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On my second trip to Japan in seven months, while the going is good


A Smug Dill

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My wife and I weren't exactly planning on visiting Japan again, so shortly after our eleven-day stay in Tokyo late last year. However, when the offer of even cheaper airfares — by about another 25%, compared to the last trip — for return flights to Osaka came up, and she has so much annual leave her employer was pushing her to take (some of), we just couldn't resist. Serendipitously, the yen has fallen to something like a five-year low this month; so much the better! So, off we went again.

 

This is the bulk of our haul this time around, with regard to pens and stationery:

large.StationeryacquiredonmyOsaka-Kyototrip960p.jpg.6b9e0815afa3f2075f9741433a8b166d.jpg

 

(Not shown in the photo are the stack of cute notepads, half-priced document cases, and her share of discounted ballpoint and multi-pens that my wife has already taken and put away.)

 


Some notes on the stores we visited:

 

Morita Fountain Pen Shop in Osaka came across to me as similar in nature and feel to Marui Syoten in Ueno, Tokyo, but more findable, better appointed, actually has room inside the store which was brightly lit for visitors to browse, and generally much more pleasant a shopping experience that at the latter. It even once had its own store-exclusive colour of Sailor Professional Gear (Slim and Slim Mini) fountain pens to offer, although I didn't see any in stock when I visited. Alas, I didn't find anything appealing there to buy from Mr. Morita. The Japanese fountain pens on display that I liked and would buy, I already have in my collection; and I saw nothing there was exclusive, nothing special, and nothing discounted that I wouldn't do better (as a materialistic consumer) buying elsewhere. So, I didn't even ask whether tax-free shopping was available and/or on what terms.

 

The Hands Umeda store didn't have much that was interesting to offer in that regard, either. It did have an impressive displays of miniature models of different types available for retail sales, however.

 

Kinokuniya Daimaru Umeda store near Osaka Station had the Platinum #3776 Century ‘Shape of a Heart‘ Chai Latte limited edition fountain pen, which was supposedly only getting harder to get, as well as some particular (not so) limited edition Uni-ball pen sets, that I had set my sights on. I just could not bring myself to buy the ‘Shape of a Heart‘ Chai Latte pen, however, having inspected up close and handled it in person in the store; it has the same issue as the ‘Shape of a Heart‘ Ivoire before it, being a glossy white section married to a matt white barrel, that somehow jars my senses both kinaesthetically and aesthetically. I do regret not get those Uni-ball pen sets there when I had the opportunity, however; I thought they would be easy to come by later in other large stationery retailers, where I could possibly buy them tax-free tagged onto a purchase of a fountain pen or some such.

 

Stationery Store (文具店) TAG was entirely disappointing. Its branch store in Aeon Mall near Kyoto Station is actually only a retail concession inside the Ogaki Books store; and it took us ages to find it because of that, and there is no sign I could recall seeing outside the mall's building complex, or inside on a store directory, to show where it was. Apart from the company's own-branded Kyo-Iro and Kyo-no-Oto inks, there wasn't all that much (fountain pens related) that was interesting; and it didn't seem to be very well stocked with colours and nib options for the writing instruments it carried. TAG's main store is standalone and much bigger, and had some ‘este’ limited(?) edition colours of Pilot Lightive and Prera pens in stock. It also had tester sets of Pilot, Platinum, and Sailor pens with their respective full ranges of nib options in the store; but they were poorly maintained, some of the nibs are badly discoloured as if they'd been half-immersed in liquid sitting at the bottom of the upside-down caps in the display stands, and half of the pens didn't write at all when I tried. Aside from those, the tester pens containing various Kyo-Iro and Kyo-no-Oto inks didn't all write either. I picked a couple of the (un-inked ‘new’ stock) translucent pink Prera ‘este’ pens off the rack, to dry-write on a tester pad of paper; one felt scratchy on left-to-right strokes but not right-to-left strokes or downstrokes, while the other felt scratchy on downstrokes but not sideways strokes in either direction. I just didn't feel I trust the condition of the pens in the store enough, for quality control or just checking of what it did have in retail stock, to make a purchase. (We also came across its Kobe umie branch store, which again is just a retail concession inside an Ogaki Books store, later; again, nothing to loosen my purse strings.)

 

Nagasawa Stationery Center's Chayamachi branch store in Osaka is also a retail concession, which does not keep the same opening hours as the Maruzen & Junkudo bookstore it is in. (To be fair, I knew about its business hours, but just not that it was inside Maruzen, thus leaving that store without its own stationery department otherwise.) The first time we visited, it'd just closed up, and the castor-wheeled display cabinets were all covered up with thick cloth; and, peering through the nets surrounding the darkened retail concession area from the outside, I didn't see anything particularly interesting. I was going to visit the Maruzen Takashimaya store, which I knew carried fountain pens, when I was in the neighbourhood of Shinsaibashi a couple of days later; but we ended up walking too far away from it exploring Shinsaibashi-suji, and ended up deciding to hop on a train and go back to Maruzen Chayamachi instead to have a browse — and I'm so glad we did! Under the opaque cloth, in the movable display cabinets, were all the discounted items, some of which were offered at half-price. I ended up testing, and deciding to buy the Pilot Custom 74 30th Anniversary limited edition set — which I was never planning to get, given I've had several Custom 74 pens before but never really got along with them ergonomically… but, hey, at half-price it's cheaper than the new/current retail price of a simple regular Custom 74 pen, and I could buy it tax-free to boot! — and the customer service was so good and proactive, I ended up also picking up a Sailor TUZU which I ‘decided’ previously that I wasn't going to buy, and a bottle of (Chayamachi) store-exclusive Kobe INK Story Chaska Green ink as a memento from the visit. They didn't charge me a service fee for handling the tax-free purchases, either. My only ‘regret’ is that I didn't manage to pick up the last of the eight translucent colours of Sailor Profit Jr., the only one I still don't have, for ¥600+tax (as opposed to its retail price of ¥2,000+tax) on clearance; I was told, “we don't have any of that pen in this store.”

