Ever-evolving writing instruments—another great idea for a souvenir from Japan.

Japanese writing instruments not only are perfect for daily use, but also are popular as souvenirs with their high level of quality and design. When you come to Japan, a pen and pencil superpower, we recommend that you check out the latest items with which you can experience the tradition and culture.

Since Japanese people have a love of handwriting, you can find a myriad of writing instruments such as ones that have been made especially focusing on the feel when writing, a color pen series that comes in dozens of different colors, and ones with kawaii designs that feature characters. In particular, it would be a great idea to get one of those ones embellished with artistic designs using the traditional techniques of Japan or those color pens that have been developed based on ink brushes, as they will definitely take you back to the memory of your Japan trip after you go back to your country.

The first one we would like to introduce is a series of pens with a barrel embellished using the traditional “Maki-e” technique. Not only are they practical, they are also such a delight to look at. “Maki-e” is a lacquer decoration technique in which artisans draw pictures by sprinkling gold powder and shells over a surface, on which multiple thin layers of lacquer had been applied. It has over 1,200 years of history and has been used on personal items of aristocrats and samurais, on decorations of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, and on tea ceremony utensils. The key element of the design—gold and silver powder—is sprinkled over each pen by hand, showcasing the sophistication and quality of the meticulous work that characterize Japanese stationery.

Yuubi Maki-e “Shidarezakura” (White/Black), Yuubi Maki-e “Shiki no Fuji” (Autumn/Winter) / Tax-free price ¥3,500 each (The Sailor Pen)

Another one that we would like to introduce is a brush pen embellished with Yuzen Washi, a traditional craft of Japan, depicting a cherry blossom with a sense of warmth. Yuzen Washi is a type of Japanese decorative paper with designs created using the Yuzen dyeing technique, which originated in Kyoto during the Edo period. Yuzen Washi is a luxury good, and each sheet of paper is carefully hand dyed. It is used for folding screens, shoji screens, etc., and is considered an important material that embodies the traditional culture and aesthetic of Japan. The tip of this brush pen is finished individually by hand by utilizing the techniques used in making Nara brushes, which have a long history and are known for their amazing feel when writing. With the firm brush tip, you can draw beautiful lines and enjoy the authentic feel as though you are writing with a real ink brush.

A brush pen embellished with Yuzen Washi featuring cherry blossoms, a flower that symbolizes April, in which a new semester starts in Japan. Brush Pen “Koto Sakura” (packaged in a plastic case) / Tax-free price ¥500 (Akashiya)

In Japan, even ordinary writing instruments have been evolving in unique ways. Brush pens are usually used for writing letters to important persons or for festive occasions, but did you know that it is also a must-have tool for drawing manga? Since you can draw expressive lines with it, it is indispensable in drawing contours, depicting different emotions, drawing different body parts such as hair and muscles, as well as in creating a three-dimensional effect with shading. The unique thing about Japanese brush pens is that there is a rich variety of colors, including fluorescent colors. This brush lets you draw just about any types of lines, so it also comes in handy for marking up your notes or calendar, let alone for those who draw illustrations or manga.

From thin lines to solid coloring, these color brush pens come in handy in a variety of uses including illustration, design, and manga. ZIG Clean Color Real Brush / Tax-free price ¥1,200 (Kuretake)

These fluorescent markers are also useful as highlighters. ZIG Brush Hilite Satto / Tax-free price ¥1,200 (Kuretake)

These pen-style markers that let you draw elaborate lines are also popular.

These markers can be used for drawing outlines and frame borders for manga or illustrations, as well as for drawing lines when designing. Once the ink dries, it does not bleed easily even if it is used together with alcohol-based markers. ZIG Cartoonist MANGAKA / Tax-free price ¥750 (Kuretake)

The Tax-free store Fa-So-La AKIHABARA in Narita Airport carries all of these products introduced here, so go check them out if you are interested! Speaking of keeping a record of your trip, most people are uploading them on SNSs using their smartphones nowadays, but why don’t you step outside your usual routine and try out Japanese stationery and experience the distinctive Japanese culture of writing? Plus, these unique products make perfect souvenirs and are sure to delight anyone! (Information as of April 2023)