Japan has a rich tradition of calligraphy, and beautiful penmanship is admired there as an art form. Japanese children learn shodo (Japanese calligraphy) in school from a young age. This emphasis on artistic writing leads to a culture of prizing fine writing materials. Japanese pens are known for their thoughtful design and superior quality.
Check out this list of some of the best Japanese pens that have a practical design and are reliable and certainly facilitate beautiful stroke endings.
- Pilot Hi-Tec-C Gel Pen
- Uni-ball Signo RT1
- Pilot Juice Up Gel Pen 04
- Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens
- Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pens
- Sakura Ballsign Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens
- Zebra Sarasa Dry
- Uni-Ball Signo DX 0.38 mm
- Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens
- Zebra Sarasa Clip 0.5 mm
You might be thinking that a pen would be pretty straightforward. After all, it does just one thing, right? Well, not in Japan where customers are demanding about their stationery items and companies are in fierce competition to grab the top spot. Each stationery maker has dedicated teams of designers and engineers for improving existing designs and inventing new features.
Pilot Hi-Tec-C Gel Pen
A classic gel pen from Pilot. A needle-point marvel.
Any top-grade gel pen must offer a friction-free writing experience, along with minimal ink feathering and bleeding. This pen fulfills both criteria by featuring a revolving carbide ball and high-viscosity biopolymer ink.
Available in a couple of tip sizes up to 0.5 mm, you should choose the 0.25 mm tip for finer, subtler strokes. Among various color and design options, there is also a customizable multi-pen model named Coleto, which offers five different colors and tip sizes.
- Friction-free carbide ball
- Minimal feathering and bleeding
- Plenty of color and design options
- Superior-quality tips for subtle strokes
Buy the Hi-Tec-C here.
Uni-ball Signo RT1
The grip of this pen is top-notch, going all the way down to the nib. People who have the habit of holding pens close to the nib will find this grip highly comfortable.
Most Signos feature a conical tip, which is less precise than a needle tip, but enjoys a long life and has no sharp angles. For this unique design, writing with this pen creates no scraping or rubbing even when you write at an angle. The 0.28 mm tip is the finest, but the 0.38 mm is the most popular for maintaining a balance between subtlety and fluidity.
Using a pigment-based ink is an innovative touch since it lasts long and prevents bleeding, keeping even the small letters clear enough to read. Just like its rival, Pilot Hi-Tec-C gel pen, it has a customizable multi-pen named Uni Style Fit in the collection.
- Excellent comfortable grip
- Smooth writing with a conical tip
- Highly engineered ink prevents bleeding
- Ink lasts for a long time
Buy the Signo RT1 here.
Pilot Juice Up Gel Pen 04
Just like other Pilot pens, the Juice Up 04 is also equipped with thoughtful designs and features.
The pen displays a modern design with a clip installed at the very top of the clicker and a comfortable rubber grip at the lower half. Nibs are available in 0.3 mm and 0.4 mm sizes. Despite being fine-tipped, the nib can jet out enough ink to avoid rubbing and friction. Scribbling with this pen feels like cruising on the ocean as it moves so smoothly on paper.
Further helping this writing flow is the pigment-based ink that prevents feathering by holding fast to paper.
- Comfortable rubber grip
- Fine-tipped nibs
- Generous ink streams
- Ink holds fast to paper
Buy the Juice Up 04 here.
Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens
Fountain pens can be highly expensive, and their performance often correlates with the price tag. However, Preppy defies all odds in the world of fountain pens by offering an incredibly smooth writing experience at less than $10. Simply amazing!
At first glance, the pen does not look like much because Platinum has emphasized on functions instead of looks. Preppy’s nib and ink flow so well that it will blow most fountain pens around $100 out of the water.
Another nice touch is the “slip and seal” cap that lowers the risk of drying off the ink, which is a common fountain pen issue caused by long-term disuse.
- Incredible performance compared to the price
- Advanced cap to reduce ink drying
Buy the Preppy fountain pen here.
Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pens
A retractable fountain pen is uncommon. So, it’s not surprising that the fist and arguably the best one comes from Japan.
Being a combination of classic elegance and fresh design, the Vanishing Point pen is absolutely superb in terms of nib performance, writing flow, and grip. The 18-karat gold rhodium-plated nib is something to brag about and you can choose it in various sizes — from “extra fine” to “broad”.
However, the prominent feature is the retractable nib that pulls back inside the barrel when not in use. This design is excellent for writing and note-taking without the tension of the nib drying off.
- Retractable design Gold rhodium-plated nib
- Excellent writing flow
- The nib does not dry out
Buy the Vanishing Point fountain pen here.
Sakura Ballsign Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens
The Ballsign differs from other gel ink ballpoint pens because of Sakura’s ingenious ink formula. The ink of these pens is less runny than rollerballs and slicker than ballpoints.
Available in various colors, these pens were (and still are) a big hit in the United States (where these are sold as Gelly Roll pens) in the 90s. Due to the excellent fluidity of ink and rich colors, Ballsign pens are a popular choice for writing and coloring books.
