Kingdom Note is a small but very good fountain pen & ink shop on the 6th floor of the Branché Building in Shinjuku. You get used to it in time, but reaching the store requires a halting, sidestepping, baby-stepping walk through crowds that rival Times Square and Piccadilly Circus. Not more than five minutes from Shinjuku Station, the shop is located very near several giant multi-storied electronics stores, and most of the people are headed to those stores. Once inside Kingdom Note, the atmosphere changes immediately, suddenly quiet and full of polished surfaces and hundreds of fountain pens in glass cases. Bottles of ink are arrayed behind a long counter where customers sit and sample this ink, or that fountain pen.
My purpose today was to buy a Lamy Safari. I’ve gotten the feeling lately that I might be missing the charms of a pen that enjoys huge popularity, and knowing it isn’t an expensive item, the time had come to give it a try. I knew from the website that Kingdom Note carries a wide range of Lamy pens, so knew I’d find what I wanted. Didn’t take long to find, and I chose the bright orange Safari L13 with a medium steel nib. It came with a blue ink cartridge, but I had that replaced with a Waterman converter, which was added to the price. The pen and converter came to almost $52.00, but I learned later that it sells for less online through Rakuten. I’ve had some less than satisfactory experience with this particular online store, so I would not have bought the Lamy online even had I known beforehand of the lower price.
Was happy to find that Kingdom Note has the new Life notebook edition, the Premium, so bought two of them. Usually I stick to the notebooks with blank pages, but I also bought one with graphed pages this time. Bought, too a small notebook of traditional Japanese design, something that caught my eye as handy for quick memos. It’s the one under the Lamy Safari in the photo, and is called genkô yôshi in Japanese.
I would have been daft to leave the store without looking through the wealth of inks stacked right in front of me, and so I passed a happy thirty minutes looking at the sample books and a few of the bottles. In the end, it was no surprise that I settled on two J. Herbin inks that have been on my mind: Cacao du Brésil and Vert Empire. The first is a gray-brown, the second a green close to, but lighter than Montblanc’s discontinued Racing Green. More on these two inks later, as they deserve a post of their own with photo examples.
By now I’ve had time to fill the Lamy Safari (with J. Herbin) and write some lines with it. Tried it on four different kinds of paper, and believe it or not, the smoothest lines came on cheap white copy paper. It also writes well on an inexpensive variety of Muji recycled paper, but I wasn’t satisfied with the feel of the Lamy in my Life notebook, or the traditional Japanese paper. I have a feeling it will improve with time and use, hopefully soften a little, or as much as the steel nib will allow.
And last, a funny confession about something that happened to me when I joined the Fountain Pen Network. Part of the application process was to type in the answer to a question. The question was: Who makes Safari?
I stared at it for a minute wondering why they would ask such an off the wall question that many may not know the answer to. But I went ahead and typed in my answer: Apple
Gong! Huh? Well…duh. Took another minute before it occurred to me that the answer they were looking for was Lamy. I’m a member now despite the quiz I almost failed.