Namiki Mt Fuji and Wave
For the past years, I have always enjoyed my visits with Brigitte Courson at Plume et Bille in Paris. Her store, the presentation, the focus on a limited number of pen lines and her enthusiasm for pens make this my favourite pen store to visit in Paris. Over the course of the past years both my wife and I make specific time to visit with Brigitte each time we are in Paris.
From my very first visit to the store, I have admired the Namiki line of pens. In 2015 Brigitte handed me her own Namiki pen and I sat down at the writing table and wrote with her pen in the book she keeps for customers to record their comments about the store and their pens. I was taken with how smooth the pen wrote.
In June 2016 when I visited with Brigitte I did more than write with a Namiki, I have now joined the group of owners of Namiki pens. What an experience that is! I now proudly own the Limited Edition Namiki Mt Fuji Wave fountain pen No 1160.
Namiki pens are expensive as they are not mass produced. Each of the pens involve extensive hand work with the application of layers of lacquer, the etching of the design, the painting and dusting with silver, gold and paint. I stepped into the experience acquiring a pen in the Nippon Art Collection - Tradition Line. This can referred to as the entry line, but to say that does not give credit to the workmanship of the pen.
The Tradition line uses the Hira Maki-e, flat method. It does not have the build-up of multiple layers of paintings and it is the time to create that art that contributes to the price point rather than being considered a cheaper version of the Namiki pens itself. I found using the 14 kt nib to be extremely smooth. The higher prices lines use an 18kt nib.
Yes some of the Namiki pens sell at the $14,000+ level. The higher the line the more detailed the art work, the more layers of lacquer, the more extensive the dusting with gold and silver. As I wrote with the pen in my travel journal for the week that I was in Paris, the Mt Fuji and Wave writes at the same level as most expensive Italian or German pens. So do not be led to believe because this is the foundational price line that you are acquiring a lesser experience.
Pilot, a Japanese company, had roots that go back to 1918. The company was part of the movement from brush to pen. The nibs must be soft, smooth and flexible to be able to write the detailed Japanese characters. Ryosuke Namiki, a professor at the Tokoyo Merchant Navy College and Maaso Wada established the Namiki Manufacturing Company near Tokyo to create and market the fountain pen.
In 1925 Namiki patented a process for applying lacquer to protect them from scratching and discoloration. The lacquer from from the Urushi Tree in Japan. From 1926 Namiki opened branches in London, New York, Shanghai and Sinapore. The Galerie du Louve in Paris and Harrod's in London became early and important successes. Alfred Dunhill bought the rights to sell the Namiki pens in France. Then, in Europe and the United States, a line of "Dunhill-Namiki Made in Japan" pens were marketed.
The higher end pens take almost four months to make a single pen, because a single artist work on each pen. My pen, the Mt Fuji and Wave is part of the Tradition Line. The patterns are drawn on the pen with pencil, to shorten the production time, and then pens can be made by a group of artists, versus a single artist for each pen. The hand painting, sprinking with gold and silver powers, additional layers of lacquer, the repeating polishing bring out a shine the emphasize the detail of the pens.
Brigitte loaded a tray with almost ten different pens to consider. It was hard, but each pen she talked about the pattern and as I held and looked at each pen, I found myself being drawn to three different pieces of art. I almost choose one of the Origami Crane as the simplicity of the patterns appealed to me. But at the very last moment the red of the Mt Fuji and Wave spoke to me and I had made a firm decision that it would be my pen.
This is the type of service you get at a great pen store. Having time and attention to make a careful decision of which pen is the best pen for you.
Selecting the pen was a very different experience and I appreciate the patience and knowledge of Brigitte in helping me with the process. Typically, if I am selecting a pen from one of the Italian companies that I like, the decision is based on the overall colour of the pen. Do I prefer the pen in blue, black, sometimes red. But with the Namiki pen, I was choosing which piece of art meant more to me. I found the process to be more personal and one that takes time.
The Mount Fuji and Wave depicts the block print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which is one of the most famous of the series by Katsushiuka Hokusai, thirty-six views of Mount Fuji. The original is a woodblock print, and it is found in many of the great art museums of the world including New York, London, Chicago, Los Angeles and also in Claude Monet's house in Giverny, and I am looking forward to seeing "my pen" in such locations.
The Namiki Mt Fuji and Wave is credited to Artisan Kokokai (Pilot Maki-e Artisans Group. The pen body and cap are carved ebonite with Maki-e Oilless Black Urishi Lacquer. The pen comes in a wood presentation box, complete with a bottle of Namiki ink. The pen is fitted with a push button filler. The pen has the guild mark and the characters for the artist group on the body of the pen as part of the design.
I have to ask myself if one could ever buy a pen like this on-line? For me holding the pen, seeing how the art showed in my hand the way I held the pen, was all part of the personal process of selecting my Namiki. Here is where I find a shop such as Plume and Bille to be so important. I was not standing at a counter with other customers and distractions. Briggitte has a writing table set up in the back section of the store where you sit to select and then test write the pen.
Brigitte asks you what paper you use, and has a selection of pens for you to use. I mentioned my use of Clairefontaine paper for my travel journal and out came a sheet of Clairefontaine paper as well as other brands to use.
The next part was going to be the more difficult. I like a nib, a #5 size, in a broad width, and Brigitte fitted the pen I selected with a broad nib and the writing experience began. Yes the Japanese nibs are smalled in width than the European and North American nibs but the broad was sufficient and I was impressed with how incredibly smooth the 14th kt gold nib wrote.
The pen is at the smaller range in terms of size that I prefer. The barrel has a diameter of .47" and I tend to lean to the .5" and larger pens, and the length of the pen is 5" from the top of the body to the tip of the nib. The pen body and nib is the same length as my Pelikan M800, so it is only the width of the body that changes here.
Despite being a smaller pen, I used it exclusively for the next four days while in Paris. Writing in my travel journal was an experience I fully enjoyed. In fact, the day before we left Paris and specifically went back to the store to thank Brigitte in helping me select the Namiki pen. (With that visit, I found I had just missed someone who specifically went to the store after reading my previous reviews, and I will write about that in my Views Column, shortly.)
The Pilot-Namiki web site provides a short video showing how the pens are made, it is well worth the look.
Brigitte, Merci beaucoup pour votre aide. J'adore mon stylo Namiki. Il est un stylo que je vais utiliser et chérir pendant de nombreuses années. Je me réjouis de vous revoir bientôt.