A cute Japanese lady almost convinced me to buy a pen, but I told her I couldn’t.
Actually I said I’d have to think about it and then asked if they’d still be around on Monday.
Today was the 16th Mitsukoshi Fountain Pen Festival at Mitsukoshi Department Store in Downtown Tokyo. (It’s two blocks from where the Maruzen World Fountain Pen Fair took place last week.)
Last year when I went I was underwhelmed at what I found. Today I was only slightly more whelmed.
Today was helped by the presence three of Japans’ small fountain pen makers: Nakaya, Ohashido and Eboya (more on them later). I also like that the Mitsukoshi Festival has a table with racks of pens visitors are welcome to try. Piles of notebooks are also provided although, being a writer and a proper addict, I brought my own.
Mr. Yoshida of Nakaya was there fixing nibs and I was actually able to get get close enough to the table to handle some of the pens. However, She Who Must Be Obeyed apparently put a curse on me before I left the house because each Nakaya I touched burned my skin and I heard the Devil’s voice telling me I was going to burn and that forever was a very long time.
I also got a chance to try out Eboya pens. They specialize in pens made from ebonite. I impressed and scared them when I showed my Edison Glenmont LE. I was impressed with the Eboya and they are now on the possibles list. I was disappointed, though, that they use Peter Bock nibs rather than manufacturing their own.
The problem with the show is a problem that seems to apply to all Japanese pen shows: they are run for the stores and not for the enthusiasts. The Mitsukoshi fair had a terrific selection of pens, but most of the counters were run by Mitsukoshi clerks. Mitsukoshi, for those who don’t know, is similar to Harrods in London and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. It’s for people with money and not the unwashed saving up to buy a Nakaya.
As such, there are no small stores selling pens, no vintage pens, and no fountain pen peripherals for sale. Although Mitsukoshi has a stationery section, there are no pen cases or pen cleaning items for sale. There’s also very little or ink, except that produced by one of the big pen companies. Sailor’s ink mixing master usually makes an appearance at the show, but he wasn’t there today.
Each company provides their own pen repair expert, but only at certain times on certain days. It’s all very serious and there’s also not a lot of charm or passion.
For example, Pelikan had an impressive display where visitors could try pens of different sizes with different nibs. It looked cool and after playing with the larger pens, I asked if I could take a picture. The clerk half scoffed/half sneered a “no you can’t take a picture.” I walked away saying that I didn’t realize that “Pelikan” was German for “asshole”. I may have to work that into my vocabulary: “Watch where you’re walking, Pelikan,” “Hey, Pelikan, stop trying to cut in line,” or “Hey, Pelikan, let me take a picture of your pen display.”
I’m not sure I’ll ever go again. That’s a lie. I’ll be there again next year.