Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hobby Box Treasures

The latest issue of Stationery Hobby Box (Shumi no bungu bako) came out in Tokyo last March but I was unable to get a copy until recently. The fact that I did finally receive it is thanks to my always faithful friend K there in Tokyo. As I’ve said more than once, this is one of those magazines that spares nothing in its aim to produce a gorgeous magazine of over 150 glossy pages, filled with photographs, essays and presentations of new products in the world of paper, ink and fountain pens. Volume 19 immediately grabs the eye with its cover of light olive, red lettering and a close up of the issue’s showpiece, the recently released limited edition Sailor Shima Kuwa.

Eleven pages of the magazine are devoted to Sailor’s 100th anniversary and the release of two specially designed fountain pens to commemorate that milestone. One of the two is a pen made for a special few connoisseurs and far beyond the scope of what most can imagine owning. A few words about that fountain pen will follow a description of the pen shown on the magazine’s cover, the Shima Kuwa.

For its 100th anniversary Sailor released the exquisite Shima Kuwa, a limited edition of 1000 handcrafted fountain pens made from a rare mulberry wood. The wood is a premier grade of mulberry that comes from Mikurajima, a small island in the Izu archipelago famous for this rare natural material. The mulberry of Mikurajima is often used in making special gifts, known as the golden mulberry because of its natural golden grain. In Japan’s Edo era, this particular mulberry was considered precious and usable by only the most highly respected artisans called kuwamono-shi.

An even deeper beauty is coaxed from the mulberry using a deep burnishing process with urushi lacquer, one called fuki urushi that originated at the famous Jôhô Temple in Iwate Prefecture. Decoration is in the form of gold powder maki-e used to create a wave pattern on one side of the cap below the clip, while the alternate side bears the number, ‘100th.’ The lacquer work and the decoration were done by master maki-e artisan, Oshita Kôsen. The pen’s gold plate clip is a special design, an ‘anchor’ clip that echoes the longtime anchor emblem on many Sailor pens. Each pen is individually engraved with the serial number on the barrel end.

The Shima Kuwa comes with a large 21k nib plated with 24k gold. The Sailor anchor and chain are stamped on the nib. Perhaps a disappointment to some, the nib comes in only an M size. It uses a cartridge / converter filler. Dimensions are: length-162mm capped / uncapped-150mm; diameter-20.5mm; weight 36.8 grams. It is packed in a special Aizu-urushi lacquered gift box and comes with a silk pen wrap made in the ushikubi–tsumugi style, a traditional craft for 800 years. Also included is a bottle of black ink and five black cartridges. The top of the presentation box shows a maki-e decoration, a picture of Sailor’s original Hamada factory from 1911.

Sailor sells the pen for $1,958 and I feel certain that is the price at pen shops across Japan offering the Shima Kuwa. Classic Fountain Pens here in the US is offering the pen for $2000. Photographs of this very beautiful pen are excellent on that website.

If nothing else we can all dream about owning one.

Sailor’s second 100th Anniversary release is another limited edition of only 100 fountain pens, and one for those aficionados with deep pockets. It is the Arita Yaki Sometsuke-Kiri-Houou made of porcelain from the Imari area of Saga Prefecture. Arita-yaki (porcelain) has a tradition going back 400 years and is considered to be the origin of Japanese porcelain. The pure almost transparent blue and white is in a design immediately recognizable as Imari. Despite the porcelain’s thin smoothness it is strong, resistant to breaking and easy to care for.

The pen is made of Arita koransha porcelain, is 163.7mm long, 19.4mm in diameter and weighs a hefty 63 grams. Again, the nib is available only in M; the filling system is either cartridge or converter. It sells for $13,050.

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