Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Hakase Impulse

For some of us there comes a time when impulse tramples reason, and we buy a fountain pen that every ounce of logic and common sense tells us we can’t afford, shouldn’t buy, and should put from our mind. But there are times when passion rules over the cold hard center of reason. After all, isn’t the enthusiasm and zeal for something, be it ancient coins, old jukeboxes or vintage pens, the very heat that powers our appetite for such things? Sure, we can be cool and calm and remain reasonable ninety-five percent of the time, but once in a blue moon we need to let loose our fascination with something and let impulse take over.

And thus I let myself be driven by impulse and bought a fountain pen I couldn’t afford.

In 1934, Sadao Yamamoto founded a company in Japan’s western prefecture of Tottori, with the idea of making and handcrafting high quality fountain pens. Over the years the company has remained in the rather remote area of Tottori, and gathered its customers through word of mouth, as well as pen shows and clinics held in the larger cities of Japan. Eventually, the Internet made the company’s fountain pens available to a much larger customer base.

The company is Mannenhitsu Hakase, and rather than attempting to put the two Japanese words in a clever title, it is perhaps better to simply say that mannenhitsu means fountain pen, and hakase is a word referring to ‘doctorate’ or ‘doctor.’ Unfortunately, the Hakase website is all in Japanese, without any English hints. However, there is an interesting YouTube video to see at this site.

I ordered the fountain pen shown in the photos above when Hakase came to Tokyo for a pen show. Patience is required if you are interested in having one of their custom made pens. I ordered mine over eighteen months ago, and then waited ten months for delivery, which came by mail from Tottori Prefecture. The Hakase website now gives a waiting time of twenty-six months! The cost of a pen will vary depending on the specifics of what you want in the pen. The one in the photos here was $1,680.00, just about enough to send me over the deep end.


Body of the pen is made of rosewood.

The pocket clip and ring on the cap are beaten gold.

Length of the pen capped: 14.4cm (5.67in)

Length of the pen posted: 16cm (6.30in)

Weight of the pen, with ink: 30g (slightly over 1oz)

Nib: 14k gold, length 2.4cm (0.9in), size BB

Ink system: Uses a Pilot converter or cartridges

Owner specific serial number engraved on the barrel of the pen

After receiving the fountain pen from Hakase, as I often do with new pens, I took it to Nobuhiko Moriyama at his shop Fullhalter, to have the nib ground a little more to my liking. That extra bit of work on the nib meant I wouldn’t have to break the pen in over a period of weeks. I have tried four different brands of ink in the pen, and each of them flows smoothly across the page, leaving a generous line of ink. Those four brands are: Montblanc, Pelikan, Pilot’s Iroshizuku and Hakase.

I am still feeling the pinch of paying the price to have this pen, but really I have not the least regret, and feel the excitement and passion of this special treasure each time I pick it up.


  1. So you've got a be-spoke pen, that's amazing and really great. :)

  2. These are great pens. I have two Hakase pens, and a third one is waiting to be made some moment in 2010. I guess it makes sense to dig in deep while it is still possible, I don't know if pen manufacturers as Hakase still exist twenty years from now. The main maker is 72.

  3. Do you know if this pen comes in a buffalo horn configuration as well? I like the shape of the pen very much, but I would prefer it to be in buffalo horn. Thanks.

  4. Shu, Thanks for your interest in the Hakase Pen. The answer to your question is yes, they do make pens in buffalo horn, as well as tortoise shell. Here is the contact information for Hakase Pens:
    605 Sakae-cho
    Tottori City 680-0831 Japan
    Phone: +81-857-22-3630
    Fax: +81-857-27-7714
    Their website (Japanese) is:
    Here is another very informative website in English:


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America