Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fountain Pens: Starting Young

The mailman brought a breeze of fresh air on Saturday. No matter the enticement of lush green outside my windows, August is ablaze in eastern Florida and days are defined by heat, humidity and mosquitos ready to pounce. Happily, a good part of all that was relieved by the arrival from a longtime Tokyo friend, of the latest issue of Stationery Hobby Box (Shumi no bungu bako). Since leaving Japan a few years back, Kumiko has never missed sending the magazine as quickly as a new issue appears on bookstore shelves. Volume 26 came out in June and like every issue contains over 150 glossy pages of articles and photographs highlighting fountain pens, ink and paper, pencils and a few dozen other stationery-related products.

The bold black copy on the cover this time suggests that people want to write with fountain pens (mannenhitsu de kakitai) and in Japan that is a not an exaggeration. Related to that idea is the magazine’s feature article about eight people who treasure their fountain pens and use them as a daily tool. Among them is a film producer, a stylist, a couple of businessmen, a teacher, and a high school student.

Yûdai Kamei is a seventeen year-old high school student in the Tokyo suburb of Saitama who got his first fountain pen in the third grade. Since that early age his enthusiasm has been nourished by parents who share to some extent their son’s interest in fountain pen history and quality writing instruments. How many fathers take their son on a summer holiday with the specific aim of browsing pen shops?

Yûdai’s collection of fountain pens now numbers ten. The article offers no listing of exactly what those pens are, but looking closely at the photos it is easy to spot a Montblanc Meisterstück 146 Doué, Pelikan 800, Pelikan M200 Demonstrator, Pelikano Junior, Pilot Custom 742, Lami Safari, Lami AL-Star, Platinum 3376 Century and two others difficult to distinguish, though one is a Montblanc. The photograph below shows his stated favorite, the Meisterstück 146 Doué, a gift from his parents at the time he entered high school.

Below the fountain pen in the photo is a bottle of Sailor Jentle Ink and a page from Yûdai’s school notes. The bottle of ink is Miyougi Amber bought on the above mentioned summer pen-trip with his father. The color is reflected in the brown ribbon running down the bottle from cap to base and again at the bottom of the page to the right. The ink is one he first saw in the August 2011, vol. 20 issue of Shumi no bungu bako. To the right is a page of school notes from the morning newspaper, different articles distinguished by a different ink. 
As a way of trial and error, Yûdai uses his journal to get a feeling for his pens used with different inks, a natural extension for any fountain pen aficionado striving to better understand a specific pen or ink. The photo shows a sample of writing with the Pelikan 800 and the Sailor Miyougi Amber ink.
Born in Saitama Prefecture in 1996, Yûdai is currently in the 11th grade and his favorite subject is government economy. Apart from fountain pens, his interests include cars and leather goods. He is also an avid reader, getting through about two books a week.
For those who deny themselves nothing in the way of fine writing instruments, a full page advertisement in this latest issue of Stationery Hobby Box offers the new Montblanc Paul Klee Limited Edition fountain pen for a mere $28,643. ‘Limited Edition’ in this case means Montblanc made only seventy-nine of them.


  1. Let's see . . . 79 times $28, 643 . . . why stop with one?
    They are beautiful, but I'll stick with my Pilot G2 at 2 for $1.99. At least until my ship comes in.

  2. It's much cheaper to buy a good workhorse fountain pen and bottle ink than to buy a new pen or pen refill every time the ink runs out. Plus, you're not loading up local landfills with petroleum-based plastics. My ship is probably sunk off the coast of Iceland somewhere, so I do the more cost-effective - and more personally satisfying - thing, and just replace the ink instead of the whole pen.

  3. I am certainly no collector of ink pens but value the three I have, two Lamy pens for work and one workhorse Diamond 540 TWSBI used at other times. I quickly came to appreciate writing with good instruments again since the days in high school when everyone used ink pens with disposal cartridges. The pens of today are remarkable.


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