 

Isetan in the Kyoto Station building surprisingly managed to entice me to buy a non-discounted German fountain pen — a LAMY Safari Field Green (Japanese market only?) limited edition — from it, partly because it surprised me by having one of 300 numbered units of the even more limited Safari Field Green fountain pens factory-fitted with 14K gold nibs on display and available for sale. I wouldn't pay the asking price for the gold-nibbed version, but since the ‘regular’ version of the limited edition pen with a Z50 black steel nib just qualifies on its own for tax-free purchase, I decided to buy one. I subsequently discovered that Isetan charges/withholds 1.55% in service fees when processing the post-purchase tax refund (via Global Blue); but that was made up by the fact that, if you're a tourist making a threshold-exceeding purchase, they give you a 5% discount card (which only applies to items exceeding ¥3,000 in tax-exclusive price) on the spot. I got the pen tax-free and discounted, while the pile of stuff my wife tacked onto the transaction were tax-free (and fee-inducing) but not eligible for the 5% discount. All in all, not a bad outcome.

 

Heavy rain washed out our plans for certain day trips towards the end of our stay in Kyoto, so even though we were rather further away from Kobe on those days than when we were back in Osaka, we decided to visit Kobe (not originally on our itinerary) — passing through Osaka along the way on the more expensive, more time-consuming train ride — instead. Not that there was much sightseeing to be done there in the heavy rain; but I did find Nagasawa Stationery Center's main store in Sannomiya. I didn't find any of the discounted/clearance offers there that I knew of: not the Sailor Profit Jr. in red, and even the Custom 74 30th Anniversary set on display there was at full price. I ended up getting the Nagasawa ‘original’ (but, in reality, a Platinum #3776 Century with custom nib scrollwork/imprint) Silhouette there, as a cheaper and (by my reckoning) better alternative to the ‘Shape of a Heart‘ Chai Latte. Also on offer were packages each including a discontinued Sailor Lecoule (Horizon Blue or Spearmint) special edition pen, a converter, a pad of Graphillo paper, and three 10ml bottles of different Kobe INK Story inks, for the (old) retail price of just the pen; so I picked up both variants, tax-free. My wife tacked on some half-priced document holders (not shown in the photo) and some such on clearance in the store.

 

Most of the rest shown in the photo came from Daiso, Amazon.co.jp (at cheaper than retail prices), and a Compass store in the Kobe Station complex offering ‘store-wide’ (but actually only in a limited manner) 20% discount on various brands of writing instruments.

6 Comments


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2ouvenir

Posted

Nice. I see you got the Sailor TUZU LE Translucent Blue. I would've gotten this colorway too, if I were to buy one; I don't think it's available in NA yet. I heard the B nib has a pleasant "Sailor pencil-like" feedback. I wonder what the F and M are like.

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A Smug Dill

Posted

3 hours ago, 2ouvenir said:

I wonder what the F and M are like.

 

The TUZU's M nib, when I tried it in the store, wrote too broadly for my requirements and preferences. I didn't bother testing the B nib, even though it was offered.

 

As for the F nib, it's smoother and less feedback-y than the steel F nibs on the Sailor Profit Casual and Procolor 500 fountain pens. Kinda like a better, less flimsy-feeling version of the Sailor Lecoule's and Profit Jr.'s steel MF nibs.

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2ouvenir

Posted

37 minutes ago, A Smug Dill said:

As for the F nib, it's smoother and less feedback-y than the steel F nibs on the Sailor Profit Casual and Procolor 500 fountain pens. Kinda like a better, less flimsy-feeling version of the Sailor Lecoule's and Profit Jr.'s steel MF nibs.

 

Interesting. From the sounds of it, the nib is at least acceptable.

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A Smug Dill

Posted

The way I see it now, the Sailor TUZU (with retail price of ¥4,500+tax) is positioned as a direct competitor to the Platinum Procyon (now with retail price of ¥6,000+tax, up from ¥5,000+tax when first released). Spring-loaded inner cap to better prevent ink evaporation — check. Being able to draw ink up even when the ink level in the bottle is low — check. Refreshed nib design, made better than the entry-level steel-nibbed models (for Sailor, the Lecoule, Profit Jr, and HighAce Neo; for Platinum, the Plaisir, Prefounte, and Preppy) — check. The Procyon has a metal body, which is a plus to some prospective customers, although the matt finish on it is quite apt to scratch or wear off; the TUZU's plastic body is not bad, but it's priced a bit lower, and includes a converter in the standard retail package (while the Procyon doesn't). Then there's the (perhaps gimmicky) feature of being able to reorient the shaped grip section to suit the individual; and, not so much for the Japanese domestic market but perhaps to appeal to a subsection of fountain pen users in Western markets, availability of a factory-fitted B nib as an option. From that perspective, Sailor's entry can be quite compelling, and its retail pricing of the TUZU ‘justified’.

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Thanks for posting, great information on the Tuzu by Sailor.  Cannot wait for it to appear on Amazon USA.

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Prof Drew

Posted

I also picked up a TUZU. I quite like the blue color and basic Sailor steel nib. It's a good basic EDC at the Japanese price. It is a quite wet writer. I imagine lefties will enjoy the nib angle customization. I haven't tried playing with that aspect.

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