Fountain Pens: Their History and Art in Japan
Period Tuesday,March 8 –Sunday, May 8, 2016
Venue Special Exhibition Galleries A&B, National Museum of Japanese History

Adults: ¥830 (¥560)
Senior high school & college students: ¥450 (¥250)
* Fees in parentheses apply to groups of 20 or more
* Admission to permanent exhibitions included
* Free admission for elementary & junior high school students
* Free admission for senior high school students every Saturday

Hours 9:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. (entrance closed at 4:30 p.m.)
* Open hours and days are subject to change.
Closed Mondays (When Monday is a national holiday, the Museum is closed the following Tuesday.)
Organizer National Museum of Japanese History

The exhibition is the first in Japan dedicated to fountain pens. This writing instrument introduced to Japan in the Meiji period (1868–1912) was widely taken up, and transformed the Japanese approach to writing. Incorporating various traditional techniques, fountain pens made in Japan win acclaim worldwide.


  • The finest of Japanese fountain pen techniques—two-dimensional displays of maki-e motifs
  • Rotate and view it from any angle—interactive 4K display of maki-e fountain pens
  • Videos of Japanese artisans’ world-renowned fountain pen techniques
  • Classic fountain pen designs used by writers of the Meiji period

From left: Follow-up letter, Pilot (private collection); celluloid fountain pen (private collection); maki-e fountain pen (Rekihaku collection); vivid celluloid fountain pen (private collection); maki-e fountain pen (Rekihaku collection)



Imported into Japan for the first time in the Meiji period, the fountain pen replaced the calligraphy brush as an official writing tool. Usage spread widely thereafter, making it a staple writing instrument of modern Japan. The exhibition sheds light on the fountain pen from various angles including history, special production techniques, embellishments, and significance in daily life.

Section 1 traces the history of the fountain pen, from its import in the Meiji period to its attractions for the Japanese people and its production in Japan, with a focus on production techniques.

Section 2 presents the role and significance of the fountain pen in modern Japanese life through marketing schemes, scenes of usage, and particularly its function as a symbol of personal identity. Given as a graduation or employment gift, and used daily thereafter, the fountain pen served as a rite of passage and held emotional value.

The exhibition overall explores the culture of the fountain pen cherished through history, offering insight beyond its function as a writing instrument to the diverse meanings attached to it in ordinary life in modern Japan.

Major displays

  • Classic fountain pens from the Meiji (1868–1912) to Taishō (1912–26) periods
  • Rare catalogs and signs by Japanese fountain pen makers
  • Maki-e fountain pens featuring intricate craftsmanship and stunning motifs
  • Photographs of fountain pen specialty stores across Japan
  • Fountain pens used in various scenes in modern Japan

and more.

* Please note that some exhibits will be replaced during the exhibition.

Maki-e fountain pen, Pilot Corporation
(National Museum of Japanese History collection)
Maki-e fountain pen, Platinum Pen Co., Ltd.
(National Museum of Japanese History collection)
Vivid celluloid fountain pen, Kato Seisakusho Company
(Private collection)
Celluloid fountain pen, Kato Seisakusho Company
(Private collection)
Fountain pen advertisement, Platon, circa late Taishō period (1912–26)
(Private collection)
Follow-up letter, Pilot Corporation
(Private collection)
Follow-up letter, Pilot Corporation
(Private collection)
Fountain pen catalog, The Sailor Pen Co., Ltd., 1924
(Private collection)
Shopping district postcard, Uozu City, Toyama Prefecture
(Private collection)