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My Shobu Story
Posted 13 December 2004 - 22:22
Everything started when I began to get interested in the fountain pen community. I have always used fountain pens. As a matter of facts, I have learned to write with a fountain pen. Being a Frenchman, this is common thing, and most of us do not give it more thoughts. When I moved to the United States, I started to give plenty of thoughts to many things, such as non-pasteurized cheese, bread, wine, etc... I soon realized that the fountain pen was an almost extinct species on this side of the Atlantic. This is when I started to browse the web and got sucked by the wonderful fountain pen Internet community. It has always been interesting to me how being far from home links you more deeply to what you are and the way you live.
Participation in forums, I soon heard about Nakaya pens. I read that it was a newer company in the fountain pen maker landscape. I also learned that it was built upon decades of experience through its craftsmen, retired craft masters from the Platinum company. I was delighted to know that the nibs were actually customized to each customer specifications and writing habits. I was interested. When I paid a visit to Nakaya website, I was stunned by the simple beauty of the Urushi models. I have always liked objects who can reflect the pure simplicity of their function with understated style. These pens looked to me as the ultimate writing instrument. Simple shape, beauty of the Japanese lacquer, no distracting trims. It represented the essence of the little I know of Japanese culture : Simple beauty ; Function with a Soul.
At the same time, I started to get involved in an internet community, not related to pens, based on all members participation and solidarity. I thought (and still think) that we are making the internet a better and more human place. I decided that the same kind of involvement would be nice for the fountain pen community and I started to write pen reviews and to roam around and ask "icons" of the FP community if they would participate in interviews, so we could know them even better.
The first person to accept (and subsequently the first piece that was made public) was Toshiya Nakata, the president of Nakaya, vice-president of Platinum, son of Platinum president, and grand-son of Platinum founder. I discovered someone with a great passion for his craft and and even greater respect for his customers. He very kindly took time to answer my initial questions, and even more questions as I was writing the piece and needed more information. I felt personally close to Nakata-san, through his relationship to his grand-father. I have often felt that I was given possibilities that my grand-father had not been given. I still feel that I am in some way continuing his "legacy". Toshiya Nakata was also paying tribute to his grand-father by reviving the original name of his company. I really had a lot of fun interacting with Nakata-san during these few weeks of e-mail exchanges.
My next steps was to take the plunge and get a Nakaya : My Nakaya. I decided for the Shobu, the purple Urushi, with a rhodium plated clip and the two-tone gold nib. The few weeks of waiting for it only added to excitement. The expectation reached its climax when I received the announcement that my pen had been shipped. I was at work, busy writing yet another research proposal. I took the package from the mail room and put it aside on my desk. I did not want to rush the discovery. By lunch time, I was ready. The packaging box, the plastic wrap, and now here was the paulownia wood box and inside... my Nakaya, wrapped in its blue "kimono", resting on a red velvet pillow, its safety belt on.
When I took the pen out, I was stunned by the beauty of the lacquer. No pictures I have seen can really do it justice. I then had a surge of adrenaline. Something was loose in my Nakaya ! I could hear it. Something broke during the transport !? I was devastated. I unscrewed the cap and section to take a look at the damages. If you are familiar with Platinum cartridges, you already know what it was. I wasn't familiar with the Platinum cartridges ! They have a metallic ball inside that keeps the ink from sticking to the walls, which rolls back and forth and makes that unusual and frightening sound. You can imagine my relief when I discovered that. Now I could really enjoy my Shobu.
The color is a very deep purple which, of course, is bound to get lighter as the Urushi clears in the next few months. The two-tone nib is nicely engraved and is a medium stub which is perfect for my hand. What keeps amazing me is the sensuality of the Urushi. It is smoth and warm to the touch, with a very attractive roundness to it. The craftmanship is impeccable. The body itself (under the lacquer) is made of Hard Black Rubber (Ebonite). This gives the pen a very particular sound. I call it the Nakaya song. I hear it when I put the cap back on. The ebonite and the shape of the cap combined are most likely the reason. I did not taste my Shobu, and it does not have a particular smell, so that is all there is to say about its sensuality.
Since I got my Shobu, a month ago, it has been my only writer. I carry it everywhere with me. I wrote somewhere else about the fountain pen : By its history, it links us to the ones that were before us. By the craftsmanship it requires to be made, it links us to distant artisans and artists. It brings a communion with the mind who created that particular filling mechanism, with the hands that polished this nib, or with the artist who layered the lacquer on that particular Maki-E . For me, Nakaya and my particular Shobu are the ultimate epitome of this idea.
Posted 14 December 2004 - 03:45
Edited by Maja, 14 December 2004 - 03:50.
