The Mysterious Da Vinci Code behind Vintage Namiki Pen – Autumn Grass – HAGI 萩

Vintage Namiki Pen – Autumn Grass alias Hagi

Vintage Pilot Fountain Pen Empeor Autumn Grass c. 1980s
Vintage Namiki Fountain Pen – Pilot Emperor size pen Autumn Grass c. 1980s

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.

Close up of trimmings
Close up of trimmings

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.

Secret Kanji 1 on cap
Secret Kanji 1 on cap

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.

Secret kanji characters on barrel
Secret kanji characters on barrel

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.

Legendary Zao Wou Ki 赵无极 13 February 1920 – 9 April 2013
Legendary Zao Wou Ki 赵无极 13 February 1920 – 9 April 2013

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.

Beyond Vermillion Red : Pilot Limited Edition Pen – 95th Anniversary Rising Dragon Noburi Ryu

Pilot Limited Edition Pen – 95th Anniversary Rising Dragon

Pilot Dragon Pen
Pilot Limited Edition Pen celebrating 95th Anniversary of Pilot Pen.

Negoro Ware was the most popular lacquer ware during the Muromachi period of Japan (1392 – 1573). The name Negoro was derived from the original place of manufacture at the Negoro temple in Kii Province, Japan during the 14th century.

Unknown to many collectors of maki-e pens, the Pilot 95th Anniversary Noburi Ryu is the like of Negoro ware which is greatly prized for their appearance of antiquity.   When the time the black layer becomes visible in patches through the vermillion layer, it exhibits this simple, yet powerful complexion that makes them precious and admired.

Negoro ware and Pilot 95th anniversary Noburi Ryu Rising Dragon Vermillion Red
See the gradual wearing of vermillion red in Negoro ware and imagine how the Pilot 95th Anniversary Rising Dragon over time

The first look on the this maki-e Pilot Dragon Pen would gave it a miss because many thought that the dragon looks whimsical and does not bear the ferocity of most Dragons in the Pilot Limited Edition Pen that were made in the past or recent times.

Pilot 95th anniversary - Emperor rising_dragon FACE - Lumix-H

Essentially, it is the trained eye that can recognize immediately the existence and appreciation of this vermillion red that would turn to antiquity over time.  As the red lacquer wears away gradually and irregularly with use, producing the effect of natural aging for which these pieces becomes highly appreciated and sought after. Continue reading Beyond Vermillion Red : Pilot Limited Edition Pen – 95th Anniversary Rising Dragon Noburi Ryu

How Did Namiki Conceptualize Using DragonFly And Lotus On Namiki Limited Edition Pen?

Namiki Limited Edition Pen – Dragonfly

Namiki Dragonfly Limited Edition Pens available in SINGAPORE
Namiki Dragonfly ( Kachimushi) – One of the Namiki Limited Edition Fountain Pens

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.

Brilliant mother of pearl inlaid at the wings of the dragonfly.
Brilliant mother of pearl inlaid at the wings of the dragonfly.

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 Emperor Yuryaku (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.

A refreshing lotus lies in wait for the victor.
A refreshing lotus lies in wait for the victor.

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.

A reminder of the dragonfly at the section
A reminder of the dragonfly at the section

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.

Signature of Master artisan Mr. Masahiro Yamada
Signature of Master artisan Mr. Masahiro Yamada

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 lid cover with Kisotsuishu nuri on it to mimic ripples of water
The lid cover with Kisotsuishu nuri on it to mimic ripples of water

The overall presentation is elegant with a bottle ink that has the dragonfly maki-e on the cap.

Elegant presentation box
Elegant presentation box
Even the cap is maki-e with the Kachimushi
Even the cap is maki-e with the Kachimushi

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 for all your fine pens requirement.  Call us at +65-6736-1322 or email for enquiry.  Only 150 pieces are available

The Black & White World of Panda Fountain Pens

The Black & White World of Panda Fountain Pens

Pandas are lovely creatures that make you laugh when you see their clumsy ways. Giant pandas were declared a protected endangered species by the WWF (World WildLife Fund) because of its dwindling numbers.

Namiki Panda fountain pen, Sailor Panda fountain pen
Endangered Species protected by The WWF

But what does panda has to do with a fountain pen? Well, Panda was one of the most whimsical motifs chosen to grace a limited edition of 700 pieces Namiki “Endangered Species fountain pen” way back in autumn 1997.

