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Design January, 24 2012

Buyer’s Guide | A Study of .35mm – .5mm Japanese Pens

We love reviewing the small things, including pens and pencils. Like most things utilitarian, not all operate or function in the same manner. Pens, for instance vary in line width, ink flow, and overall feel. On a chance encounter we were introduced to Tara Jepson, a lover of the Japanese pens who kindly offered to review a whole slew of Japanese pens we received from Jetpens.com.

Here is Tara’s take on what makes a great pen as well as her favorites from the bunch.

Photography: Dan Eckstein

I recently spent two weeks visiting Tokyo and Osaka. From stumbling upon an underground whiskey bar to admiring some of the Japan’s classic architectural gems to a twenty-course sushi feast, it was another incredibly inspiring trip.

While there are so many things that change and shift between my visits, two constants are stops at Tokyu Hands and Kinokuniya to stock
up on my favorite Japanese pens including the Hi-Tec-C and the Uni-ball Signo, both of which are difficult to find outside of Asia. Back in the States, the opportunity arose to test drive a whole variety of Japanese pens, including the Zebra sarasa, EnerGel, Pilot G-3 Gel, Pentel Slicci and a variation on the Signo known as the RT.

After using these pens for a couple weeks, two emerged as my favorites. As a fan of super thin lines, I am naturally drawn to very fine point tips that range from .35-5mm. I recognize that this thin of a tip is not for everyone, but for me it is the only way I can write.

What sets my favorites a part from the others?

Superior pens have none of that scratchy feeling on the tip that often comes with gel pens, especially at this millimeter sizing. The other thing that happens with some pens is that after a few uses, small fibers and dust collect on the tip, which obviously leads to a less than enjoyable writing experience.

That said, I’ve discovered that the Hi-Tec-C is still my all time favorite. It consistently creates the cleanest, sharpest lines around. The ink remains fluid regardless of how much pressure you use, which isn’t the case for most gel ink pens. I also love that it comes in a variety of colors including a color known as Utsuzumi Grey similar to the color of pencil lead. The down side of the Hi-Tec-C is its housing; it is a simple plastic case that looks a bit cheap and does not feel as durable as other pens.

Brooklyn design shop CW&T have solve this issue by creating the Pen Type-A, a stainless steel housing for the Hi-Tec-C cartridges. You can read more this great design solution and even purchase one for yourself.

In addition to the Hi-Tec-C, I discovered a new favorite, the Pentel Slicci.

Like the Hi-Tec-C, the ink is smooth and makes incredibly clear exact lines. The biggest difference between the Hi-Tec-C and the Slicci, is that the barrel of the pen is much slimmer than any other pen I’ve ever used. I have small hands so I see this a big advantage and integral to the design as a whole but I think those with larger hands may differ. Also, in contrast to the Hi-Tec-C, the housing of the Slicci also feels a bit slicker and more durable.

Overall, both pens are awesome and the next time you’re in Japan make sure to stop by Tokyu Hands if not for the pens, for the awesome selection of Porter bags and about a thousand versions of paperclips you never knew you needed.

– Tara Jepson

Editors note: those not able to visit Tokyo to stock up on these Japanese pens, can find them online via jetpens.com

Highsnobiety