SINGAPORE (Oct 22): Many of us text and use a stylus pen daily to communicate. We also write our list of things to do on our smart devices and add captions to pictures with a stylus to post on Instagram. When a pen is placed in my hand, it feels like I am going back to my childhood when we had to learn the fine art of penmanship. Did typing kill the traditional writing instrument?
We think not, as there has been a rise in interest in all things retro such as the vinyl turntable and cassettes by millennials. The Telegraph website reported that the fountain pen is enjoying a renaissance as millennials turn to handwriting in an attempt to escape the digital age.
One brand riding this renewed wave of interest is Pilot Pen, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. As with any celebration, special-edition sets and pieces have been created. The star of the collection is a set of seven pens, with each depicting one of the Japanese Seven Gods of Fortune known as Shichi-fuku-jin.
Only 25 sets are made worldwide, with three sold to collectors in Singapore. The numbers may seem small, but 11 artists were involved in the endeavour, with each pen taking up to three months to make. Each set, which costs $75,000, comes with a Maki-e box, pen tray, holder and seven pots of coloured ink.
For this anniversary set, Pilot Pen gathered artisans from the Kokkokai Maki-e group. This group was started in 1931 by Gonroku Matsuda, a master in the lacquer technique of Maki-e.
In the early days, the practice was to use a material called ebonite, which is a mix of sulphur and rubber, for the body of fountain pens. Ebonite tended to change colour and lose its shine over time. Namiki Co Ltd (now known as Pilot Corp) gathered a team of specialists to tackle this problem. Their ingenious solution was to add lacquer to ebonite. They then decided to use the Maki-e technique on the fountain pens. The pens in the anniversary set are even more special, as they are sprinkled with gold and silver powder.
Namiki Co Ltd was founded in 1918 and changed its name to Pilot Corp in 1926. A subsidiary of Pilot Corp of Japan, Pilot Pen was set up in Singapore in 1985. Pilot Pen remains one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of writing instruments in Japan.
If you missed out on collecting the 100th anniversary special-edition set, you can still get these:
The 100th anniversary commemorative pen is the Fuji, an Emperor-size pen that costs $13,800. The pen will be released next month and only 100 pieces will be available worldwide.
The Fuji and Meiji-Maru pen, which costs $2,100, will also be launched next month. A total of 800 pieces will be released worldwide.
In addition, a replica of the set of seven pens depicting the Japanese Gods of Fortune will be released in March 2019. While they are also individually serial-numbered, they will have a clip instead of the ring on the cap. They will be individually boxed and do not come with a tray. A complete set of seven pens will be offered at $45,000 each.
(Left) The Fuji pen will be released next month; only 100 pieces will be available worldwide.
(Right) The Fuji and Meiji-Maru pen, which costs $2,100, will also be launched next month. A total of 800 pieces will be released worldwide.
Seven gods of fortune
The god of plentiful fishing is now regarded as the god of happiness and prosperity. The pen depicts him with a Fukuzasa, the bamboo believed to be a lucky charm. He holds a red snapper in his left hand and a fishing rod in his right.
An incarnation of the Hindu deity Shiva, he is worshipped as the god who took control of the earth. He is now believed to be the god of treasure, as well as happiness, prosperity and fortune. He sits on a straw rice-bag and holds a magic mallet. He is accompanied by a mouse, who is his emissary and lucky charm.
Originally thought to be a war god by the Samurai, he is now regarded as the god of financial fortune. He holds a trident in his right hand and a stupa that contains holy relics in his left. He has a halo around his head and is stomping on an evil demon.
The only goddess in the set, she is worshipped as the deity of wisdom and virtue that exists in a marriage bond. She is depicted playing a biwa (Japanese lute). As she is related to water, a wave crafted from Raden (mother-of-pearl) is incorporated in the pen’s design.
He stems from the Chinese Taoist god said to be the incarnation of the southern polar star. The name is derived from the three Chinese characters that mean perpetuation of one’s descendants, health and longevity. He is shown with a long head and beard, as well as large earlobes. He holds a gem in his hand to show gratitude for the help received from friends. The crane depicted on the cap is holding a cane and scroll.
Also known as the Old Man of the South Pole in Taoist lore, he is the patron god of wealth and longevity. The smiling Juro-jin holds a cane on which a scroll is pinned. He is dressed in a peach kimono and accompanied by a deer, both symbols of long life.
The only monk depicted in the set, he is widely regarded as the god of good fortune and matrimonial happiness and believed to impart riches, status and prosperity. He is depicted among mountains, with smile on his plump face and a pot belly. On his shoulder is a bag that contains treasures and blessings he bestows on others.
This article appeared in Issue 853 (Oct 22) of The Edge Singapore.