In this 4K video I review the Namiki Emperor fountain pen. This massive oversized pen features an urushi lacquer over ebonite body and an eyedropper filling system.
Pilot’s most famous fountain pen is without question the Vanishing Point (aka the Capless). This is the best selling and simply the best retractible nib fountain pen ever produced.
Many models have been introduced since the Vanishing Point’s inception in the early 1960s and the one I am reviewing today is a “Namiki” branded model with a faceted black plastic body and white metal trim. This body style was introduced in the 1970s stayed in production until the late 1990s. This particular Vanishing Point was made in 1997 right before the introduction of the current metal bodied Pilot Vanishing Point in 1998.
This older model (which I will refer to from now on as the “faceted VP”) is much more attractive with its elegantly integrated clip and slimmer faceted body. The current Vanishing Point has a much less harmonious design with bloated clumsy look to it.
The faceted VP is lighter and slimmer, weighing in at 18.5 grams and measuring just 11mm wide (clip not included). The current model weighs in at 31 grams. To my hand the faceted VP is much more comfortable to use.
The nib on this faceted VP is 14kt gold instead of 18kt gold on the current production model. The nib started life with a medium point and was ground into a butter line stub by Pendleton Brown.
This particular grind offers a great combination of usability and writing flair. I have done a number of custom grinds on medium nibs and this one my favorite so far. The nib is so smooth with just a hint of feedback…it’s luxurious.
The converter. These faceted VPs use a squeeze sac converter. It doesn’t hold enough ink so I always use cartridges with the metal cartridge cap.
The current model by comparison uses the Pilot Con-50 which is nicer to use and holds a slightly more reasonable amount of ink.
This is an awesome pen. You can find them used ranging from about $80 to $150.
The Namiki Custom Impressions line of pens was produced in the late 90s and while it predates the very popular Pilot Custom 74, it is essentially the same pen with a “celluloid” body and no markings on the cap band. These pens are cellulose acetate and not the cellulose nitrate normally associated with the word “celluloid”. The difference is that the cellulose acetate feels and can often look like a more typical plastic without the depth and oily feel of real celluloid.
The Custom Impressions came in five colors: Sapphire, Medley, Ambertone, Ruby and Emerald. I have Sapphire, Medley and Ambertone. It has been suggested (and from what I can tell rightly so) that Aurora used the same green plastic as the Emerald in their Optima. I have photographed them with a couple of Optimas…I am not certain that the Ruby is the same as Aurora’s Burgundy but they are close.
I particularly like the Sapphire and Medley colors; these to me are the most unique and beautiful.
These pens came with a con-70 converter and a 14kt gold #5 nib.
There is another variation of the Custom Impressions that very closely resembles the shape of the Custom 845, but again in “celluloid” and with a #10 instead of #15 nib. This model seems to be much more scarce and considerably more expensive than the pens I am showing here.
Like the Pilot Custom 74, the Namiki Custom Impressions make excellent workhorses. The nibs are butter smooth and wonderful writers.
To my knowledge these pens were only produced in fine, medium and broad nib grades.
I also find the nibs on the Impressions to be softer than the ones on the Custom 74. It seems to me, based on a small sample of Pilot/Namiki pens, that the pens from the 90s and early 00s have softer nibs than the ones produced more recently.
I have a decent amount of experience writing with Pilot/Namiki nibs from size #5 to size #20 and while I find all of these nib sizes to be very comfortable, the #10 seems to hit the sweet spot, with the #5 feeling a bit small and the #15 and #20 feeling a bit big. If you have big hands, which I do not, you may not like the #5 nib on these pens.
The Custom Impressions are full size pens measuring just over 13.5cm long, capped and weigh approximately 22.5 grams empty (with the con-70 installed). These pens post very well and I find them comfortable to use posted and unposted.
Prices for the Custom Impressions range a bit as they do not come up for sale all that often. If you can get one for around $150-$200 (depending on condition) I think that is a fair price but keep in mind if you prefer the look of a simple black body, a Custom 74 can be had for around $90 new.
Pilot’s Iroshizuku line of inks has become incredibly popular in the last couple of years thanks to its agreeable performance and excellent color palette. Despite Iroshizuku’s success Pilot still produces it’s original more affordable ink line that is simply branded as “Pilot” (or “Namiki …or “Pilot/Namiki”).
It is my understanding that these inks have a ph of over 7 making them basic and as such I would caution against putting them in a pen where ink makes direct contact with celluloid.
This line comes in bottle and cartridge formats. The cartridges only fit Pilot and Namiki pens. There are seven colors produced in the cartridge format. In bottle format I have only seen three colors: blue, black, and blue black.
Pilot Blue Black is a bit pale for my tastes but the upshot is some nice subtle shading. The ink provides some good lubrication, making it a great choice for dryer writing pens. I had no issues with bleeding or feathering. I also saw no nib creep (as is common for lubricating inks). I found that this ink was easy to clean out unlike Pilot Blue which has a tendency to stain.
Packs of 12 cartridges go for $7 and 60ml bottles go for $12. The affordable price makes Pilot Blue Black a great workhorse ink that would be appropriate for the office and general correspondence.
