Posts filed under Mai-Bun

Pentel Kerry: A "postable" mechanical pencil with an unchanging design since 1971

(Original article, published 02/10/2019. Written by Takuya Takahashi. Translated by Bruce Eimon.)

I have started noticing "older" business people mingling amongst students in the mechanical pencil section of stationery stores in Japan. It may be that people are rediscovering the value of being able to erase what they have written, thanks to the popularity of Pilot's erasable Frixion pens. Pencils and mechanical pencils have long been tools for students, but we may be seeing a resurgence of these instruments amongst business people.

Many of the recent mechanical pencils embed advance technology, such as mechanisms that automatically twist the lead to maintain a sharp tip, or shock absorption that prevents the lead from breaking. However, when it comes to the design of these pencils, they are better suited for the classroom than the board room.

Today I would like to feature a mechanical pencil that will look right in place in the hands of any business woman or business man - the "postable" mechanical pencil, the Kerry.

Pentel Kerry

The Pentel Kerry was first released in 1971. It is long seller that has been on the market for nearly 50 years.

The engraving on the cap proudly proclaims "SINCE 1971"

The engraving on the cap proudly proclaims "SINCE 1971"

If you look at the Japanese product home page, its official name is listed as "Mannenncil Kerry." "Mannenncil" is an amalgamation of the Japanese word for fountain pen "Mannennhitsu" and "Pencil." You can tell from the name that they envisioned this product to be a mechanical pencil worthy of being carried along with your expensive fountain pens.

Image 03.jpg

You can see how the designers tried to make it resemble an elegant fountain pen. Some may feel that the look is somewhat dated, in a nice vintage kind of way.

You may not have thought about this, but you hardly ever come across mechanical pencils with caps.

To my knowledge, even in Japan there are only a few with such a design.

Image 04.jpg

By having a cap, you do not have to worry about scratching things in your pocket or having graphite dust flake out of its tip.

Unlike expensive fountain pens that have screw on caps, the Kerry has a snap-on cap. The key point of this product is that you can still click the lead out even when the cap is posted. There is a surprising amount of engineering in this cap. When the pen is capped or the cap is removed from the pen, the click-tip protrudes only slightly.

Image 05.jpg

When the cap is posted on the pen, however, the tip extends out by a fraction of an inch to give you the length needed for a satisfying click.

Image 06.jpg

This is a product designed with a lot of attention to detail. The pen can be used without the cap posted, so some people like to keep the cap hooked in their pen loop.

Image 07.jpg

Compared to standard mechanical pencils, this is a rather compact pen. When not posted, it may be barely long enough to fit in your hand.

Image 08.jpg

The whole point of this pen though, is that it can be used posted.

Image 09.jpg

Most people will want to use it posted, as this gives you much more stability. The compactness of this pen when capped makes it an ideal companion for an A6 or passport sized planner.

Image 10.jpg

The beautiful mold of the tip of this pen is also what makes the Kerry unique. This is a design choice that enables a nice balance between the thick grip and the thin lead tip.

By offering a thin tip, it makes it easier to see what you are writing too.

Image 11.jpg

While the 0.5mm size is standard in Japan, Pentel also makes a 0.7mm version for the overseas market. I was able to buy the Navy 0.7mm version on my last trip to Taiwan. It gives you a different feel on the paper, and is especially good for sketching.

With a timeless design that appeals to people of all ages, the Kerry can be a great gift item. At a price point of $15-$20+, it is a good looking pen at a reasonable price. In Japan it shouldn't be hard to find a store that will personalize it for you for that extra touch.

Image 12.jpg

There is a reason why this product has been around for nearly 50 years. If you have never used one, I suggest you give it a try!

Image 14.jpg

Recommended for:

  • People who like to use mechanical pencils
  • People who are looking for a mechanical pencil that looks more "adult"
  • People who want to carry a mechanical pencil with their planners

Information: Sharp Kerry™ Mechanical Pencil

Posted on February 27, 2019 and filed under Pentel, Kerry, Mechanical Pencil, Mai-Bun.

Tokyo Paper Fair: An event where paper lovers can go crazy

Image 01 event hall.jpg

(Original article. Written by Takuya Takahashi. Translated by Bruce Eimon.)

