The Big Three
Pen Companies in Japan
Although there are many fine fountain pen companies in Japan, the three major companies are Sailor, Pilot and Platinum. Here is a brief description of each.
Sailor was started in 1911 by Kyugoro Sakata, an engineer from Hiroshima. Mr. Sakata was first introduced to fountain pens when a British Sailor gave him one as a gift. He immediately decided to create and market fountain pens in Japan. The factory is still in Hiroshima although the head office is now in Tokyo.
Pilot was founded in 1918 by Ryosuke Namiki in Tokyo, and its original name was Namiki. Namiki was the first company to apply the ancient maki-e technique to fountain pens. After 1930 they exported Dunhill Namiki maki-e pens through Alfred Dunhill Ltd of London. The company changed its name to Pilot, and pens not marketed through Dunhill were called Pilot. Recently the company has brought back the Namiki name for pens sold outside of Japan. But this time Namiki is a division of Pilot.
Platinum had its beginnings in 1919 when Shunichi Nakata opened a pen shop in Okayama prefecture. Five years later he moved to Tokyo and formed the company Nakaya Seisakusho. Later the name of the company was changed to Platinum Pen Company. It is still located in Tokyo, and the current president is Toshiya Nakata, grandson of the founder.
The Nakaya name has also been revived with the establishment of the Nakaya Pen Company which employs retired craftsmen from Platinum who specialize in handmade fountain pens.