Tag Archives: pen show

The Last There Were There

Some were still there, but they were cut off by bags and emergency food.

After work today I made a quick run to the last day of the 8th Annual World Fountain Pen Exhibition in the slim hope of tracking down some more bottles of the ink I managed to track down when I went there before. Alas, although there was some ink, the rare stuff was long gone.

The biggest treat was stumbling across the Sailor ink blender Mr. Usamu Ishimaru as he worked with a client. I wasn’t free on the day reservations became available and therefore didn’t have a chance to get a reservation so all I could do was gawk. He’d clearly been there a while and was looking bored. He also gave me a temporary look of recognition as I am a permanent troll at these events.

Usamu Ishimaru, Sailor’s ink blender, works with a client. Next to him is a bag display where Nakaya used to be.

I was mostly surprised to see that the Nakaya table was gone. Granted, the pens on their display have no nibs as part of the Nakaya mystique is that, if you buy from their table, they will let you choose a nib style and then their pen master/mistress will tune it to fit your writing style to help make  the pen yours, but I still expected to see a few for sale. (Then I remembered that they sell a few downstairs in the mausoleum.)

Ohashido and Eboya were still there, but Euro-Box was gone and in their place was a necktie display (yes, this is a bookstore, therefore, neckties). In Nakaya’s place was an emergency food display that included cans of curry.

That, in a nutshell, summarizes what’s wrong with the two department store pen shows. The pens are an afterthought, the sales are what’s important and pens are not more special than neckties. When I went there before, the staff at the LAMY table couldn’t give me any information until the LAMY rep was free.

My next goal is to track down the local pen fanatics and make it to one of the Wagner pen club meetings. (More on them in a future post.) Or, since I have more free time now, if I can overcome the usual resistance, find someone who could help me start my own pen show.

That will bring it’s own problems, I suspect, but that’s fodder for a future post, too.

Fun Up Stairs and Surprises Down

I didn’t get way up stairs today, so I don’t know if there was a third pen show, but the two I visited were pretty good, mostly thanks to a surprise.

Today I visited the 8th Annual World Fountain Pen Exhibition at Maruzen Books down in Tokyo. Because it was a Friday, I wasn’t expecting much. As always, the things I most wanted to see were all huddled into a tiny space next to the exit at one end of the ground floor.

I was especially pleased to see Euro-Box on hand as it was fun to look over the large selection of vintage pens. A Nakaya staffer was there tuning and fixing pens as were staff from Ohashido and Eboya.

Eizo Fujii from Euro-Box (left) watches over four displays full of vintage pens. The pen maker from Ohashido consults with a client at the back, near the exit.

The pen master from Ohashido works on a client’s pen.

The pen mistress from Nakaya (I forgot her name and she usually keeps it secret anyway by hiding her name tag) checks the smoothness of a nib at the Nakaya tables. (Note: She doesn’t like pictures, so I’m only running this because you can’t see her face clearly.)

I drooled over a couple pens but managed to walk away with my finances intact. Mostly.

Some of the Ohasahido pens. That orange and black pen second from the left is calling me. My wallet is sending a different message. (I also like the three to the right.)

Although it wasn’t that busy, there was still a lot of energy on the ground floor. However, because there wasn’t much to see other than temptation and temporary joy followed by fits of remorse, I headed downstairs into the mausoleum where it was dark and silent.

However, as soon as I arrived in the mausoleum, I saw a large collection of store exclusive inks. I quickly bought one of each. This was a big surprise as 1) I expected any ink they had to have sold out the first day and 2) they were older versions in the old style bottles. I quickly bought one of each, gambling I’d be able to sell them.

Because of that find, I was in a much better mood in the mausoleum. I looked around at a few of the displays and talked to the LAMY rep about the cap on my LAMY 2000. (He says it’s fine; I says it’s barely fine.) I saw the anniversary edition LAMY 2000 black amber, which is neither black nor amber, but is cooler looking than I expected it be.

I also found my scribblings from last  year in a sample notebook in the darkest corner of the mausoleum. Something about that struck me as funny and I left in a good mood.

I was in such a good mood that I completely forgot to check out what events were happening on the third floor.

I still think it would be cool if they squeezed a nibmeister in next to the Nakaya or Ohashido tables. It would also be nice if they allowed pictures in the mausoleum.

But I left in a good mood, so none of that bothered me much this year.



The 2016 Tokyo Folding Knife Show

He really was too trusting, but then he was also surrounded with knives. Later, he set the knife up as a kind of trap.

Today was the 2016 Tokyo Folding Knife Show. Since I started attending knife shows, the Folding Knife Show has consistently been among the best of the shows. Lately, it’s actually been improving.