Kamihaku (“Paper Fair”) is an event that gathers makers of paper products from all around Japan, and even some from outside of Japan. Its inaugural event took place in Tokyo last year (2017). It was such a success that not only did it spread to other cities in Japan, but it also became a regular annual event in Tokyo.

Here is my report from attending the second annual event, as organized around the three aspects of the show that really made it special. While I cannot begin to tell you about every single booth, I will show you some of the notable booths that caught my attention.

You got to love the ticket that was made to look like a train ticket

You got to love the ticket that was made to look like a train ticket

What makes it special #1: You get to purchase show-exclusive and pre-release products!

One of the attractions of the Paper Fair is that you get to purchase show-exclusive and pre-release products.

For instance, at the booth of Yamamoto Paper, a paper distributor from Osaka, they were holding a show-exclusive “paper picking” (think apple-picking) event.

Image 03 paper picking 1.jpg
Image 04 paper pallet.jpg

From a table stacked high with “Memo Towers” of various colors, customers were allowed to tear away as much paper as they like and pay by the height of their stack.

The freshly picked paper is wrapped in original wrapping paper and given a “date picked” sticker. How playful!

Another popular item at the booth was a hand-made mini-pallet to give your wrapped paper that factory warehouse look.

Image 04 paper picking 2.jpg

While the line was too long to partake in the paper picking, I was able to buy a pre-wrapped memo-and-pallet set.

Image 05 memo and pallet set.jpg

They even sold a paper sample booklet made of all kinds of discontinued paper. This too was a show exclusive.

Image 07 discontinued paper 1.jpg

Each page includes descriptions and background stories about each of the kinds of paper.

Image 08 discontinued paper 2.jpg

At the HI MOJIMOJI booth, they were pre-releasing the miniature version of their wildly popular organization tool “WORKERS’ BOX”.

Image 09 workers box mini 1.jpg
Image 10 workers box mini 2.jpg

Not only is it small and cute, but it is also just the right size for organizing your cards and small items around the desk.

At the KING JIM booth, they were handing out free illustration pins for anybody who followed their Instagram account. That was a no-brainer.

Image 11 illustration pins 1.jpg
Image 12 illustration pins 2.jpg

What makes it special #2: You get to buy products from stores that are too far to visit in-person

The second attraction is that you get to see products from stores that are too far to visit or brands that are only sold in local boutique shops.

For instance, the popular stationery store from Taiwan, Plain Stationery (直物生活文具) had a booth at the show. Along with their original products, they were displaying carefully curated products from around the world.

I purchased two of their original products. The first was their “RESEARCH NOTES”, a pocket notebook that uses fountain pen friendly paper.

Image 13 plain stationery 1.jpg

The second was their playful rubber stamp “Handy Stamp” that is meant to be paired with your own hand-drawings to complete the picture.

Image 14 plain stationery 2.jpg
Image 15 plain stationery 3.jpg

Next, I went to the Paper Goods Emoji booth, a boutique shop in Osaka. Here I bought their original letterpress cards. I’ve been wanting to visit their store, but hadn’t had the chance to get out to Osaka in a long time. I was happy that I got to see their products here.

Image 16 paper goods emoji.jpg

What makes it special #3: You get to meet the owners and designers behind the brands

The third attraction is that you actually get to meet the people behind the products.

At many of the booths, the designers and staff members, i.e. the people “inside”, were standing at their booths.

The couple behind HI MOJIMOJI

The couple behind HI MOJIMOJI

In some cases, even the owners of the businesses were standing and explaining their products to the visitors.

The president of Yamamoto Paper

The president of Yamamoto Paper

I cherished the opportunity to get to hear back stories about products from the people who were directly involved in making them. It was a fun shopping experience, and I can guarantee that you will blow past any budget you set for yourself on your way in.

★ ★ ★

The event in Tokyo this June was followed by one in Kyoto in July, and another one in Fukuoka in December.

This is a must-go event for anybody who likes paper products. If it happens to come to a town near you, I highly encourage you to check it out.

How good was it? My co-editor tells me her spending reached three digits (loot pictured below).

Image 19 loot 1.jpg

I didn’t spend quite as much, but…ok fine, I bought quite a bit (my loot pictured below).

