Homage to Kyoto Artistry Fountain Pen
Montblanc started as a pen manufacturer in 1906 and is well known for its writing instruments all over the world.
Montblanc Cared: 2011 Great Tohoku Tsunami
It is still fresh in our memories that Montblanc did a wonderful project for Japan a few years back. It made special pens from the “Miracle Lone Pine Tree” which alone withstood the brutal force of Tsunami (2011 Great North East Japan Earthquake) among seventy thousand pine trees in the area. The lone pine tree became a symbol of hope amid devastation and thousands of lost souls. Montblanc asked the city (Rikuzen-Takata City, Iwate Prefecture) for one branch to make special pens to commemorate the event and the hope that a lone pine tree was giving to the people. The City agreed and Montblanc made 113 pens (the disaster happened on the 11th of March=113) to offer to Japanese pen fans, and Montblanc donated the sales revenue to the City to help reconstruct, in addition to what it had already done. The Pen was called “MEISTERSTUCK MIRACLE PINE TREE” and all sold out instantly. As a Japanese, it was an incredible feeling to imagine the craftsmen in Hamburg, 10,000 km away, made pens with the precious tree that means a lot to the people of Japan. I wonder what went through the minds of people who made the pens in Hamburg – from one country of craftsmanship to another?
This year, Montblanc decided to collaborate with Kyoto kimono manufacturer “Chiso” and came up with yet another wonderful pen. Not just a pen, but I should say, “Art”.
Chiso was founded in 1555 and has been making kimono for mostly royal and noble classes. Chiso continued its business in Kyoto as it was Japan’s capital for 1200 years from late 8th century to mid 19th century. Chiso team drew the design motif specifically for this project, paying tribute to the hundreds of years of its history and tradition. As mentioned, Kyoto has been and still is the center of Japanese culture. Having been the capital of the country for so long, it attracted great artists, craftsmen, as well as academics.
The main motif of the design is from “The Tale of Genji“, authored by Murasaki Shikibu more than 1000 years ago as a very long (54 volumes) love and political story of Genji, a young nobleman. One copy, which belongs to Chiso, shows brilliant color illustrations alongside the text. This pen design was based on two of those illustrations.
The kimono by Chiso uses the style called “Kyo-Yuzen”, which is made through many processes including drawing with pencil on the silk textile, dying along the drawing, washing, and drying, repeating as many times as the number of the colors used, and finally sewing. In addition, some embroidery is used.
Also, please notice the ‘Law of Perspective’ which emphasizes the bottom part – so that you would look taller wearing the kimono. The same perspective is used for the pen, too.
Chiso’s proprietary design is relief-engraved on the barrel and the cap of the pen, both of 925 Starling Silver base, Au750 Rose Gold highlight fittings, and inlay work with mother-of-pearl logo on top of the cap.
Even the nib of the pen is engraved with the shape of kimono.
The venue of this event was one of the buildings that you cannot enter usually, within the complex of the famous “Kiyomizu-dera” temple.
Why did these two brands decide to collaborate?
At first look, kimono is big and colorful while a pen is small and of monotonous color.
Mr. Maxime Harrar (CEO of Montblanc Japan) said: “We have been hosting special events with our top VIPs in Kyoto for a while, and always felt this 1200 year-old city is the center of Japanese culture . It is natural for us to feel strongly that this should be the place where Montblanc and Japanese culture must be combined in our special model.”
Mr. , Managing Director of Chiso went on to say: “First we had no idea how to combine those two categories. But the more we discussed, the more we realize that Montblanc is the company of craftsmanship and understand what/ how we do our job. So, we decided that it would be nice to spread our culture, our tradition to the world by the totally different type of craftsmanship brand. As we found out during the process, craftsmen understand each other without even communicating and start to respect each other. It happened between those two brands, too. The size and color of each product is different for sure, but that’s the challenge that we, as craftsmen, would like to take on anytime, any day. We had so much fun designing for the pen, and I am sure Montblanc atelier had as much fun as we did.”
Mr. Harrar continued, “This is probably the first time for Montblanc to create a special model featuring a ‘culture’, not an individual artist or special skill. As I said, Kyoto has been Japan’s capital for 1200 years and the center of its culture and still is. There are lots of great things about this country as you may know, like food, culture, Mt. Fuji, technology, politeness, etc. But this kimono is the center of such a long and deep culture. Kimono requires such impressive craftsmanship and skills. Kimono cannot be made anywhere else and it has the dignity to attract people. Therefore, we thought, kimono shows the best of Japan. I now know that I was right.”
Mr. En Isomoto responded by saying, “We at Chiso, have been in the business for 462 years since 1555, making kimono by Kyo-Yuzen technique. What we are most proud of, is that our products have been all true ‘hand-made’ – hand-written Yuzen and embroidering are all hand-made. Craftsmanship was the key word and we felt that Montblanc respected what we do and we are all glad that the project could make a special model like this. All the people who worked on this are so happy to see this. We chose ‘The Tale of Genji’ becase it has been often used for kimono design and also because we thought it would fit this project well because Montblanc mainly makes men’s accessaries and Chiso mainly makes women’s kimono. The story of ‘The Tale of Genji’ depicts the love and political adventure of a young noble class man, Genji.”
The pen is limited edition of only 55 (the number came from Chiso’s founding year, 1555).
Only 10 are allocated for Japan (price in Japan is JPY3,000,000 / about US$27,000), but it is because, according to Mr. Harrar, this must be presented to the world to spread the beauty of the collaboration of East and West culture and craftsmanship.
So, as messengers of such wonderful collaboration, 45 pens will be sold to lucky pen lovers in the rest of the world.
Indeed, a very wonderful collaboration of Arts that I have never seen before.
A fitting homage to Kyoto artistry and pen craftsmanship .
Thank you very much, Montblanc Japan, and Chiso.
Special thanks to Ms. Naka and Mr. Hisai of Montblanc Japan.
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About the Author
Ken Hokugo is a contributor to AlphaLuxe based in Japan but a citizen of the world. During his travels, he brings us tales of wine, food and other epicurean delights. He is also a Moderator-at-Large for the respected horology website PuristSPro.com and writes extensively about wristwatches in English and Japanese publications.