This year’s show featured a number of new makers, including one young man who was both in over his head and attracting a lot of attention. Daisuke Kojima‘s flipper knives started selling and he found himself with only a couple knives but no business cards. The old guard, partly happy to see a young face, spent a lot of time chatting with him, and when he had the chance, he visited their tables with a shocked “hey guys” look on his face and an obvious fear of offending someone.

One of Daisuke Kojima's knives.

One of Daisuke Kojima’s knives.

I also got a chance to play with some flipper knives made by an Australian named Glenn Waters. He lives and works in Aomori and promotes his knives “pocket art” or “art knives”. He scrolls each knife by hand, making each knife unique. The first knife I picked up had a 900,000 yen, or $7907.23 price tag. It was a VG-10 steel blade with titanium on the lock side, and Timascus bolsters and mammoth ivory scales on the show side. It also had a reasonably usable blade shape. I’m still shocked he let me pick it up and play with it.

Glenn Water's knive.

Glenn Water’s knife. It has a usable blade shape, but would you really use it?

Later in the show he would hide the price tag under the knife. This seemed dangerous to me as people would pick it up, see the price, and drop the knife as their hearts failed.

Taiwanese maker Chen Wei Chun had an impressive display of Damascus folding knives that were well made and provided lots of temptation.

Chen Wei Chun's knife.

Chen Wei Chun’s knife. It’s not a bad price for a large knife.

My favorite item was a combination pen/killing tool from Tadashi Machida. It was a wood ballpoint with a pocket knife built into the top. The two halves of the pen could twist apart revealing an impressive looking “stop reading over my shoulder” weapon/metal awl.

Is this awesome or crazy?

Is this awesome or crazy? Yours for only $439.30.

i got there late (long story) and stayed for the drawing. I didn’t win anything (not even the black sesame seed seasoning) but had a good time.

The next show is next month. I’ll probably go, but it won’t be as much fun as today.




Caught Between Two and a Half Pen Shows in One Building

The trouble started in the basement. It got better upstairs. The third floor was just bizarre and kind of sad.

Today I visited the 7th Annual World Fountain Pen Exhibition (link in Japanese) at Maruzen Books in Tokyo. I came away realizing I’d actually visited two and a half pen shows: one that was fun and full of people who seemed to be having fun and one that was dark and full of people who seemed to have sticks up their, um, spines.

Then there was the guy on the third floor. He deserved better.

I’ve mentioned before how part of the problem with Tokyo’s major pen shows is that they are run by the stores hosting them for the benefit of the stores. This makes them rather stodgy. Today they got annoying.

Maruzen, inexplicably, squeezes the pen exhibition onto three different floors rather than clearing space for one. In the basement you have an expanded version of their normal pen section and most of the displays are run by Maruzen staff rather than pen enthusiasts or pen manufacturers. There are pens and there is ink. There is nothing else. Sort of. (More on that in a moment.)

Today the most interesting section in the basement was the surprisingly well stocked OMAS table. It had a warning that OMAS was belly up, and a wide selection of different types of pens all in the “yeah, I could probably flip these for more than that” range.

For this post, I took a couple pictures of the show in general and was immediately accosted from behind–by a woman from the Montblanc booth no less–and told no pictures. I responded with a very mature rant (in English) about how they were contributing to the death of pens and handwriting, but since they weren’t makers–and probably didn’t speak much English–the only impression I made was “jerk foreigner who finally shut up and left”.

A scene from the pen show. The Montblanc lady yelled at me right after this.

A scene from one corner of the pen show. The Montblanc lady (not pictured) yelled at me right after this was taken.

I immediately vowed not to buy anything, but in a dark corner (no joke, by the way) on the way to escalator I ran across a notebook maker I’d never heard of and had to buy a couple notebooks. (I never change, except in my resolve.) (More on those notebooks in a another post.)

Upstairs, on the ground floor, was the second pen show. It featured the pen makers Nakaya, Ohashido and Eboya. Despite being squeezed in near the umbrellas and watches, everyone in that pen show was having fun. Not only was the space brightly lit, it was full of pen enthusiasts and the makers actually invited you to their tables and were happy to show off their wares without the looks of suspicion given by the clerks in the basement.

The man from Eboya at least pretended to have heard of Newton Pens when I compared my Moody to his pens. He also liked my Edison Glenmont and showed he had a pen made from Cumberland ebonite as well.

The Eboya display--with my coral Newton Moody.

The Eboya display–my Newton Moody is fifth from the left. I want everything on the left (plus the red bamboo.)

The man from Ohashido carefully explained the differences in the two pens that interested me. One had a brushed orange urushi that revealed the black ebonite underneath (and looked awesome) the other was solid orange ebonite. (The pictures didn’t turn out.) Nakaya sat at a table of temptation to fix pens and/or replace nibs whether they’d been purchased at Maruzen or not.