Image 20 loot 2.jpg

Recommended for:

  • People who like paper and paper goods.
  • People who love stationery of all kinds

Information: Kamihaku 2018

Posted on December 24, 2018 and filed under Mai-Bun.

Tokyo Stationery Breakfast Club: People getting together on Saturday mornings to talk stationery

(Original Mai-bun article posted here. Written by Takuya Takahashi. Translated by Bruce Eimon.)

“Bunbougu Choushoku Kai” is a group of stationery nuts in Tokyo who get together to talk about their love for stationery on Saturday mornings.

Image 1 Logo.jpg

The club logo is above. The image comes from the fact that the abbreviation of the club name, “Buncho”, is the same word as that of a sparrow.

The club has been meeting once a month ever since they started in 2008, so they have been around now for 10 years. I started attending a few years ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed the time I get to spend with like-minded people to talk about stationery.

* * *

The club meets all around Tokyo. Today we met at a rental office space in Shinjuku that is decorated like a school classroom.

Image 2 Classroom.jpg

Despite an early 9:30 am start on a Saturday, everybody who pre-registered on the club’s Facebook page arrived on time. There is an unofficial club rule that the door gets locked once the clock hits 9:30, so people are good about arriving on time. First, the club-leader Hara-san welcomes the guests.

Image 3 Hara_san.jpg

We then go around the room introducing ourselves. Since today’s room was decorated like a classroom, each person came up to the podium to give their introductions.

Miura-san, one of the founding members, reads out the highlights of past meetings.

Miura-san, one of the founding members, reads out the highlights of past meetings.

After the introductions, we split up into groups of 5-6 people.

Image 5 small groups.jpg

The basic rule is that everybody brings one item of stationery they want to talk about - something they like, something new they just bought, something that didn’t quite live up to their expectations - anything is fine. We take turns talking about what we brought.

Image 6 chatting.jpg

The show-and-tell is merely an ice-breaker for meandering conversations about all things stationery, whether about the specific product we brought or our experience with similar products. Each table has a facilitator, so there is nothing to be scared of even if you are a first-timer.

The following are some of the products people brought for today’s meeting:

Markers with Mickey ears

Markers with Mickey ears

A card stand made out of compressed spring

A card stand made out of compressed spring

The “challenge” planner

The “challenge” planner

A medical staple remover

A medical staple remover

Each product shown is recorded in the official club minutes listing the product name, where it was purchased, and the approximate cost. A snapshot of the page is posted on Facebook after every meeting.

* * *

Sometimes we even get representatives from stationery companies come to present their new products. Today we welcomed a PR person from ZEBRA to tell us about the newly published ZEBRA Complete Guide Book, covering the 120-year history of the company along with an in-depth review of their entire productline.

Image 12 Zebra presentation.jpg

By now some of you may have noticed from the pictures, but we actually hardly ever have time to eat breakfast! Although the meeting is called the breakfast club (choushoku kai), we are usually too caught up in talking about our stationery that we don’t have time to eat. The only exception is when we meet in a coffee shop or restaurant that lets us use their space on the condition of ordering food. That is the one time we make sure we take a break from our talking to actually enjoy breakfast.

Image 13 group shot.jpg

Today we collected 800 yen (approx. $8) from each participant for the meeting room rental fee before we went home to spend the rest of the weekend with our loved ones. A nice thing about meeting early on a Saturday is that the whole weekend is still ahead of us even after we go home.

This time we each got a special gift from ZEBRA on our way out!

Image 14 Zebra gift.jpg

What do you think?

The club always welcomes new members, so if you are visiting Tokyo and want a chance to talk to fellow stationery lovers, come check us out! Event information is shared on our [Facebook page][0], so make sure you follow us. Due to space limitations, pre-registration is required and attendance will be cut off as soon as the limit is reached.

(Note from Bruce the translator: For those living near San Francisco, I am working on organizing a similar Stationery Breakfast Club in collaboration with Mai Do, the stationery store in SF Japan Town. If you are interested in such an event, please shoot me a note at

Recommended for:

  • People who like stationery
  • People who want to get the most out of a Saturday morning
  • People who want to share the unique ways they use their stationery
  • People who want to learn about stationery

Information: Bunbougu Breakfast Club

Posted on September 24, 2018 and filed under Mai-Bun.