- Available in various colors
- Ink flows smoothly
- Great for coloring books
Buy the Sakura Ballsign gel pens here.
Zebra Sarasa Dry
As the name suggests, the ink of these pens dries out super fast. Whether you write on laminated paper, thermal paper, or regular notebooks, the ink sets up seamlessly and dries up instantly. The ink also flows without any trouble and its dark shade makes the writing lines look clear.
The pen has a soft rubber coating, so grip is not an issue. However, it smears easily because of dye-based ink.
- Soft rubber grip
- Quick-drying ink
- Ink easily penetrates into any paper type
Buy the Zebra Sarasa Dry here.
Uni-Ball Signo DX 0.38 mm
The more you use Signo DX, the more you will like it. It may seem a little scratchy at first and the short grip is a bummer for people like to place their hands at a higher position. However, you have to tweak a bit to find the best way to use it.
The pen feels biting into the paper if you apply too much pressure. The trick here is to apply a light pressure that makes the nib almost slip onto the paper surface. You will enjoy the clean and even flowing lines, but this pen performs at its best when being used for drawing by applying light pressure.
The pigment-based ink does not feather at all. As it resists water, you can use a highlighter on the writing without making the ink spread around.
- Keeps writing clean and smudge-free
- A strong tip
- Flows smoothly with a light pressure
- Ink resists water
Buy Uni-ball Signo DX here.
Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens
When buying a brush pen, Tombow Fudenosuke almost becomes an automatic choice because of its ability to produce both thick and thin lines. Its elastic tip offers great control over the strokes.
Available in both hard and soft tips, the potential of these pens is endless. Hard-tipped ones will be suitable for precise writing, such as for kanji (logographic writing system) and brush lettering. On the other hand, soft tips are great for stretching lines, such as drawing and sketchnoting.
- Hard and soft tips are available
- Offers more control over strokes
- Can create both thick and slick lines
Buy the Tombow Fudenosuke here.
Zebra Sarasa Clip 0.5 mm
If you want a consistent, reliable performance from a gel ballpoint pen, go for Zebra Sarasa Clip. The 0.7 mm medium-point nibs are the most familiar for coloring, but the ones with a 0.5 mm nib are better for writing and for design patches that need subtle strokes. Don’t apply much pressure, though, as it will make the pen a little scratchy.
The Sarasa Clip is available in multiple colors and each shade and even the lighter ones have a bold tone. Another plus point is the nib does not clog, and the ink does not feather.
- Consistent performance
- Excellent for writing and coloring
- Nib runs smoothly
- Ink does not smear
Buy the Zebra Sarasa Clip here.
Best Japanese Pen Brands
Namiki and Pilot
Namiki and Pilot are the same company but manufacture pens and other stationery items under these two brand names. You can compare them with Japanese automaker company Toyota that manufactures commuter cars under the Toyota brand and luxury cars under the Lexus brand.
Pilot is like Toyota, producing value for money high-quality pens. It has amazing collections of note-taking and writing pens and pencils. Namiki focuses on more exclusive items. It produces pens that feature the beautiful maki-e technique (traditional Japanese lacquer work).
Namiki is famous for another reason. It is the manufacturer of Iroshizuku Bottled Ink — arguably the best-quality ink in the market.
Uni-ball is a pen-making brand of the Mitsubishi Pencil Company. It produces different types of pens under various collections. With an inventory of over 3,000 products, the company has successfully spread its business in more than 100 countries.
One reason behind Uni-ball’s widespread success is accepting and overcoming the challenges of the 21st century. It always strives to bring new technologies to provide functional yet affordable writing and art instruments.
Visit the Uni-ball website to get more information about its innovative technologies and product collections.
Syunchi Nakata established the legendary Nakaya company in 1919. It was later rebranded as Platinum, which has been carrying the legacy of its ancestor.
Nakaya used to be the manufacturer of some of the finest fountain pens in the world. Platinum is following that path by creating its own line of top-grade writing instruments.
The company has everything from ballpoint pens to maki-e fountain pens and from rollerball pens to hi-tech pencils.
Visit the Platinum website for more information.
Zebra Pen Corporation is a brand of the Japanese parent company Zebra Co. Ltd. Its founder Tokumatsu Ishikawa thought that the name “Zebra” would be appropriate for his export business to other countries.
The company produces a wide variety of writing instruments including ballpoints, correction pens, mechanical pencils, and more. Its highlighter collection named Midliners is immensely popular.
Zebra products appeal to all sorts of people, from students to professionals because the company ensures quality, comfort, and superior writing performance. You can use their pens and pencils for taking notes, bullet journaling, and all sorts of writing tasks.
Check the Zebra website for more information about the company and
The company started its journey in 1921 as a crayon maker and gradually expanded the product range.
The brand brought the innovative Cray-Pas oil pastels and the famous Pigma range of drawing pens. It’s also the maker of the world’s first gel ink and introduced the widely popular Gelly Roll pens into the market.
Sakura’s product roster currently includes a broad variety of pens for wiring, drawing, and marking.
Learn more about the brand’s journey and product range from the Sakura website.