Friday, December 23, 2011

Stationery Hobby Box No. 21

A Christmas present from Japan arrived yesterday, a compact and glossy 152 pages in the delightful shape of Stationery Hobby Box (Shumi no bungu bako), Volume 21. There’s a good and a bad side to sitting in Florida reading each issue of this magazine three times a year. Compare it to a thirsty man looking at photos of a gurgling stream or rivers of clear water. There are probably few cities in the world as rich in stationery goods as Tokyo, and a good part of that wealth is lavishly displayed in the pages of Stationery Hobby Box. Wise to keep a handkerchief handy when I’m reading, something to catch the drool that threatens to fall from my open mouth.

Each issue of the magazine is comprehensive in its coverage of stationery goods, designers, specialists and stores devoted to the hobby, always including two or three special articles that focus on a particular pen company or penmeister, ink, or as in No. 21, an article on the history of Tonbow pencils. The cover of the latest issue shows a photo of the fountain pen favored by fashion designer Karl Lagerfield, a new design from S.T. Dupont dubbed Mon Dupont. One feature article unrelated to the Dupont is, in loose translation “Pen and Ink, Never Enough.” Ink samples, ink catalogs, discussions and essays on the same are terrific, but in most cases my interest recently has leaned toward coverage of people who spend their days writing with either pen, brush or pencil, and those articles with a focus on the history of certain stationery items.

Hikozô Akamatsu spends his days designing titles for movies and other media. A few of the movie titles designed by Mr Akamatsu are Shall We Dance, Waterboys, Hanabi, No Longer Human and Unagi. The first title may be familiar from the Hollywood adaptation starring Richard Gere, but these titles are naturally all for Japanese films. The photo on the right above shows the artist in his studio, and the top left a series of studies for his work on No Longer Human—reading from top to bottom Ningen shikaku. Once again, this title is perhaps familiar from Dazai Osamu’s classic 1948 novel. The work done by Mr Akamatsu was for a 2010 film version. One part of the Hobby Box article tells us that his favorite fountain pen is a Montblanc Meisterstück 149.

Another article in the new issue that caught my eye is one on the history of Tonbow pencil manufacture in Japan. The Japanese take their pencils very seriously and even young elementary school students study the types and varieties available in their neighborhood stationery stores. The photo above shows eight different one-dozen boxes of pencils made by Tonbow (founded by Mitsubishi in 1913). Mitsubishi continued making pencils during the war years from 1933 to 1935, selling them domestically, but production was later crippled by American bombing. The 8900 (top left) was introduced in 1945. Today Tonbow is a thriving enterprise.

The photo above shows a collection of early Montblanc fountain pens. Even though Japan boasts three premier fountain pen makers, Montblanc continues to be a longtime favorite among Japanese aficionados. The photo here shows examples of Montblanc’s early models. The third from the top, the one with the red star on its cap is the 1914 Rouge et Noir, priced at $11,500.

These photos show the stationery departments in two Tokyo stores, one located in the Yûrakucho area, the other in Ginza. The top picture was taken inside Loft, a large almost-department store, selling everything from toothpicks to mountain climbing gear. The pictures are small but do convey an image of Loft’s extensive stationery department. The pictures at the bottom of the page were taken in the Ginza Tokyu Hands store, one similar to Loft. Row after row, aisle after aisle of nothing but pens, pencils, paper, ink, tape, clips, erasers, sharpeners and on and on.

Closing the final page of Stationery Hobby Box I ‘wake up’ to remember I’m 10,000 miles away from it all. Sigh…

Posts on earlier issues of Stationery Hobby Box: 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15 and 13


  1. Always a trade off when moving from one culture to another--especially after 27 years. Obviously, in your case, not being near the abundance of pens, inks, pencils, and stationery available in Japan has been a huge adjustment for you. One you may not ever quite get over. Perhaps spending less money on all those products is not a side quite bright enough.

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