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Report On The Maruzen Fountain Pen Fair In Tokyo - March 5-11, 2014


daoud62

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I was in Tokyo from 5-10 March for a long-awaited holiday. I knew that I would be spending a lot of time on the Metro and specifically chose a hotel close to Tokyo Station and the Nihombashi stop. Little did I know, but my hotel was just around the bend from the flagship store of Maruzen, which was my first stop after a 14 hour flight from NY and a one-hour train ride on the Narita Express.

 

When I walked into Maruzen, I noticed signs in the windows with photographs of fountain pens, and I was able to decipher that an event was taking place: the Fountain Pen Fair. Stepping inside, I found a table with all sorts of files and a small lathe, with a selection of pens that I recognized from the internet: Ohasido. The gentleman who worked at this table was the chief apprentice of Uehara-san, who passed away four years ago, and he is now their chief nib master. Ohasido created a limited edition radon and urushi pen to commemorate the Fair; limited to 10 pieces, I picked it up and had to have it. After little more than an hour in the country, I had already charged half the budget I had set aside for pen purchases. But, boy, is it beautiful, and the nibmeister made sure that the B nib suited my writing style.

 

I made my way downstairs on the escalator and, it being 6:30 pm, there were customers at every counter. For those of you who have not been to Maruzen, this is a piece of fountain pen heaven: wherever you look there are pens, and literally dozens of uniformed salespeople to tempt you with goodies that make you honored and glad to part with your money. You can try as many of them as you want, and there is never any rush or pressure. I wish that I could speak more than 100 words of Japanese because I am sure the conversation would have been interesting, but as it is, I was too mesmerized by the sheer volume of what they had on offer.

 

Then there was the ink: Athena, the house brand, released a special edition ink for the Fair called Nihombashi Kirin, which is a blue-gray. Only 200 bottles were made, and the saleswoman told me that they were only available in that store, not in the other branches of Maruzen, such as the lovely one in the Oazo Building across from the Marunouchi entrance of Tokyo Station. The ink was obviously popular because the store completely sold out by the time the Fair ended. They also had Athena Sepia, in the vintage-style bottle, as well as Athena Blue-Black. My understanding is that all of the inks are made by Sailor, which is as good a recommendation as any as far as I am concerned.

 

On Thursday the 7th, Yoshida san, the nibmeister par excellence of Nakaya, held a pen clinic on the ground floor. He had the whole array of Nakaya pens on a table beside him, and an extremely friendly English-speaking assistant named Sayaka Tanabe who served as translator. I expected to find a queue, but there was only one gentleman discussing a pen with him, and then my turn came. I had brought along my Naka-ai in Toki iro (the Classic Fountain Pens limited edition) which has a BB stub nib that was skipping occasionally. Yoshida san modified it somewhat, and I have not had a bit of trouble since. Knowing that he had worked at Platinum for a number of years, I showed him the Platinum Amazonas that I had bought a few months ago on Yahoo Japan, and he asked whether he wanted me to adjust it to my writing style and ncrease the ink flow, which he did.

 

On Sunday the 9th, Yukio Nagahara, the son of Nobuyoshi san, held a pen clinic to make nib adjustments for all of those who bought Sailor pens at the Fair. I had not yet bought a Sailor (that was to change very quickly), but Nagahara san remembered me from the LA Show, and he called me over when I waved to him from the counter. He asked whether I had any pen that he could help me with, and I gave him two of the Sailor pens that I had in my briefcase. I was amazed at how effortlessly he tinkered and hammered away at the nibs and made them absolutely perfect.

 

Thrilled with my Ohasido, I nevertheless wanted to take home a Sailor pen. Something unique, different. Two Susutakes were on display at the Sailor counter, and I tried one of them. I have large hands, and like big pens, and the Susutake is about as big as they come. Half in jest, I asked whether they still had any of the old ones that Nobuyoshi san had made before retiring, the ones with the gold plate attached to the barrel, and made a hand motion on the barrel to show where the plate would be. Imagine my surprise when the saleswoman disappeared into the back room and came back with one!

 

It is lucky, and purely coincidental, that I stayed only steps away from Maruzen during this year's Fountain Pen Fair. I went to the store at least once a day for the five days that I was in Tokyo, and had the honor and pleasure of talking with two of the greatest nibmeisters of all time. I also came away with two spectacular pens. Things could not have worked out better...until I went to Tottori on Monday to visit Hakase. But, that's a story for another time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank you for this excellent and timely report! I plan to be in Tokyo next month and will be staying, as you did, at a hotel "close to Tokyo Station and the Nihombashi stop." I had not planned to visit the Maruzen store, but I certainly will now. I have planned to go to the Itoya Store in Ginza, but the Maruzen store you described may be even better. I hope to find out. Google Maps will be my friend. Once again, I really appreciate you taking the time to report on the fair and this store!

