The Kabuto 兜 depicted in 2015’s Namiki Kabuto Limited Edition is a symbol of authority and decoration in feudal Japan as far back as the Edo period in the 17th century. Only 170 limited edition pieces of Namiki Kabuto fountain pens are made by distinguish Kokokai artisan, Michifumi Kawakuchi 倫史.
The highlights of this Kabuto Fountain Pen are the Kabuto 兜 (helmet) and the Tachi (sword) which marked the glory and the honour of a Samurai armour.
In this instance, the Kabuto and the Tachi are honored on May 5th during the Japanese festival of Tengo no Sekku (the Boys’ Festival). The Kabuto and Tachi are often displayed at home during this special occasion to honor Japanese boys as they enter adulthood. It is the glorious moment when a boy enters into adulthood.
For experienced collectors of Namiki pen or Pilot Makie pens, most have seen this Emperor size Namiki pen, Autumn Grass alias Hagi 萩. It existed as early as 1980s in Pilot design and then later in mid 90s as Namiki Autumn Grass.
The vibrant gold nashiji (named after the famous Japanese pear-like gold dust) application on this design is characteristic of an artist who had been with the esteemed Namiki Pilot Kokokai 國光會 (the design studio which produces all these beauties) for more than three decades – Mr. Hyakusen Murata 村田百川. His unique style of makie in gold dust is found in many sought-after ever green classics like Yukari Double Gold Fish Kingyo, Kisshomon 吉祥文 and this pen 萩 Hagi Autumn Grass.
The highlight of this article focuses on an interesting aspect which even many experienced collectors may not know about it ; the secret codes on the pen.
It’s an interesting aspect of collecting Vintage Namiki pen and to unravel mysteries that few noticed. Of course, this comes few and far between because it requires some observation and Sherlock Holmes intuition and curiosity.
There are actually 3 kanji characters embedded among the Autumn Grass theme. When most fortunate collectors who have this pen in their hands, they are naturally attracted by the AAA Grade golden mellow nashiji and taka makie art illustrated on the grass petals first. Although It is not at all colourful like most beautiful makie pens, the skillful execution of makie lacquer art illustrates the highest lacquer art expertise from the artist.
Naturally, we are mesmerised by the aesthetics of the makie work so much so that we may actually miss the secret coded kanji characters weaved into the drawing itself.
In this magnified images, for the first time, you will see the detail of the characters revealed. Literally, they are “城 “, “野”, “宮”. It reads as “Shirono Miya” if taken as a continuous string of words.
I have also noticed in the early years “宮”on the cap but have certainly not seen “城 “and “野” – Shirono (both on the barrel). Could it be a place? Or an artist’s name who creates the line drawing of the theme? It may well not exist on all Hagi pens and each could be different.
The Pilot Emperor Hagi Autumn Grass reminded me of a very special limited edition of 50 pens made by Namiki in Autumn 2002 – Namiki Zao Wou Ki 赵无极. The late artist (13 February 1920 – 9 April 2013) was residing in Paris then. Original paintings of the late Zao Wou Ki are selling today for millions of euros.
Apparently, the yellow striations on the roiro background came from his painting 1.4.66. All his paintings are supposed to have his characteristic signature embedded in the painting. However, till today, I am still not able to unravel the million Euro artist’s signature on Zao Wou Ki pen and so I remain only good to be a specialist with this humble instrument, a fountain pen.
You are most welcome to visit Elephant & Coral Singapore to view these Vintage Namiki Pen collection whenever you are in Singapore. It is our pleasure to share these wonderful stories and discoveries with all our customers and pen enthusiasts.
In the sequence preceding year 2001, a special collection of Namiki pens were made by Namiki. These are the Namiki Pink Sakura, the Namiki Goose & Pink, Namiki Dancing Beauty and Portuguese Tradeship (alias Sailing Boat).
The edition sizes were 62, 83, 75 and 73 pieces respectively with the last matching numbered set being 62. It was not easy to have all the 4 pieces to be in matching set as it took, literally, 3 years to have all the various pieces made and delivered to customers due to the immaculate detail in the making of these pens. Many customers have forgotten about their order and from hind sight, it appears that the wait is all worth the while now as there are very few sets of four that are in matching numbers.
A quick reference to the book The Fountain Pens of The World revealed an interesting evidence that all these pens were actually a reproduction of prototypes made in the early years
Pink Sakura – reproduction of Vest Type, Raden Aogai-Pearl c. 1926
Goose & Pink – reproduction of a prototype c. 1968
Dancing Beauty – reproduction of Hagoromo c. 1926
Sailing Boat – reproduction of Portuguese Tradeship by Ritsuzan c. 1931
They are all absolutely fabulous masterpieces that are not available now except in the Pilot / Namiki museum archive.
The reproduction of Namiki Pink Sakura was the most outstanding as it was made by then the Chief Kokokai 國光會Artist- Master Kyusai Yoshida (吉田久齋). Appreciating the pen as one rotates the pen in the hand, it is as if you are looking at the glitter of a kaleidoscope. Pearls and aogai shells cut in the shapes of hearts to form the outline of sakura were seen as if it was in the floating world.
On a roiro background, the Namiki Goose & Pink revealed the simple pleasure of seeing a cute gander looking smart and right facing the world. The outstanding creation of the goose using silver on its breast revealing details of the layers of feathers and the high relief taka maki-e lacquer on its torso is a pleasure to feel and touch.
It was the lowest priced pens then and was the first to be sold out. Nevertheless, you can find the original prototype Goose & Pink in Elephant & Coral Singapore, from which the limited edition 83 pieces Goose & Pink, were modelled and reproduced around 2001.
a. A Heritage of Maki-e Pens – The Briggs Collection (Book is available for sale at Elephant & Coral – click here )
b. Fountain Pens of The World by Andreas Lambrou.
To many collectors, there are various reasons why certain pens appeal to them. Specifically, when comes to colour, green is not the colour many will cast their eyes on it. Green is usually deeper in colour when comes to maki-e (so far, I have not seen lime green lacquer). It is not the first preference for many users or collectors because it doesn’t stand out.
In the case of the Namiki Dancing Beauty, I have always advocate it as the ugly duckling that turns into a beautiful swan; if only one knows and sees beyond what this pen means in the future. The resemblance of this pen to an antique 1926 design is no coincidence but shows the high level of appreciation of art during the golden age of fountain pens.
The slender figure of the dancer under the aogai inlaid cherry blossom tree has an intricate illustration of aogai pearl shells,taka maki-e high relief lacquer and detail exhibit of the beauty of the clad kimono. On close scrutiny, the green lacquer is not just pure green but sprinkles of aogai shells are visible within the lacquer.
Green lacquer is not only rare in many maki-e but also precious. Essentially, because many did not like it on first sight; few are being collected or in the hands of users. Isn’t this a perfect excuse to collect it? Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder….
The only Jumbo 50 Emperor size pen made by Namiki among the collection. Namiki Portuguese Tradeship (alias Namiki Sailing Boat) illustrated a huge majestic ship in the ports of the Bugafu government.
With the maru pun gold dust sprinkled lightly on the entire pen and togidashi maki-e to give it the archaic look, the artist attempted to create a hybrid of the East and West cultures to appeal to foreigners.
Today, more than a decade now, a full set of these 4 matching numbered pens are rare and precious due to many reasons. It’s intrinsic value of beauty and art is undeniably the most interesting by Namiki in its attempt to bring back beauty of fine writing instruments during the Golden Ages of Fountain Pens during the 1920s and 30s.