Panda limited edition fountain pen produced in 1997
Namiki Panda Limited edition fountain pen

In those days, no one took The Panda seriously. When the first endangered species was made, The White Tiger, collectors were gearing up for some hot-blooded creatures for its next limited edition. When the Panda was first featured in its debut, it was more a laugh of its soft good nature soft nature and it is even harder to take a Panda pen seriously. Obviously, it did not chalked up good fast sales like its predecessor.

14 years today, the Giant Pandas remained as an endangered species, so is the Panda fountain pen. We can even see Kung Fu Panda in the cinemas too!

Quite similar to the Namiki Panda limited edition fountain pen
The Sailor Panda fountain pen

The Panda is a symbol of China, its emergence in the world stage as a major sovereign power is also seen in the rarity of even finding these fountain pens too.

Sailor Panda fountain pen barrel


Just like any siblings, the Sailor Panda fountain pen captures the playfulness of the panda in its natural habitat

The Giant Pandas resided in its natural habitat in Wolong ( 卧龙) meaning “Sleeping Dragon” in Sichuan province, China. As the legend of the Black & White unfolded just as the emergence of this great ancient civilization flexed its soft power, the Panda pen remained as the pen that one has to take it more seriously…..

The Legend of AAA Grade Namiki Fountain Pens and The Late Gonroku Matsuda

Who is Gonroku Matsuda?

Why is he such an interesting person in the world of Japanese maki-e fountain pens in relation to Namiki Fountain pens?

For many who collect Japanese maki-e lacquer pens, namely Namiki fountain pens, the name is synonymous to a legend who brings the soul of Japanese lacquer to a humble and simple instrument – A fountain pen. It is the late Mr. Gonroku Matsuda who first applied a traditional art form of maki-e onto a cylindrical surface,like a fountain pen, during his short stint in the Namiki Factory between 1925~1926. The late artist had an impressive list of honours under his name.

The following is a summary extract of Gonroku Matsuda’s life, works and honours:

1. 1896 – Born on April 20 in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Ken

2. 1903 – Began studying maki-e with his elder brother Kosaku

3. 1914 – Graduated from the Ishikawa Prefectural Industrial School and began study at the lacquer department of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts

4. 1919 – Graduated from Tokyo School of Fine Arts

5. 1924 – Displayed for the first time in the 11th Noten Exhibition and won second prize

6. 1926 – Began works on lacquerware at the Namiki Factory

7. 1927 – Resigned from Namiki and remained as an advisor to the firm. He became an assistant professor at Tokyo School of Fine arts and participated in the 8th Teiten Exhibition and subsequently exhibited every year.

8. 1928 – Made lacquer interior decorations for two Japanese ships.

9. 1929 – Received honorable mention in the 10th Teiten Exhibition.

10. 1930 – Nominated to the Imperial Art Academy

11. 1947 – Became a member of the Imperial Art Academy

12. 1955 – Designated holder of an important intangible cultural property (maki-e).

13. 1962 – Became chairman of the Japan Crafts Association

14. Published a book entitled Urushi no Hanashi (The Tale of Lacquer)

15. 1974- Awarded a Second class order of the Sacred Treasure

16. 1976 – Awarded an Order of Cultural Merit

17. 1978 – Held a one-man exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo A distinguished artist who had dedicated his entire life to the traditional art of Japanese lacquer.

He was a dedicated person in the preservation and protection of old works of art and to education in traditional crafts. His works are by no means limited to lacquer but he had earned the profound respect of many of his countrymen as one of the most important figures in the history of Japanese maki-e lacquer art.

After briefly turning his hand to the production of export lacquerware at the Namiki Factory, at the age of thirty one, he returned to the Tokyo School of Fine Arts to begin teaching that lasted until he was sixty seven. After retirement, he began putting to use his accumulated knowledge and skill in creating strongly original lacquer vessels.

Nice maki-e pen
A beautiful Japanese Maki-e pen


He and others who share his belief in the necessity of revitalizing traditions in modern terms formed the Japan Crafts Association in 1955. Gonroku Matsuda remains active till his eighties. A decorated, distinguished artist who had created a legacy of collectors worldwide who were so much enchanted by his dedication and development in Japanese maki-e lacquer works on a fountain pen.