 

All the best,

T

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Thank you for this excellent and timely report! I plan to be in Tokyo next month and will be staying, as you did, at a hotel "close to Tokyo Station and the Nihombashi stop." I had not planned to visit the Maruzen store, but I certainly will now. I have planned to go to the Itoya Store in Ginza, but the Maruzen store you described may be even better. I hope to find out. Google Maps will be my friend. Once again, I really appreciate you taking the time to report on the fair and this store!

 

All the best,

T

You're very welcome!

 

By the way, I stayed at the Hotel Ryumeikan (no affiliation). If you stay there, walk right out of the front door, make another right at the corner, and go up two blocks to the big street. There is a bank on the corner and an entrance to the Tokyo Metro (that's the Nihombashi stop on the Ginza, Marunouchi and Tozai lines). Make a right turn there and walk about two blocks and you will find Maruzen on your right-hand side, directly across the street from the big department store Takashimaya. Maruzen is huge; you can't miss it.

 

K. Itoya (or Itoya 1904) in Ginza is well worth a visit as well. It is the annex right up the street from the stationery department of Itoya and has nothing but "fine writing instruments" and accessories. Ask for Matt Watson, who is an American fountain pen enthusiast who works for Itoya and is fluent in Japanese. The second floor of K. Itoya is like a museum of maki-e and limited editions...great for salivating.

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Wow, you had an amazing holiday in Japan! Thanks for the level of detail you put into the report, it really brought to the surface memories I have of both Yoshida-san and Nagahara-san adjusting my pen nibs in Singapore. Strangely enough, the most vivid memory I have of those pen clinics is having lunch with Nagahara-san and other Sailor staff during a lull period.

 

I look forward to reading your Hakase report!

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love the luster of the barrel! and what serendipity:)

 

Congrats--I am sure your pen will serve you well

 

J

"Writing is 1/3 nib width & flex, 1/3 paper and 1/3 ink. In that order."Bo Bo Olson

"No one needs to rotate a pen while using an oblique, in fact, that's against the whole concept of an oblique, which is to give you shading without any special effort."Professor Propas, 24 December 2010

 

"IMHO, the only advantage of the 149 is increased girth if needed, increased gold if wanted and increased prestige if perceived. I have three, but hardly ever use them. After all, they hold the same amount of ink as a 146."FredRydr, 12 March 2015

 

"Surely half the pleasure of life is sardonic comment on the passing show."Sir Peter Strawson

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I had hoped for as much based on your description, for I will be staying at the Hotel Ryumeikan (my first time there), and I will be following your directions exactly to go to the Maruzen store. I made my reservations a few months ago at the hotel, and unless they have had a computer crash I should be all right checking in. I have read a lot of reviews of the hotel, and I chose it for the reviews and because it is close to Tokyo Station. BTW: I did look at Google Maps, and I was hoping you would read my reply and send me the directions to the Maruzen store from the Ryumeikan. I went to the Itoya Store and bought some pens last year, and they repaired the nib on a Platinum ribbed pen that I had dropped on a tile floor a few months earlier. I did see the upstairs too. Fantastic! I hope the Maruzen store is as nice as Itoya (of course I will not be there during a pen fair). Thanks so much for your reply and the directions. It is a small world after all.

 

Oh yes, I just remembered. I took the Narita Express back to the airport last year, but I think this year I will take the Access Narita from the airport to very near the hotel. I enjoy seeing the sights, and I think I will enjoy the bus ride. I have not ridden on the Access Narita before, but it seems that it will be easy to find the bus stop at the airport and the walk is very short from the stop near Tokyo station to the hotel.

 

Again, thanks for taking the time to give me some detailed directions! Enjoy your new pens!

 

All the best,

T

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Thank you for the report! I recall seeing the model listed on the flyer for the Maruzen pen show. Glad you managed to pick it up and have pictures too :)

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I was in Tokyo from 5-10 March for a long-awaited holiday. I knew that I would be spending a lot of time on the Metro and specifically chose a hotel close to Tokyo Station and the Nihombashi stop. Little did I know, but my hotel was just around the bend from the flagship store of Maruzen, which was my first stop after a 14 hour flight from NY and a one-hour train ride on the Narita Express.

 

<SNIP>

 

It is lucky, and purely coincidental, that I stayed only steps away from Maruzen during this year's Fountain Pen Fair. I went to the store at least once a day for the five days that I was in Tokyo, and had the honor and pleasure of talking with two of the greatest nibmeisters of all time. I also came away with two spectacular pens. Things could not have worked out better...until I went to Tottori on Monday to visit Hakase. But, that's a story for another time.

 

 

 

ARGH...you can't leave us hanging like that!?!?

 

Congrats on the pens: given the amount of admiration for Ohasido, you really lucked out - it usually takes months to buy/produce/receive their pens. That AND limited edition Athena ink AND a Nagahara Sr. Susutake...that's a trip worth bragging about.