Mr. Yoshida of Nakaya smooths a nib on a stone.

Mr. Yoshida of Nakaya smooths a nib on a stone. The pens down left are all samples and all very, VERY dangerous.

Nakaya's pen maintenance tools.

Nakaya’s pen maintenance tools.

On the third floor, I stumbled across a Maki-e demonstration put on by Pilot Pens. The artisan, who’s name was not posted and which I didn’t ask for, had just finished talking about maki-e and demonstrating how to do it. He was all by himself and should have been down on the ground floor where he might have been able to sell some pens or, at minimum, find and audience.

The Pilot Maki-e artist talks to the only other guy there.

The Pilot Maki-e artist talks to the only other guy there. His Maki-e powder is to the right in the black tray.

Next week I’ll go to the Mitsukoshi Fountain Pen Fair. It’s bigger and all in one place, but it’s still mostly run by clerks. I’ll go on Saturday, which is a busier day, and try to get in line for a custom Sailor ink.

Unfortunately, that’s also the day of the Tokyo Folding Knife show so my loyalties and priorities will be split. (See above comments about resolve.)



Lots of Pens Without Much Passion

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.

Try it, you'll like it. (Then you'll want to buy it.)

Try it, you’ll like it. Then you’ll want to buy it. (I spent a lot of time here trying and rejecting rationalizations.)

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.

Two ebonite pens from Eboya. The force is strong in these two.

Two ebonite pens from Eboya. The force is strong in these two, but I don’t like the gold band on the cap.

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.

Th Pilot Pens section. The man in the front is repairing pens.

The Pilot Pens section. The man in the front is repairing pens. There’s not much passion on display here.

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.

Racks of Temptation But Little Fun

I only reached for my credit card twice but I ended up not buying anything.

Well, maybe it was three times.

Today was the 6th World Fountain Pen Fair at Maruzen Books in downtown Tokyo. After work, I rushed down to Tokyo, cameras in hand, hoping to get some useful material for this site. When I arrived at Maruzen, I was surprised to see the fair was taking place in the basement.

When I got to the basement, the first thing I did was look for the Nakaya table. (Note, For those who don’t love fountain pens and therefore have no soul: Nakaya pens are one of the Holy Grails of fountain pens.) (Second Note: in this case “Holy Grail” is Japanese for “Really F@#king Expensive Pen”). They are sought after because they are handmade by experienced artisans and manage to be both simple and beautiful.

Unfortunately, Nakaya didn’t seem to be anywhere in the basement. Instead I looked around at famous production pens like Pelikan and, oddly, Platinum, which is the company Nakaya split from. The entire fair could have been mistaken for simply another department in the store as there was nothing special about it. While I was there, I tried out a Pelikan Souveran 800 and started reaching for my credit card. I do not claim this was a sane act but I did it. Luckily, I remembered I was looking for Nakaya pens so put my credit card back.

I then went to the 3rd floor to check out a rare and antique books section and found a new must-have item for work: a fake dictionary that houses a bottle of whiskey and a shot glass.

On the way back downstairs, I suddenly stumbled across the Nakaya table, which was set up practically in the foyer next to umbrellas. It was a terrible location where casual shoppers met pen addicts in a small traffic jam.

Today was especially interesting for Nakaya fans because Mr. Shinichi Yoshida, the nibmeister for Nakaya, was at the table adjusting nibs for newly purchased pens. The cheapest pen I saw that I liked was just over 59,000 yen or 491 US dollars. Oddly, this is a decent price for a Nakaya with a nib modified by Mr. Yoshida so I started to reach for my credit card. I then realized that I was like the 10th person in line hoping to even get in line so I put my credit card back.

Mr. Yoshida works on the youngest man at the show's new purchase.

The Nakaya table. Mr. Yoshida (right) works on the youngest man at the show’s new purchase.

Right next to the Nakaya table was the Ohashi-do table. Ohashi-do is a Sendai based fountain pen maker who also makes everything by hand. Or, maybe, by foot.

I neglected to write down the name of the artisan, but he was busy working a foot-powered lathe to make a pen and I didn’t want to interrupt him. The line for the table was short and I started to reach for my credit card, but I was more interested in watching the man with no name work.

The man with no name works using his feet.

The man with no name works using his feet. He has really cool socks.

The man with no name adjusts the lathe with a small mallet.

The man with no name adjusts the lathe with a small mallet. You can see how long the orange acrylic rod is.

All in all, I find that Japanese pen shows are lacking in energy. The Nakaya and Ohashi-do tables were fun, but the rest was boring clerks in suits. I’ll go to the 16th Mitsukoshi Fountain Pen Festival next week. I hope it’s more fun.

I probably better leave my credit cards at home before I go. I don’t know if I can survive temptation twice.