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Japanese Design: What Do Japanese Really Like?


TassoBarbasso
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Hi Guys,

 

I have a question about Japanese design, i.e., what do Japanese people actually like in a pen? I'm getting more and more interested in Japanese design and from what I can see, there seems to be a certain "dicothomy" in design styles, not just in terms of pens.

 

In a way, it seems to me that there is something that we "Westerners" like and associate with Japanese design, namely, the minimalist-looking, Zen-ish stuff such as this, this, or, to stay in the field of pens, this, or, more broadly speaking, this kind of aesthetics. This seems to be reflected in a lot of high-end Japanese pens, such as Nakayas, Hakase, the Namiki Emperor series, the Sailor King of Pens, and pretty much everything that is urushi-coated or maki-e: very minimalistic design, maybe with highly elaborated decorations, but on very plain background. We're all quite familiar with this kind of aesthetics from movies, books, and of course, drooling over pictures of amazing urushi pens that most of us probably cannot afford. I'll call this the "Samurai" tendency. However, my theory is that this is probably not what Japanese people really like/want/seek.

 

This is because if one looks at what Japanese companies offer in terms of mid-to-high-range pens (i.e., below the level of things like the Sailor KOP or the Namiki Emperor, but within the range of what most people can probably afford), it's hard to stumble across anything minimalistic/Zen-ish: look at the range of Pilot customs, or Sailor's pens. Everywhere one sees a lot of gold hardware, a clear reference to Western pen design, re-interpreted in a form that remains rather unique, without the ostentatious design of, say, a MB 149, an Omas or a Pelikan M800: Japanese pens tend to be smaller (probably only the larger Pilot Customs or the Platinum President can compete with the MB 149 in length), very rarely show off their logos, and sometimes have rather "kitsch" details (such as the new clips on Sailor pens or the clip of the Platinum President, or the cap band on the Sailor king professional gear) or use colour combinations that are either long out-of-fashion in the West, or are of questionable taste to say the least. I'll call this the "Businessman" tendency.

 

So, considering that...

 

- The current Japanese aesthetic seems to be more oriented towards the post-modern (and the Kawaii) style than the traditional styles usually associated to Japan;

- There are probably 1.000 "businessman" Pro Gear with their kitsch cap band sold for every super-elegant minimalistic "samurai" Namiki Emperor Urushi, even though...

- ... minimalist/"Zen" design is not necessarily more expensive (quite the opposite: look at LAMY!) and could therefore be easily used on mid-to-high-range-end pens; urushi is not always needed, after all;

- There seems to be a lot more variety in the design of mid-to-high-range pens, looking at least at the experiments done by Sailor on their Sapporo/Pro Gear lines;

- Maki-e coated pens were initially popularized by Dunhill for the Western market;

- Companies such as Danitrio and Nakaya that clearly target primarily the non-Japanese market specialize in "Samurai" design;

- The pens in maki-e and urushi seem to have boomed in the period of the Japanese economic stagnation after 1991, when the internal market contracted and manufacturers had to look for alternatives;

 

...I tend to believe that a Japanese person would probably prefer something like a Pilot 845, with its 6 (six!) gold rings, than a plain Sailor KOP, regardless of the price, and probably sees our beloved "Samurai" pens as something that "only foreigners like".

 

I'm talking here of what people like, not what people can afford. After all, if the "Samurai" style really were the "best" in terms of tastes in Japan, shouldn't we see a lot more pens being offered in minimalist designs? Shouldn't we see Platinum, Sailor and Pilot behave more like Lamy or Faber Castell, with their cheaper, affordable Studio or Ondoro lines?

 

Maybe I'm just talking nonsense, but I'd love to hear what you think about this (especially if you are Japanese or live there).

 

Cheers,

Fabio

 

 

 

 

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  • amk

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  • TassoBarbasso

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  • Algester

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from what I see in Japan club meets there's one thing in common sharing inks... sharing the inks they acquired from KN and and the like (including ink clinics) but if your going to look at say someone's collection from shumi bungu no hako they dont showcase the Nakaya but typically the more usable ones without the steep price for example shumi bungu no hako for 2014 voted their PsOTY as follows

top 1 M800

2 3776 century

3 MB 146

4 M400

5 149

6 C845

7 Pro Gear

8 Kakuno

9 Dolcevita Medium

10 C743

 

rated new release as follows

1 M101N shellred

2. 3776 century Nice

3 Kakuno

4 M600 vibrant green

5 Duofold big red GT

6 M200 cognac

7 90th anniversary 146

8 Ogiva vision

9 minority series buri buri

10 Varius silas

 

but of course MB will still be ever be so present after all its a niche brand of high accolades LOL

