Much like the last blog I wrote about my favorite European pen brands that we carried at Pen Boutique, this list will be detailing pens from Asia and what my favorites are amongst the brands that we carry. I won't be listing these brands in any order of preference or anything like that but I will list them in the order that they pop into my mind so without further ado lets get into the first brand of the list, Pilot/Namiki.
Founded in 1918 under the original name "Namiki Manufacturing Company" by Ryosuke Namiki, the brand has since grown to be the largest pen manufacturer in Japan and has split into two lines, Pilot and Namiki. Pilot carries most of the brands more affordable offerings under $1,500 and Namiki is the subsidiary dedicated to the higher priced luxury pens that have handmade components like Maki-e techniques or Urushi lacquer work. The Pilot brand has made what are now considered to be classic pens like the Custom 823 and 845 and Namiki has worked on producing pieces of art like their Yukari Royale line in addition to the Urushi marvel that is their Emperor line. You can take a look at some wonderful examples from both lines below, these are my favorites from both Pilot and Namiki!
Pilot Custom 823-
Possibly one of the best and most cost effective pens ever made is the 823 which is a beautiful demonstrator that has a vac filling mechanism and Pilot's #15 size nib that writes beautifully, if all that wasn't enough it also comes with a big bottle of pilot blue ink which is nice because that means all you need is paper to start writing when you buy your new pen. The other bonus is that this pen is great as a workhorse with even authors like Neil Gaiman writing entire book drafts with them and that's because of the massive ink capacity that the body has which allows for long and uninterrupted writing sessions. The pen comes in 2 different colors for the United States market and those are the amber smoke color you see above and it also comes in a grey smoke color, Japan also has a clear version but that is unfortunately not available in the states. The 823 can be purchased from our site in either a Fine, Medium or Broad nib for the price of $288.
Pilot Vanishing Point-
I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the vanishing point when talking about Pilot because this pen is instantly recognizable and iconic in the fountain pen world. While it may look like a ballpoint at first, this is a click action fountain pen that doesn't compromise quality while offering an abundance of convenience. The nibs on VPs are interchangeable which makes replacement easy and stress free and each nib is made from 18k gold to ensure a quality writing experience. Probably one of my favorite parts about the vanishing point is that they are highly collectible and each year Pilot comes out with a limited edition that is limited to the number of the year so the model that was released in 2020 was limited to 2,020 pieces worldwide. The other thing that makes the vanishing point really stand out aside from design is the price, this is pretty much the premier gold nib fountain pen for people who want to move up in price and is one of the lowest priced gold nibbed pens that we have at around $156 on our website but the yearly special editions tend to cost a little more.
The Namiki Emperor is one of the largest pens that can be purchased from Pen Boutique and it is a masterclass in elegant, regal design. The pen sports Namiki's #50 nib which is the largest that can be purchased from Pen Boutique and is even larger than the nibs found on the Montblanc 149 and Pelikan M1000. The body of this pen is made out of ebonite which is a hardened rubber that can also be seen used as the feed material. The pen is then coated in layer upon layer of a naturally occurring lacquer called Urushi that requires very time consuming and labor intensive processes that take a lifetime to master, the feed is also coated in Urushi which is a very unique aesthetic touch that ties the pen together. The pen is an eyedropper filling pen and since the barrel is so big this makes the ink capacity and flow appropriate for such a large nib. This wonderfully minimalist luxury pen can be special ordered from us at Pen Boutique for the price of $2000 and just know that when you buy a Namiki pen, especially an Emperor, you are buying a piece of art!
Namiki Emperor Goldfish-
One of the most impressive examples of Maki-e artistry from Namiki can be seen on the Goldfish model that you see here. According to Pilot it is one of the most difficult and labor intensive Maki-e designs and can only be performed by very skilled artists and takes months to achieve. The design is hand-painted and the body is ebonite in the same size as the emperor that I mentioned previously but this one has flat tops instead of a more traditional cigar shaped pen and this shows off the maki-e design almost like a painted scroll which accentuates the beauty and detail of the art. The Goldfish can be special ordered from us here at Pen Boutique for the price of $15,000 and keep in mind that when you buy this pen you are buying a true piece of functional art!
The Sailor brand started when its founder, Kyugoro Sakata, was first introduced to fountain pens in 1911 by one of his sailor friend's who showed him a pen from Europe. Inspired by what he saw, he quickly became determined to craft a pen of superior quality and decided on the name Sailor in hopes that the brand would expand all over the world much like a sailor on a sea voyage. Mr. Sakata was a pioneer of the Japanese fountain pen with his brand being the first to produce fountain pens in Japan and currently one of the longest running brands in the industry. We have a variety of really cool models from them here at Pen Boutique and you can see some of them pictured below!
Pro Gear Wajima Bijou Coral & Sapphire- One of the most recent limited editions from Sailor is the Wajima Bijou which is in their standard Pro gear size and is meant to evoke the beauty of a jewel because the pen is named after the Wajima prefecture in Japan where the pens maki-e work was done and Bijou which is the French word for jewel, effectively the name translates to the Wajima jewel. The pens finial is really where the uniqueness comes into play because it has shattered Braden inlays and a hand-painted sailor logo which really drive home the uniqueness of this pen. If all that weren't enough it also has a custom cap band with Wajima Bijou engraved on it as well as the number of the pen out of 300. We have only been allotted 2, one in each color and that's all we know that we are getting so if you want one act fast, they can be purchased on our website for $1,600.
