Extraordinary Namiki Pen – Namiki Gold Fish Pen (Kingyo)
Appreciating a Gold Fish pen by Namiki is not complete without knowing a bit of history of what Gold Fish meant to the Japanese.
The Japanese enjoy looking at these fishes and usually keep them in a large glass gold fish bowl. The first pure breed of Gold Fish was imported from China at the beginning of the 16th century, different species were imported during the Edo Period(1603-1867), and keeping kingyo for enjoyment became widespread. Until the 1960s, Gold Fish sellers flourished in Tokyo, carrying around kingyo-filled buckets suspended from a shoulder carrying pole.
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.
Pilot 95th Anniversary Pen – The Rising Dragon 昇り龍
As we waited anxiously for Pilot 95th Anniversary pens, The Rising Dragon 昇り龍 , to be launched to commemorate its heritage and to feature the beautiful pens they had made. Let us take a retrospective look on some of the Pilot Limited Edition Pen that was made in the past to mark Pilot’s milestone.
The vision and the courage of two pioneers, Mr. Ryosuki Namiki and Mr. Masao Wada in 1918 to make original Japanese pen models and designs inspired them to make pens that are characteristically Japanese.
Many of us are reminded of unique design of pens made by Pilot ranging from the Vanishing Points, Silvern range etched with uniquely Japanese icons like Mount Fuji, Miku (Chrysanthemum), Ryu (Dragon) and many other interesting designs.
The aspiration to be the best pen makers spurred the company to create world renown Maki-e series which are all so sough after by collectors worldwide.
Pilot 65th Anniversary
In 1983, the year when Pilot was established for 65 years, a commemorative 65th Pilot Anniversary Limited Edition pens (Pilot 65) were made in a new balanced shape (round top round bottom) and shaped to look like the 1930s model.
The entire pen has engine turned patterns with the number 65 engraved on a decorative cap band. 6500 pieces were made. Some smaller quantities were also made in maroon and blue black.
Dunhill Namiki was introduced to the world because of the need to bring Japanese made Namiki fountain pens to the international market when the sales agreement was signed between Alfred Dunhill and Namiki Pen Manufacture Japan in 1920s. The agreement to sell Namiki Pens under the name Dunhill Namiki was the biggest breakthrough for Namiki in its brand history.
How did Singapore come into play in the pivotal role as the conduit for the East & West culture? An interesting box containing an antique Dunhill Namiki pen reveals how important was Singapore being instrumental in bringing this wonderful love story together.
Inside the quiet corners of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the large lotus pond at the Symphony Lake never fails to attract my attention. As I watched the dragonflies frolic among the lotus flowers, it reminded me of how brilliant Namiki conceptualize 2013 Limited Edition Fountain Pens – Namiki Kachimushi << 勝虫>> alias Namiki DragonFly & Lotus Fountain Pen. (Latest update July 2015: Singapore Botanic Gardens is now a Unesco World Heritage Site !)
< 勝虫 > in Japanese, literally means “Victory Bug”. What is so special of such an insect DragonFly that triggers this trivial pursuit of pen collectors worldwide? Let me take this opportunity to illustrate the brilliance of Namiki that differentiates it from all Japanese fountain pen manufacturer.
The traditional use of the dragonfly among many Japanese art & crafts are evident in its ancient helmets (coming in 2015 Namiki Limited Edition Pen called Kabuto (兜, 冑) or Namiki Samurai Helmet Limited Edition Pen), swords, armors, kimonos, lacquerwares to illustrate bravery and courage. The tradition came from a tale that dates back to EmperorYuryaku (雄略天皇) who was the 21st Imperial ruler of Japan. Literally, the dragonfly was observed to have saved the emperor from being bitten by a horsefly – we laughed at it but yet, the dragonfly became a hero! How does it do that? It went straight to the prey and snap it steadfastly with 90 % accuracy on all its prey (documented truth). Forget about the lions and sharks, they have 25% chance of catching their prey.
Namiki illustrates the dragonfly in high relief maki-e 高蒔絵 and enhances the transparent wings with high quality mother of pearl. Noticed that even the dragonfly veins are visible too and that requires highly skilled artisan like Kokokai maki-e master , Mr. Masahiro Yamada, to give it the pinkish luster.
It would have been a chrysanthemum flower to adore the Namiki Dragonfly fountain pen but why a Lotus?
In the Far East, the lotus is associated with purity, chaste and good fortune. It is a symbol used prevalently in buddhism as the Goddess of Mercy <Kannon 観音 > rested on it to represent its mercy and purity.
As the lotus lies in wait to welcome its hero, artisan Mr. Masahiro Yamada presents the lotus leaves in green lacquer and high relief taka maki-e and burnish lacquering technique togidashi maki-e. Looks like the typical time when lotus blooms in the month of May.
Emerging as the next generation of Kokokai artisan, Mr. Masahiro Yamada demonstrated his talents with his presentation of the dragonfly in the most visible location – the pen section – to remind the user regularly of the courage and its unwavering determination to capture its objective. Brilliantly executed in jim-maki, nashiji and taka maki-e.You can see his emergence from the signature – it’s calligraphy! Shogo, one of the most decorated artisan of yester years, remained as my favourite with his beautiful calligraphy.
The packaging of this Namiki Limited Edition Pen is with a Kisotsuishu lacquer lid with ripples of water on the background to mimic the ripples created by the frolic of the dragonfly approach of the lotus on water. Usually found in the Yamanaka nuri, this is a modern yet captivates the essence of this beautiful and classical art piece.
The box surface is lacquered with the lotus on water
The overall presentation is elegant with a bottle ink that has the dragonfly maki-e on the cap.
The choice of a dragonfly and the lotus is just the perfect set up to welcome Pilot 95th Anniversary Dragon this year which we are quietly awaiting this Fall.
You see this first in Elephant & Coral Singapore – Pen Specialist since 1996 and visit us at http://www.elephant-coral.com for all your fine pens requirement. Call us at +65-6736-1322 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for enquiry. Only 150 pieces are available
Dragons are mythical creatures that has enchanted Asians, especially the Chinese, for thousands of years. In the new year 2012, lets talk about Dragon pens in its many forms as we inaugurate and welcome The Dragon Year 辰 or 龙.
In ancient times, Dragons are liken to the ruling emperors and the emperor is also called “the son of the dragon” – 《天子》. It was deliberate to give the utmost sovereign power to the emperor who rule over the thousands of peasants. Even the costumes with dragon motif were wore only by emperors and all others who were found to have the dragon motif on the costumes were punishable by death. Continue reading The Ultimate Rare AAA Namiki Dunhill Namiki Dragon Fountain Pen