Wednesday, March 2, 2011

As Fundamental As Shoes

Pencil cases are as fundamental as shoes in Japan and there are probably very few people who leave home without. For students the need is obvious, but pencil cases are also prominent in briefcases, handbags and tote bags everywhere. Like that oddball back pocket accessory the coin purse, a special case for pens and pencils never occurred to me before living in Japan. After a month there I found it inconvenient to be without a pen case.

Japan produces a gargantuan number of pen cases in unlimited styles, designs, colors and sizes. Anyone shopping at either Tokyu Hands or Loft in Tokyo will be dazzled by pencil cases in numbers and varieties that equal the shelf count of breakfast cereals in American supermarkets. Some Japanese will use the same one for years. Others will buy a new one each year and still others buy many of them to use as fashion accessories. What was once called a fude-bako, now Americanized into ‘pen case’ holds a rock solid position in Japanese culture.

I got a new pen case the other day, and of course it’s a Japanese one. It came from JetPens in California and the same one seems to be selling like hotcakes. Thanks to Leigh Reyes at the forever fantastic blog, My Life as a Verb for her post on the Nomadic PE-10 which sent me quick-clicking to JetPens. Besides liking the look of the PE-10, I was struck by something Leigh said in her review: “Easiest one to find in a bag because it is a screaming red.” That’s a quality that appeals.

The Nomadic PE-10 holds a lot of stuff. It measures 21cm (8.25in) in length, is 10cm (3.9in) wide and without even pushing it, I put in all its pockets and slots four fountain pens, two ballpoints, two full-length wooden pencils, one highlite pen, one fat mechanical pencil, an eraser, a ruler and a pair of scissors. Leigh Reyes gets a lot more in hers.

The case is made of a durable nylon with a super-strong Velcro seal. It’s offered in red, yellow, navy, khaki and black. The tiny feature that I especially like is the tag that reads (in typical Japanese-English, or Janglish) ‘Nomadic For Budget And Save Money.’

The Nomadic PE-10 is top quality. My thanks again to Leigh Reyes and JetPens.

Anyone interested in what a typical Japanese high school student carries in his pencil case, look here.


  1. Instead of having to leave pencils in trees, carrying the Nomadic case would solve any writer's access to tools while wandering about. Immediately got on the JetPens website and they are all sold out. Leigh and you obviously started a stampede for this product. Until restocked (I hope), will have to put a pencil in the split trunk of the Bradford Pear.

  2. I do Bible study and have tried to keep different colored pencils in a pencil case and keep it handy. I guess it's something one has to get accustomed to because I never could find it when I needed it. Somehow it got separated from my Bible and study manual. It seems that our home has as many pencils as are sold in Office Depot and they are scattered everywhere. Maybe a pen case would be the answer.


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