The Sailor Pen clinic in Tokyo

October, 2001

October must be the month for Pen clinics here in Tokyo! Sailor, Pilot and Platinum (with Nakaya) are setting up tables with pen masters at the major department stores on weekends throughout the city and surrounding areas.

This weekend, Sailor was holding a pen clinic at Isetan department store in Shinjuku (part of Tokyo). Pentracer Mikiko Yamamoto went on Saturday, and I went on Sunday. We compared notes via e-mail, and came up with the following report.

Mikiko:At the Sailor pen clinic, I was told I could ask up to two pens for repair or adjusting. So I asked the pen master to fix two of my pens: a vintage Waterman 55 red ripple w/M nib whose tines were misaligned and a Delta Nautilus w/F nib that had stingy ink flow. The result was great. His job was fast as Marie had said on Pentrace. The two pens were perfect in a few minutes.

The pen master, a famous person called Mr. Nagahara, worked silently and looked so concentrated. I had an impression that he was a typical artisan type, spending his whole life single- mindedly in that line of work. I heard from the Japanese pen board member that he is on his 70s, born in 1928.

Russ: I went to the sailor Pen clinic the next day, and Mr. Nagahara was there, and he was a real character. I asked him if I could take his photo and he said No--unless he could have a copy! Luckily I had a digital camera that could make copies onto floppies so he smiled and agreed. He quickly pulled me into the conversation, and told me he was going to start going to the Chicago Pen Shows from now on.

He kept motioning me to come closer, and then he would hold up a pen he had made and say "you ever see anything like this in America?"

First he showed me a pen with a fat bamboo barrel which he had made for a customer, who had brought the pen in for a nib adjustment. The natural bamboo indentations fit the writing hand of the owner perfectly! I could even feel a slightly deeper groove where the index finger went.

Then Mr. Nagahara showed me a pen with a very thick leather barrel and matching cap. It resembled a very fat sausage. Next he showed me another bamboo barreled pen that had a finish that had evolved over 180 years as part of a thatched roof! The parts under the crisscross lashings stayed a light bamboo color and the rest had turned a rich dark brown.

Finally he handed me a pen and a loupe and stated that while pen nibs in America have one vertical slot when viewed from the front, Japanese pens have a cross. I had no idea what he was getting at until I saw through the loupe that there was indeed a cross on the underside of the tip. There was an additional slit running horizontally throught the nib to where it disappeared under a metal piece that covered much of the top of the nib. The extra slit was to allow ink to flow more freely in broad nib pens.

The idea came to him while he was sleeping one night. Realizing he was an incurable inventor, I asked him if the grinding machine in front of him was also his invention. It was.

I mentioned that the photos were for an Internet pen discussion group, and several people asked for the Pentrace URL, which I scribbled out with a variety of wonderful Sailor pens on test paper there. Some folks even recognized my NYC Pen show cap! Hey, maybe they think I'm some hot shot collector!

Mikiko Yamamoto and Russ Stutler