Posted 14 December 2004 - 15:29
What a great story...I've never heard of them, but you've certainly peeked my interest! I'm just a newbie to this FP Phenomena, but I love writing with them, and truly see the joy in procuring more!
You keep writing reviews like that, and you can be sure to have at least one person really enjoy reading them!
Cheers, and Viva JaJa! (Really is too bad he's retired)
Posted 14 December 2004 - 15:30
Posted 14 December 2004 - 15:45
I love my Nakaya Koi over all my other pens. It almost has a personality. There is just something extra special about knowing the pen history and the fact that each one is created with such care and respect. I will definitely purchase another Nakaya someday.
Posted 14 December 2004 - 20:21
Posted 01 February 2005 - 01:50
Who is John Galt?
Posted 01 February 2005 - 02:55
the Shobu is aging beautifully. The color is getting lighter, very slowly. It is still a very deep purple, but loosing the blue tones it used to have when I first got it.
I have the long version. It does fit is some of my shirt pockets, but not all. And when it fits, I can't say it is particularly discreet, as about only half of the clip length is out. In some other shirts, I can barely engage the clip. If you plan on really carrying it that way, I would recommend the portable version.
I actually just converted it to an eye-dropper, which is pretty straightforward with that pen. Speak about ink volume...
Edited by Denis Richard, 01 February 2005 - 02:56.
Posted 01 February 2005 - 03:10
Who is John Galt?
Posted 01 February 2005 - 03:13
I'm pretty sure you can ask them any Urushi color in clipless. If it is not in their online catalog, it might take a little bit longer to make, but I'm sure they will do it.
If I get the long version, then I am thinking about going with the clipless "cigar" version. However, it only comes in 2 colors. If I get the writer version it will be "portable". I am trying to decide on color though.
Posted 01 February 2005 - 03:40
Who is John Galt?
Posted 04 February 2005 - 23:38
Could we have some more pictures please - the nib, or scanned handwriting. Does the medium stub write like a medium/fine? does it really suit your handwriting? What ink do you use in it?
Do tell more of the nib...
Posted 16 February 2005 - 03:19
I have been an FP enthusiast since I was a kid when I enviously looked upon my fellow students who could afford nice Parkers, Sheaffers and Watermans! But it was only recently - actually in the last two months that I started to look at collecting for use when I lost a nice Waterman... I have since gone on a small FP spree - acquiring in two months - a Mont Blanc Noblesse, a couple of Watermans, Visconti Kaleido, a Namiki Vanishing Point and a few vintage Pilots - even an Esterbrook J with original box - yep - could say I've gone FP crazy...
Anyway, back to the Nakaya - took me ages to decide on which model and colour - opted for the traditional tamenuri red - long version.... I am now at the stage of waiting for delivery in mid March.... re-reading this review has just heightened my anticipation....
Posted 16 February 2005 - 20:09
I'll try to post more pics. I think I already have more somewhere.
Posted 19 June 2005 - 23:48
This is very sad but true! I have had students from Europe in the past that have used fountain pens pretty much all their lives. However, in four years of college at a local university, I only ran across one other American student that used a fountain pen on a daily basis. He apparently got the pen (Waterman Expert II) from his grandfather as a high school graduation gift.
When I moved to the United States, I started to give plenty of thoughts to many things, such as non-pasteurized cheese, bread, wine, etc... I soon realized that the fountain pen was an almost extinct species on this side of the Atlantic.
On one hand, most guys I know pay no attention to what type of pen you are using, and could care less about the whole thing. In fact, most male friends I know, wouldn't even consider spending over $2.00 for a pen. Women, on the other hand, tend to notice such things and think that its really cool to use such pens because they are stylish. Likewise, they love the choice of inks that are available on the market.
That being said, I have to admit this Nakaya is one of the best pens made in Japan. I know a few friends of mine who are into calligraphy, and love to use fountain pens (mannenhitsu in Japanese) and they love the service they receive from Nakaya, which is second to none. In fact, they have some of the best nibmasters in the world there, and will also adjust any other manufacturer's nibs to your specifications and writing style. Moreover, they truly believe that customer service is their number one priority, and will go beyond the norm to make sure that every one of them is pleased to no end. I wish that many American businesses that I have dealt with over the years, would give such excellent service from the top management down to the employees that truly has a deep passion for what they are doing.
"Like a prized watch, a good fountain pen is a trusted companion for life."
Posted 29 May 2009 - 15:35
thank you for a remarkably detailed and heart-felt review. It is so poetic, just like the pen. You are the kind of pen owner that pen makers dream of finding.
I, too would love to see photos of it.
Posted 30 May 2009 - 06:48
Edited by alvarez57, 30 May 2009 - 06:52.