s bottom. None of them will win awards for being my (or, I suspect, anyone’s) favorite nib, but they get the job done and write without fuss.
Claire: Out of the box, the nib on my fine Kaweco AC Sport was great. The extra fine on the Ice Sport required a quick tine alignment; which I don’t mind on a sub $30 pen. Both nibs have been utilitarian; being a tad on the dry side, better for paper of questionable quality. I am thoroughly enjoying the 1.1 stub I’m borrowing from Katherine (I might forget to return it the next time I see her). Typically, fine and extra fine nibs are the way to my heart, so I’m surprised to enjoy the 1.1 so much.
Franz: To echo the sentiments above, Kaweco’s nibs write out of the box. A friend gifted me the black Skyline Sport below and it has a fine nib that just wrote smoothly after I placed the cartridge into the pen. Granted, the nib isn’t as wet as I want it to be but it isn’t scratchy and it wrote nicely. I also got to use Katherine’s 1.1mm nib on her AL Sport and it was also a pleasant experience. Yay for Kaweco! Their business end means business.
Write It Up
Pam: I prefer to write with the Kaweco Skyline posted given how light it is. I much prefer the weight of the Kaweco AL over the Sport. I find the plastic body to be too light and unpleasant to hold for prolonged periods of time. I find myself gripping the pen harder because it feels so unsubstantial. (No, the plastic body did not crack under my iron grip.)
The Kaweco AL is comfortable with or without the cab and relatively well balanced for me either way. The weight is more comfortable and “sits” in my grip well. The Kaweco AL is wonderful when paired with the 1.1 stub nib aka Katherine’s Kaweco, which I had a really hard time giving back.
Katherine: This pen makes it obvious how much smaller my hands are. I can and do use my Kawecos unposted, both my plastic Sport (which was my only work pen for about six months) and my AL. I prefer the plastic Sport when posted though — it gives the pen a little more heft and makes it more comfortable to hold. But, my tiny hands prefer the Sport AL unposted — it feels more balanced to me. All in all, both are very usable for me, both posted and unposted. I don’t own a Sport in Brass, but I’ve tried one and found that it was usable, but heavy and my hand felt the fatigue (especially if it was posted and top heavy) after a bit of writing — usable, but I wouldn’t buy one.
Claire: For quick notes, I don’t feel the need to post the pen. That changes if I’m going to write more than a few sentences (which is the majority of my writing), then I feel the need to post the it to avoid hand fatigue. I prefer the weight and balance of the AL Sport over the Ice Sport. Though, after eyedroppering the Ice Sport is a more comfortable weight. Even posted, this is not a pen I can write for a long time without noticing some discomfort. But as a pocket pen, it isn’t intended for hours upon hours of writing at one time.
Franz: May I just skip this part? Kidding, kidding! Okay, so I took both the AL, and the Skyline Sport on a test drive. I wrote with both of them posted for about 10 minutes each. Please understand that this Sport is a little too short unposted for my bear paw to write more than 5 words so I just kept the cap posted as I wrote on my journal. Because of the narrow 9.4mm section, my hand cramped up and I noticed my hand gripping the pen tighter than usual. The Skyline Sport is a very light pen and I didn’t enjoy writing with it. The AL Sport however, has a nice weight to it and my hand was a little bit more comfortable. The length of the Sport when posted was fairly comfortable for me.
Pam: The Kaweco is a great pocket pen, especially the Kaweco Sport, for it’s petite/cute size and lightweightedness. It’s also a great way for me to lose this pen into my many pockets or not notice it before throwing my pants into the laundry. I didn’t try to EDC carry Katherine’s AL, but I would be really interested in purchasing one, and I am pretty sure I will be less likely to lose it or toss it with my dirty laundry.
Katherine: The plastic Sport was my EDC for a few months before I jumped off the deep end and started exploring vintage pens. I had a mint green, Fine nib Sport that I stuck in my pocket, threw in my backpack and generally manhandled. It did great. I ended up gifting it to a friend I was living with for a week (Hi Tatsie! Thanks for letting me stay with you in Singapore!) but I eventually picked up another one, used, to be a project pen (hello urushi, meet my faceted friend). I’ve used my Rose Gold AL on and off as an EDC, and it’s held up similarly — durable, very little (if any) leaking into the cap (perhaps because the nibs are dryish to start with?) and easy to write with quickly. However, I’m a little worried about damaging the finish, so I don’t carry it as often (it was a gift from a cousin).
Claire: The Ice Sport lived in my pocket for several months. About a month ago, I accidentally ran it through the washing machine. No ink leaked out of the pen (no stains on my clothing phew!) and the pen was no worse for the wear. Some ink snuck behind the cap insert, but that’s to be expected. I carried this pen at work quite frequently, though in my line of work a ballpoint or a permanent marker is more suitable. I have since put a different nib on the pen and don’t carry it as lackadaisically.
Franz: Even though I do not use my Skyline Sport for my journaling, or letter-writing needs, it practically lives in my bag ready to be written with. For me, this pen can be used as like a backup when you need to fill out a quick note. In the spirit of the Hand Over That Pen review process, I made it a point to use this pen at my workplace for a day. Let’s just say that it didn’t really impress me as an everyday carry pen. This is mainly because for my larger hands, I need to unscrew and post the cap each time I have to write notes or sign my name. Even though the cap only needs one and a quarter turn to uncap, it was still a bit inconvenient for me. The fine nib performed well as I wrote on the copier paper from our office.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Pam: I would highly recommend the Kaweco Sport for those who enjoy a small/portable pen and a reliable German nib. For those who enjoy the durability and heft of the aluminium, the Kaweco is a good, solid upgrade. The Sport is a great starter pen, but for fans of the Kaweco Sport, the AL is an obvious choice to have to try out. You won’t regret it.
Katherine: If you like small pens (and I mean small), the Kaweco Sport is fantastic. For the money, I think the plastic Sport is a great pen — durable, neat looking and a solid writer. The AL isn’t a bad pen at all, but at it’s price point, unless you really like the way it looks, it does seem a bit expensive for what it is. Price aside though, I prefer the AL. The pen feels more substantial, nib units are unscrewable (instead of friction fit in the plastic Sport) and the finish can show wear and tear — and I’m a sucker for pens that tell a story.
Claire: The section of this pen is just a little bit narrow for my taste. As such this is never going to be the pen I reach for to take notes in class. Narrow sections are especially uncomfortable for me thanks to an old fracture in one of my fingers so your mileage may vary. That being said, this is a pen I thoroughly enjoy; another one may be heading my way as soon as the stainless steel version becomes available.
Franz: I’m gonna go with what Claire said above and echo that the Kaweco Sport is a little too small for my use. If you have big hands, this may not be a pen for a daily user but try one out when you can. It is a cool pen to have in the bag/collection and they’ve got very nice finishes of this pen in the different styles I mentioned in the beginning of this review. I actually want to get the AL Sport Night Edition just because it’s all decked out stealthily with a nice carbon black nib too. But that’s the pen collector in me who wants to have all the stealth pens. Haha!