 

FWIW, I remember the Narita Express (N'EX) fondly, although I usually took the Narita local train to save money. The local train would always stop somewhere for a few minutes to let the N'EX fly by; it was just enough time to step out of the train, buy a coffee from the vending machine (hot in winter, cold in summer), stretch your legs a bit and get back on the train for the last leg to the airport. While the trip longer, but I also looked at it as a trip to the suburbs & countryside that was lost long ago in Tokyo...

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daoud62

 

I live in Japan and work in Tokyo yet was only able to make it Maruzen's Pen Fair twice this year! How I do envy you. Were you asked by the Ohashido folks for your address? At least for those of us living in country, they send out post cards to tell us when the next show we bought our pens at will be. For you Maruzen's, for me Takashimaya in Kashiwa. If you bring in your pen and said post card, they will clean and tune up your pen. I have run across them at other shows and they have done the same for me without the post card, but he was busy at Maruzen this year so I decided to wait my turn till September when my show is on.

Sounds like you had a great experience. Enjoy your great pens.

 

Tumbleweedtoo and others.

 

Although it is always a pleasure to visit Maruzen, doud62 was there during their pen fair. Your experience will differ. You will not see pen booths on the first floor, surely not Nakaya AND Ohashido at the same time. During the pen fair, the escalator landing for the B1 floor was filled with booths from close to a dozen makers, foreign and domestic. Those will not be there. Nor will the pair of on duty nib masters at the pen clinic. However, what will be there are the usual great service from helpful and friendly staff, many large displays full of pens, a complete wall of ink.

 

If interested in Maruzen's line of pens, be sure to ask as they may not be on display. The Nihonbashi store had the Streamline but not the Athena The Pen which I was looking for. They called the Flagship store in Tokyo and had them set one aside for me.

 

Unless really, really pressed for time, I can see no reason to have to choose between Maruzen and Itoya. Each are wonderful to go to, have excellent service and offer a selection of items that may be difficult to find in one location out side Japan. But they do differ and you would be missing out if you chose either over the other. Besides, they are close to one another, within walking distance. A long walking distance perhaps but I have walked between them many times.

 

Although I have no affiliation, I must plug my favorite store, Kingdom Note in Shinjuku. They carry mainly used pens but the selection of new pens seems to be growing which they sell at discounted prices. If you come to Tokyo often, get one of their point cards, you'll get additional discounts and points that you can use as cash in their store. When you buy a pen from them and converter, they fill up the pen with the ink of your choice for free! This includes Hakase and the new Caran D'Ache inks too!!

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Thank you very much for this new information Tinjapan. I have been to Itoya in Ginza about 3 times, and when they wrapped a pen for a gift the experience of watching was incredible. I should have videoed it. She even wrapped a small box of ink cartridges and a bottle of ink separately to go with the pen. I have never been to Maruzen, so I am sure that I will go there first. I do want to buy another pen for a Japanese friend of mine that I will be visiting. I really do not need another pen, but if you have a suggestion for a fountain pen that I will most likely only be able to buy in Japan from either Itoya or Maruzen or somewhere else, I would certainly like to know what you would suggest (or anyone else would suggest).

 

Looking forward to my trip! :)

 

All the Best,

T

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Tinjapan, thank you for that information - how fascinating! It does seem as though Ohashido shows its pens around the country quite a bit. I hope to get hold of some of their pens one day.

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i'm overly envious. not only you get to be in japan, you visit pen shops, get to attend a pen fair, AND communicate with a nibmeister to get your pens fixed. sigh...

-rudy-

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I was in Tokyo just last week and missed this fair. :bawl:

Which Maruzen store was this ? Was this the one at Oazo? I thought the Oazo store is their flagship store... already 5 floors?

BTW The Itoya main store at Ginza is a construction site at the moment and looks like they relocated to a back street and stocks only stationery. Have they got a separate pen store nearby?

 

And oh Tinjapan... Kingdom Note is just 2 minutes from the hotel we stayed (Keio Plaza). I'll go there next time!

 

daoud62 you had a really great time there! Congrats on the pens!

Best regards, Kai

Montblanc 13x, #20/25/30/40, 244/6 Green Marbled, 322 Azure Blue, 234 1/2 G/PL, 256, 220, 34.

Montblanc 144G Grey, 146G Green Striated, 146 Silver Barley, 149 (50s-00s).

Montblanc WE Christie, Imperial Dragon, Wilde, Dumas, Dostoevsky, Proust, Schiller, Verne, Mann, Twain. PoA Prince Regent, Morgan...

Visconti Pontevecchio LE, Metropolitan Gordian Knot, Ripples. Omas Paragon Royale Blue HT, Extra Lucens Black LE. Pilot Silvern. Pelikan 620 Shanghai, 800 Blue o Blue.

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i'm overly envious. not only you get to be in japan, you visit pen shops, get to attend a pen fair, AND communicate with a nibmeister to get your pens fixed. sigh...

LOL. The problem with such a fantastic experience is that I want to go back...

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