2006 marks the 88th anniversary of Pilot Corporation, which is an important milestone in Japanese tradition. 88, when written in kanji characters 八(eight), 十(ten), 八 (eight) resemble the character for rice 米 (yone, also read as bei),while 寿 means birthday, hence the coined "Beiju" 米寿. From the very beginning of Japanese history, rice was respected by the people, for it was their food, their very livelihood and their source of happiness. An integral and fundamental part of Japanese society, rice symbolized purity and goodness. Thus the 88th birthday is a happy and joyous occasion which calls for special celebrations.
Pilot pioneered the nib pellet manufacturing technique in Japan in 1918. At the same time in this country, raw iridium was still being used. This innovation led to the acceptance of the quality of Pilot pens world wide. After the collaboration with the Alfred Dunhill Company of London, producing Dunhill-Namiki Maki-e pens, Pilot's reputation grew even further. Today, these Maki-e pens are some of the most highly prized and sought after pens in the world. To commemorate this occasion, Pilot had commissioned a specially-designed, limited edition run of fountain pens that feature the delicate tradition of Maki-e craftsmanship.Thus, the special Limited Edition Fountain pens with the motif of “Shishi- Komainu” (Guardian dogs– 88 pieces) and “Nioh” (Guardian gods – 880 pieces) were launched. These are both pairs of mythical entities that have become deeply rooted in the Japanese culture and loved by all as trusted guardians, talismans against evil, and means of purification. This concept is intertwined with the Oriental belief that the pair of numbers “88” signifies increasing prosperity and well-being. The Kokkokai artisans created these commemorative fountain pens by drawing on its traditional Maki-e craftsmanship handed down over the 80 years of its existence.
First Impressions :- (10/10)
The presentation box is elegant, yet very traditional. Made of clear straight grain softwood, possibly Douglas Fir, this box is embellished with Japanese master calligraphy and tied in a traditional way. From that alone I can tell that a lot of consideration went into the design of the packaging. No details were spared, everything was so intricate.
It was a sight to behold when I lifted the top cover of the box for the first time. I was lost for words as I tried to relate to the masterpiece which greeted me, tucked snugly in the interior of the box. The box interior carries a bottle of ink, and a wooden certificate showing the edition number. Mine came with a serial # of 047/880.
Appearance & Design :- (10/10)
The form of Buddhism that entered Japan merged with the ancient gods of Japan, and a harmonious synthesis of Buddhism and Shinto evolved. “Komainu” and “Nioh” are cultural concepts that originated overseas, but over many centuries they have become deeply enrooted in the culture of Japan and familiar entities to the Japanese people. A pair of “Nioh” guardian god statues stands at the Great South Gate of the Todaiji Temple in Nara. In the past, pairs of “Komainu” and/or “Nioh” guardian god statues were placed at both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples without distinction. However, in 1869 the Edict for Separation of Shinto and Buddhism required that “Komainu” should only be located at Shrines and “Nioh” gods only at Temples.
"Nioh" or Benevolent Kings 仁王 , also known as Vajradhara in Sanskrit, are the two forms of Taishaku Ten, and are said to be the two Buddhist guardian deities (Kongohjin; Kongoh = strong, Jin = god), also to be known as "Kongoh Rikishi". Their figures can be seen at Japanese temples, standing guard at the two sides of the temple gates. Both the featured "Nioh" guardians have strong builds, fearsome facial expressions to instil fear, and each hold a strong wooden pestle in their hands.
The "Nioh" god on the cap (shown with his mouth open) is known as Misshaku Kongoh, opening his mouth widely to exhale, expressing the sound “Ah”. He is also known as the mark of justice.This breath signifies the beginning of all things.
The “Nioh” on the barrel (shown with mouth closed) is known as Nara-en Kongoh, closing his mouth to inhale, expressing the sound "Un". He is also known as the mark of knowledge. This closed mouth sound signifies the end of all things.
These two sounds, when put together, signify the beginning and end of all things (Alpha and Omega). In Japan, this is known as Ah-Un breathing, which means "instant anticipation of another's intentions", an expression of empathy. In a larger sense, they represent everything that happens between the beginning and the end, a full life. This depiction of the Nioh figures, standing upright, strong and vigorous, on a gold dust earth, places them in a land and sky scape with traditional foliage and cloud elements. Flecks of gold, bronze and other pigments are applied in traditional Urushi technique, resulting in an dazzling effect that transcends both space and time. Note the real life-like effects produced by the raised burnished surfaces from the Urushi lacquering on the Nioh Guardians.
The pen style, known as flat-top, dates from before the 1930's. This shape was probably inspired by influential pen makers' Parker’s Duofold Series' and Sheaffer's Lifetime series’ flat-tops of the post World War I era. Coincidentally, this flat-top pen style was also used for both Pilot’s 85th Anniversary Limited Edition "Hiten" as well as the 70th Anniversary pen.
As with all limited edition Maki-e fountain pens, the artist's signature can be found on the pen.
The artist's signature is also engraved on the box as well.
Weight & Dimensions :- (10/10)
Weighing 37.5 grams and at 5 1/2" long, this is a full-sized fountain pen with a good heft. This is a bonus for me since I have large hands and I prefer my pens heavy rather than light.
Nib & Performance :- (7.5/10)
The nib is an 18K gold plated monotone Broad. The 88th anniversary wordings were intricately engraved on the nib’s surface. Design-wise, this nib pales in comparison with the regular Montblanc Meisterstück 146 or Sailor 1911/PG nib. However, this anniversary nib exhibited a good amount of flex and was glass smooth, though it writes more like a medium. Very typical of Japanese nibs.
Filling System :- (7/10)
Any pen that does not come equipped with a piston filler will not get full points from me in this department. This pen uses the CC filling system, and the pen comes equipped with the all black Push Button type CON-70 converter. The black CON-70 converter doesn’t seem like the standard issue, since the versions available for sale on the web have a silver base. This is the 1st time I get to handle a Push Button type converter, which is going to make the ink filling experience all the more interesting.
Cost & Value :- (10/10)
I bought this L.E from a private collector at a steep discount to the MSRP. This pen has an excellent quality build rivaling Montblanc and S.T. Dupont and carries a beautiful Maki-e theme featuring the life-like Nioh guardians. Yes, this Maki-e themed pen offers tremendous value for money for the price I paid.
Conclusion :- (10/10)
This is an excellent, beautiful and well made pen. Maki-e pens have always captivated me, and I hope to add more beautiful creations like this into my personal collection.
Edited by Shinchan, 19 October 2009 - 16:29.