Pen Event in Tokyo
October, 2001

Pow Wow

The annual Hakase Pen pen lovers' get-together was held on the second floor of Pow Wow, a coffee shop in the Kagurazaka district of Tokyo. Compared with the pen clinics I have visited at department stores, this was a much more relaxed atmosphere set in an earthy room with lots of wood and shadows and the smell of coffee in the air. People could come with their sick pens, and sit back and enjoy coffee and pen conversation with Hakase pen experts Masaaki Yamamoto and Harumi Tanaka.

Hakase is a two person company located in Tottori prefecture that specializes in Hand-made custom order pens. They special order the barrels to their specifications, and do all the metal work themselves, even hammering out the gold bands and clips! Pens are available in ebonite, celluloid, tortoise shell, rose wood, Brazilian King wood and even Holland water buffalo! The catalog does not spell it out, but I assume they use only the horns, and not the entire water buffalo.

Hakase president Masaaki Yamamoto examines a pen for visitor

Mr. Yamamoto, the president of Hakase Pens, handed me one of their pens and had me write my address on a special form while he watched. Then he handed me another pen and asked me to write my address again. He then handed me yet another pen and asked me to write again. Finally, I wrote with my favorite pen which I had brought with me--my super flex Waterman number seven red ripple. He made notations on the angle I held the pen, the angle of my arm in relation to my body, the pressure I used, the angle of the nib in relation to the paper, and my preferred nib size. Now that my particular writing quirks are on record, they can create a customized pen for me any time I contact them. They can even make me a flex nib to a certain extent. Mr. Yamamoto pointed out that Japanese prefer a stiffer nib for Japanese characters. I can understand this--my kanji goes out of control when I try it with a flex nib! By the way, My. Yamamoto is also a vintage pen buff. He recognized my Waterman as soon as he saw it.

An original "Doctor" Pen and case

The Hakase pen company was started in 1934 by Mr. Yamamoto's father. Back then, the company name was "Doctor." When the son took over, he changed the name to Hakase, which is Japanese for doctor. Mr. Yamamoto and Mr. Tanaka create each pen carefully by hand, and are only able to produce one pen per day. This is the main reason they only hold one pen event a year, and only in Tokyo--they can't get away for any more! Right now there is a waiting period of one year after the order is placed.

Pen master Harumi Tanaka examines a sick pen as the anxious owner looks on

Hakase does take orders from overseas, and have many regular customers in various countries. Simply contact them at the address below, and request a catalog. They will send you a form to take a writing sample. Then--presumably after a bit of correspondence--they can begin to create the perfect pen for you. However, Mr. Yamamoto cautions that there can be problems with overseas orders due to distance and language barriers. They do not speak English, and use a dictionary to decipher English orders. If you have a Japanese friend, or have some Japanese ability, the whole thing will go much smoother, especially since the catalogue is all in Japanese as well. Also, if you are not completely satisfied with the pen and have to have it sent back more than a few times for tweaking, the postage and insurance costs could be a nightmare. Also, if you are living in America, don't even think about ordering the the tortoise shell pens--there's a law prohibiting their export to America. I don't know about other countries.

The price for the pens in the Hakase catalogue ranged from roughly 400 dollars up to two thousand! I did not order a pen on the spot, but I left with a definite craving for one. No doubt, after I have saved up a bit of money--or simply have a moment of insanity--I will pick up the phone and give them the go-ahead to make that perfect pen. And then I will sit back and wait a year.

Contact Information for Hakase Pens:
605 Sakae-cho
Tottori-City 680-0831

Phone: +81-857-22-3630
Fax: +81-857-27-7714
Hakase Web Site (Japanese)

More photos:

Some Hakase pens made of ebonite, tortoise shell, and water buffalo horns

More ebonite pens in red, blue, black and yellow, a wood pen, and some celluloid jade green and mixed color pens

This woodgrain ebonite pen has a gold band with a "bump" to keep the pen from rolling off the desk