 

but of course this is just a small sample and can not be a given factor to reflect what you think is the best decision also a lot of makers are making pens for retailers most active are

Delta, Sailor and Pilot, Platinum is also there but not that quite active

else be on guard when they finally celebrate their national FP day on september 25

Edited by Algester
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if your going to look at say someone's collection from shumi bungu no hako they dont showcase the Nakaya but typically the more usable ones without the steep price

 

But is this related to the Japanese culture of modesty, or do they genuinely prefer such pens? I mean, do they show off the more usable ones because they would be frowned upon for showing off expensive pens, or is it because they don't like them as much as less "Nakaya-style" pens?

 

Thanks for providing the list. It does seems to prove the point that Japanese people prefer more "businessman-like" pens than "samurai-like" ones.

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When I read the post, I thought of traditional chinese paintings vs western oil paintings. In traditional chinese paintings, there was a lot of white spaces. Western oil paintings were painted on every inch of the canvas. But fast forward to modern days, westerners collect traditional chinese paintings and chinese collects western paintings. This may also be reflected in pen collections. Globalization brings things within reach of virtually anyone who is willing to buy. Japanese can like anything western as much as japanese or even chinese. :)

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Interesting list of pens of the year! Nice to see Kakuno up there in the top new releases. I'm interested to see Pelikan getting so many votes; the company really seems to be on a new release roll right now!

 

I think there genuinely is a zen/wabi sabi aesthetic, but equally there are a number of other different Japanese aesthetics. Kawaii/Hello Kitty comes to mind (can't believe the pink and red Sailor Millecolore isn't an official Hello Kitty pen!).

 

Very much not an expert, though trying to learn Japanese (still can't read the instructions for my Platinum 3776 though), I find some very useful stuff on Japanese modern culture (using the term very generally; I particularly like the programmes on trains) can be found on NHK. I watched a lot of it in Bangkok where it was included in my hotel's cable subscription and have now bookmarked its Youtube site -

 

https://www.youtube.com/user/NHKWorld

Too many pens, too little time!

http://fountainpenlove.blogspot.fr/

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Interesting list of pens of the year! Nice to see Kakuno up there in the top new releases. I'm interested to see Pelikan getting so many votes; the company really seems to be on a new release roll right now!

 

I think there genuinely is a zen/wabi sabi aesthetic, but equally there are a number of other different Japanese aesthetics. Kawaii/Hello Kitty comes to mind (can't believe the pink and red Sailor Millecolore isn't an official Hello Kitty pen!).

 

Very much not an expert, though trying to learn Japanese (still can't read the instructions for my Platinum 3776 though), I find some very useful stuff on Japanese modern culture (using the term very generally; I particularly like the programmes on trains) can be found on NHK. I watched a lot of it in Bangkok where it was included in my hotel's cable subscription and have now bookmarked its Youtube site -

 

https://www.youtube.com/user/NHKWorld

but they have the pink and white KoP being sold in sanrio... and thats the official limited ED hello kitty pen I still say thats very representing of hello kitty's color

 

for JP cultural sho there's NHK's begin japanology

Edited by Algester
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  • 8 months later...

What Japanese like?

 

in the mid 90th a group of my students (Industrial Design) entered a design competition held by the Japanese, design for cutlery, home and professional. The scope is unlimited.

We discussed, how to narrow down the choice. We assumed that the judges would be Japanese. Therefore, some of the students studied Japanese design and we tried to extract some essential criteria.

This group applied what they had discovered. Their entries were awarded top credits/prizes.

 

it sounds like: More of the same....and I mean that with high respect. Not much around the world has such a high degree of honourable attitude as the basis of design decision making.

with kindness...

 

Amadeus W.
Ingeneer2

visit Fountain Pen Design

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Urushi IS pretty much necessary on ebonite pens unless you want the sun to bleach out the color. The Pilot 845s are ebonite. Other models by Pilot and others are also ebonite. Properly applied Urushi is time extensive and thus costly even for simple non Makie finishes.

 

The lists Algester provided are probably a very good indication of what is preferred here.

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  • 2 weeks later...

From flipping through Japanese magazines, the Japanese love anything vintage and Western - anything that tells a story.

"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."

– Lin Yu-T'ang

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