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Japanese fountain pens

April 16, 2020 4 min read 4 Comments

Japanese fountain pens

The perfect balance between tradition and innovation

If there’s a place remarkable for writing and fountain pens is Japan.

This is due to the great importance that calligraphy acquires in Japanese culture, considered on the one hand as an expression of personality and, on the other hand, as a practice elevated to the category of art. The richness and complexity of the Japanese alphabet requires accurate, smooth and high-quality writing instruments. For that reasons, Japanese fountain pens must be unique pieces.

The important role of handicraft in Japan demonstrates the deep respect of this culture for tradition, which is key in their economy and customs. Even today, master craftsmen hand-make the decoration of each Japanese fountain pen using traditional methods such as  Urushi lacquer,  Raden  or Maki-e techniques.

Raden  is a Japanese decorative technique traditionally used in ceramic and wood decoration. This ancient art uses inlays of shell or ivory to decorate pieces that usually have a wood base, though bases other materials may be used as base. When this technique is applied, the most appreciated shells used include mother-of-pearl and abalones. In the process of creation of new fountain pens, the fine Raden strips are usually applied to a lacquered based and afterwards they are fixed with and extra layer to make an authentic piece of art.

The term  Urushi  refers to all types of lacquerware that are handcrafted using the traditional Japanese technique of harvesting the sap of urushi trees. To do so, a couple of slashes are made into the tree to seep out the sap, which is then filtered several times through layers of special paper. The result of this long process is a translucent lacquer which colour ranges from very light to a dark amber. This technique is highly complicated and can only be harvested by skilled dedicated artisans.

The technique of  Maki-e  is one of the highest forms of art among the exquisite Japanese traditional art forms. Maki-e is a painting technique that uses powder and thin plates of gold, silver and shells that are applied to a lacquer base using a Kebo brush. As it requires highly skilled craftmanship to produce maki-e painting, young artists usually go through many years of training to develop the skills to ultimately become maki-e masters.

Japanese nibs: accuracy and variety

The Japanese nibs are highly accurate thanks to centuries of mastery in the art of swords, and their wide variety comes from the brushes that were traditionally used. These brushes were easily adapted to the calligraphy of each one, it was enough to cut the bristles to modify the shape and thickness.

Replacing the brushes with the fountain pens promised a more practical future, but customization problems arose. For that reason, Japanese writing brands decided to enlarge the variety of nibs beyond the fine, medium and bold.

To sum up, a Japanese fountain pen is a piece of great beauty and reliability, which offers you a better performance than others of the same level with an exceptional price-quality ratio. Among the most famous manufacturers we find Nakaya  and Japan's Big Three referred to as: Namiki , Platinum  and Sailor

Pilot is the largest manufacturer of writing instruments in Japan. It produces instruments distinguished by innovation and functionality. Pilot was the brand that in 1962 developed the retractable system or "capless". 

However, the Namiki fountain pens stand up for its barrel, handcrafted decorated by traditional Japanese motifs. Each fountain pen is unique and requires mastery and dedication. Among the Namiki writing instruments we can find real art works lacquered in urushi or elaborated using raden and maki-e techniques.

The most popular Namiki collections are: EmperorNippon ArtYukari , Yukari Royale,  Chinkin and Urushi.

Namiki fountain pens Maki-e Urushi Lacquage

Sailor is a writing house known for its high quality and technical expertise, but above all for its nibs. Sailor pens feature an innovative design and high quality materials,gold 14K and 21K are often used in their creations. Among its wide variety of sizes and points, we find the nibs: Music or Zoom, that enable us more variations in stock thickness just changing the writing angle.

But doubtless, the nibs most recognized by handwriting lovers are the Sailor Special Nibs (or Sailor Specialty Nibs). Exclusive and difficult to obtain, Sailor’s special nibs are inspired by traditional brushes to offer a variety of strokes as wide as the skill and imagination of the user can create. . You can read more about the Sailor nibs here.

The most recognised Sailor collections are: King of pensLimited editionsMaki-e1911 and Professional Gear.

Sailor fountain pens scpecial nibs

Platinum is the Japanese brand that offers quality and design at the most affordable price. Among its products we can find traditional maki-e fountain pens, as well as writing instruments made of innovative materials and avant-garde mechanisms like the retractable nib. Take a look at the newest Platinum Curidas if you want to know more.

In addition, it is common to find Platinum pieces with Music nib, whose widest point nib allows variations in the stroke thickness and a higher ink flow. Traditionally, the Music point (as well as the Zoom) was used to write music and characters of the Kanji system. It is a must for every handwriting lover.

The most popular Platinum collections are: PresidentIzumo and Century 

Platinum fountain pens

After the creation of Platinum in 1911, the grandson of the founder of Platinum decided to create a new brand: Nakaya whose philosophy focuses on the creation of personalized pieces following a careful manufacturing process. Nakaya pieces are manufactured by master craftsmens with more than 40 years of Platinum experience. These pieces can be made on request by the customer . In general, the body of these pieces is made of e-bonite and is sometimes covered with natural lacquers from Japan. Its purpose? Make the fountain pen "made just for your hand”.

The main Nakaya collections are: CigarDeskMaki-e, Raden and Writer

Nakaya en stock

All the pieces of the images are available on our website and in our boutique.

Take a look at our Japanese writing collection to find yours.


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Wonderful pen, very smooth. Customer service from Iguanasell excellent and pen arrived within I day from Madrid to UK. Can’t get better than that.

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Fabulous pen, very swift delivery - and best of all, Iguansell covers customs charges to the UK, so the price on the website is what you pay! Altogether excellent!

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Great looking pen and great to write with!

Beautiful pen

I already own a pelikan m600, my favourite pen. I bought this for my organiser, slightly smaller and fine nib for the thinner lines. The pen looks stunning, great quality apart from the nib which felt very scratchy and irritating to use. I managed to fix it my self by polishing it with micro mesh. Writes fine now, but at this price I don’t expect to have to fix quality control issues myself, it should be just perfect out of the box.

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