Sailor 1911 King of Pen Miyabi Chitose- This is a beautiful example of Urushi work on the King of Pen sized body and of course you get the wonderful #8 sized KOP nib to go along with it. This style of Urushi work is also quite unique because it has a textured finish that is very tactile and time consuming to create with pens taking multiple months to manufacture. The KOP is the flagship model of Sailor and for good reason, the 21k #8 nib is a dream to write with and if you are looking at buying a KOP model I would highly suggest checking out one of the special edition art pieces like the Urushi KOP or the ebonite ones because they add an added bit of specialty to an already beautiful pen. The Sailor Miyabi can be purchased from our website for the price of $1,600.
Sailor 1911L Bespoke Nib Series- Possibly one of the most interesting offerings that Sailor has is their Bespoke nib series because they offer specialty nibs that you cant really find from any other retailer and the fact that they are actually done by Sailor is an added bonus because you would usually have to send it to a nibmeister and even then for some things like the stacked nibs would be close to impossible for nibmeisters to do. These nibs offer a variety of benefits whether you want an added line width for drawing or a nib with a specific stroke detailing for writing characters from Japanese. The bespoke nibbed pens come in at a range of prices depending on the complexity of the nib and can be purchased from Pen Boutique between the price range of $600-$900.
Platinum was founded in 1919, just 8 years after Sailor and 1 year after Pilot, and has proven itself to be a strong contender with its competition. I am a fan of all three brands listed above and firmly believe that each one has something unique that they bring to the table so allow me to express what Platinum has captured with their #3776 model. Take a closer look at their #3776 model as well as another interesting model called the Izumo.
Platinum's #3776 model has been around since 1978 and relatively recently, as the century marking anniversary of Platinum approached, the pen got a redesign. The aesthetics of the pen remain relatively unchanged however this is when Platinum first introduced their remarkable "Slip and Seal" cap mechanism which keeps the nib wet and ready to write, the nib and feed were re designed as well during this time. These modifications are no surprise when you take into account the tradition of technological innovation that Platinum prides themselves on. According to Platinum's website they say that the #3776 Century was designed with the following ideas for quality in mind: sleek design, comfortable writing balance, smooth flow and fast drying ink. The #3776 can be purchased from the Pen Boutique website for the price range of $176-$376 depending on what color you choose.
Izumo Kurikara Ken-
Another example of a really unique looking Maki-e design is this Kurikara Ken which is on the Izumo body that is made of ebonite. A very sleek and understated design is painted by hand on the pen and the most obvious part is the sword but when you look closer you can see a dragon that is painted in black and so the only part you can really see is the paint protruding from the barrel which gives it a shadowy and stealthy look. The Izumo is like Platinum's last stop until you get to their subsidiary called Nakaya which specializes in handmade, hand turned pens that get extremely intricate with the urushi lacquer work! This fantastic specimen can be special ordered through the Pen Boutique website for the price of $1,240 which is a great deal for such an intricately painted Maki-e design!
TWSBI was not always known as TWSBI and in fact, they were not always making the fun, colorful pens that they've become known for. Originally named Ta Shin Precision, the brand was what is known as an OEM manufacturer. This means that they would make parts and equipment for other brands, now I know you're asking how this relates to them making pens today. In short, they were doing this for 50 years which means they are veterans in the manufacturing field and one day they decided to start selling solely under their own name, thus TWSBI was born. The name is an interesting one and is not without meaning, according to TWSBI's own website the name stands for the phrase "Hall of Three Cultures" which is San Wen Tong in Chinese. When reversed the initials becoming TWS and then BI was added which literally means writing instruments which is a really cool name. Let's take a look at some of their most popular models pictured below.
The Eco can be purchased from Pen Boutique at $30.99 for the demonstrator color versions with special rose-gold toned editions coming in at $49.99. This is an exceptional price, for this you can get a reliable piston filler and a bottle of ink for around $50 and in some cases less than $50 which just makes this a pen everyone should have in their collection. If anyone, including yourself either doesn't have one of these or has expressed interest in getting their first fountain pen, I can't recommend a better option than the TWSBI Eco.
Very Similar to the Eco, the Diamond 580 is a piston filling demonstrator pen that has a slightly faceted body and aluminum parts that make it feel a little heavier than the Eco. The nib on the 580 is also a little wider than the one found on the eco and I find myself really enjoying the weight of the 580 with all the aluminum in it. They also come in a few different colors that are sure to brighten up your writing experience, the 580 can be purchased in a variety of colors that will run you somewhere between $50-$84.99 depending on which color you get, feel free to stop by the store and try the testers for yourself!
Another wonderful addition to the Twsbi lineup is the Vac700 which is named after its vacuum filling mechanism which is commonly found on higher priced pens which is why its so nice to see it on a pen in this price range. The nib on this is also a #6 which is very smooth and manufactured by Bock for Twsbi so you know you are getting a quality writing instrument. Like the 580 it also has aluminum accenting and parts that add some added weight to the pen which helps it feel a little more solid in the hand and just provide an overall comfortable writing experience. The Vac700R can be purchased from our website for the price of $65.