Whenever one is thinking of oriental zodiac fountain pens, one is thinking of 12 different animals and hence 12 different fountain pens with each pen representing one animal.
There is a chronology on the order of oriental zodiac starting from Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and last of it, the Piggy, representing the 12 year cycle.
In the history of Namiki, 2 versions of zodiac fountain pens were made in the past and present. The original version was made of ebonite and decorated with taka maki-e (high relief lacquer and some jim-maki-e (gold dust lacquering), more light weight, flat top and bottom. (see above)
Legendary artists who had made these earlier fountain pens include
¨ Kyusai Yoshida 吉田久斋 (Pig, Rabbit, Ram)
¨ Hyakusen Murata 村田百川(Rooster,Snake, Ox)
¨ Masaru Hayashi 林胜(Dog, Monkey, Horse,Tiger)
¨ Yasunori Sakamoto 坂本康则(Dragon, Rat).
This collection was discontinued since 2007-2008 and replaced by a newer edition of zodiac collection made of metallic brass (kintai); heavier and a little more expensive.
Incidentally, we have come across one such fountain pen that changed the way we looked at individual Namiki Zodiac fountain pen vis-à-vis seeing one large Emperor Namiki fountain pen that has all the 12 legendary animals together. It was like a myth and a dream!
The Myth that was not a Dream
Some questions occurred in our minds:
1. Is it ever possible to even have one fountain pen that has all 12 animals on one pen itself without compromising the beauty and harmony of the pen?
2. Did Namiki ever make such a pen?
Fortunately, our concerns were unfounded.
The first sight of this Namiki Emperor size fountain pen made by Hyakusen Murata in his earlier years, brought about the joy of ecstasy. Our faces brightened up when we laid the pen on this table.
It had all the signs of craft skills from Master Hyakusen Murata ; his subtleness, skillful display of jim-maki-e (a trademark of his skills in using kimpun) and skillful conceptualization. Pen was made with kinji background, taka maki-e, rankaku and kimpun maki-e.
Even if we are not the ultimate proud owner of one of this very rare pen in this world; the glimpse of it brings us back to childhood and that smile that makes our days ahead cheery and meaningful.