The Yukari Royale is an oversize fountain pen similar in size and shape to a Montblanc 149. Despite it’s oversize form the Yukari Royale sits mid-pack in the Namiki line-up; there is the standard full-size Yukari and the comically enormous Emperor.
Earlier this year in Japan I tried both the Yukari Royale and the Emperor in person. I quickly ruled out the baseball-bat-sized Emperor but the Yukari Royale I struggled with for a little while. I thought “how could a pen so big and heavy be so comfortable?”; ultimately I decided not to take the risk on such an expensive pen and I bought a Platinum Izumo Yagumonuri instead.
Fast forward a few months and I was still thinking about the Yukari Royale and at the same time feeling disenchanted with the Izumo (the Izumo has a long section with a large step down that causes me discomfort in long writing sessions).
I ended up going for the Yukari Royale (thank you to Pen Chalet for making this possible).
The Yukari Royale has a large brass torpedo-shape body covered in vermilion (red) urushi lacquer (also available in black). The cap has Namiki’s (Pilot’s) ball clip and a very thin gold band at the end of the cap. The simple shape and minimal trim make for a very elegant pen.
The fit and finish of this pen is flawless. It really is perfect to the point where I genuinely question if it is in fact hand painted. Next to a Nakaya the difference is night and day. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with a Nakaya, there isn’t, a Nakaya has more of an organic beauty.
This pen weighs a hefty 45 grams but it is so well balanced in my hand that I don’t feel any fatigue from its weight. My other Namiki pens, a Nippon Art and a Yukari (non-Royale) share this same wonderful balance.
The Yukari Royale measures 5.8” capped. You can post this pen but it becomes too long for me. The grip section is about .4” in diameter which is thick but not as thick as a Montblanc 149s which measures over half an inch.
Here you can see the Royale with a variety of Pilot/Namiki pens:
The Yukari Royale is the only pen pictured above to feature an urushi painted metal section. All of the other pens (even the more expensive Yukari Nightline) have unpainted plastic sections with visible seams.
The Yukari Royale (using Pilot’s sizes) is a #20.
Interestingly, it is the same size as a Pilot #15 but with a different shape and an oblong breather hole as well as a red plastic feed.
The nib is made of 18kt gold and is quite soft. The performance is excellent. No skipping no hard starting; this pen just works. Out of all of my modern pens this is by far my favorite stock nib in my collection; it’s character is unique and lovely. Compared to my other Pilot and Namiki medium nibs which are butter smooth, the number 20 has a small amount of feedback which I love. It sort of reminds me of the feedback from an Aurora Optima nib with the softness of a Montblanc 149 nib…in other words this is a dream nib (for me at least).
With it’s large nib and feed this is a thirsty pen.
It uses a Con-70 converter that holds 1.1ml of ink and even with this large capacity I find that I run out of ink rather quickly. I also must admit that I am not as huge a fan of the Con-70 as I once was.
While it holds a lot of ink, it is the most difficult to use and the most difficult to clean converter on the market. I fill and clean mine with a blunt tip syringe.
So what about the price?
As I said earlier this is an expensive pen. The street price is $1,200 ($1,500 full retail). I get a lot of enjoyment of the Yukari Royale and while I have a lot of wonderful pens this is the only one that I have refilled six times in a row…I just don’t want to put it away and to date I haven’t yet.
Is it worth it for you? Rationalizing a pen this expensive is a fool’s errand (though I have tried in past reviews, see Nakaya Naka-ai).
The Yukari Royale is a wonderful jewel of a pen to behold.
A special thank you once again to Pen Chalet for making this review possible. If you buy a pen as nice as this you will want to purchase from a reputable authorized dealer with great customer service like Pen Chalet.
The Nippon Art series is Namiki’s entry level line of maki-e pens. The pens are screened and on my Flower Basket version I do not believe any of the artwork to be done by hand. It’s “Hira” or flat maki-e and it really is flat to look at. I also see no gold sprinkles which makes me question if it should actually be considered “maki-e”, which I am told translates roughly to “sprinkle picture”.
The body of the pen is plastic covered in urushi lacquer and has a gold plated clip and thin cap band. The pen is very simple and elegant; it looks great despite the dull hira maki-e. The section has a seam on it and I do not believe it to be painted with urushi. The pen is signed “Kokkokai” which is not a specific artist but rather a group of artists.
The pen is very well balanced and feels great in hand. It weighs about 32 grams with converter and measures 5.6” long capped. This is a full-sized and very comfortable pen despite being the smallest in Namiki’s lineup.
The inside of the cap has a soft fuzzy material near the lip. This is done so that when posted the cap does not scratch the lacquer body (a very nice touch). Like the Pilot Custom 743 , the Nippon Art’s gold nib is lighter in color than the gold trim.
The pen has a #10 size nib and despite the different decoration, I believe this nib to be the same as a standard Pilot #10 (I am going off of a appearances only, so please correct me if I am wrong). The Namiki #20 nib is the same size as the Pilot #15 but has a different shape and breather hole.
The 14kt gold medium nib is ultra smooth and soft. It’s a wet nib and I find that it is a bit wider than your average Japanese medium.
The Nippon Art comes with the Pilot Con-70 vacuum fill converter. The Con-70 holds 1.1ml of ink (more than twice as much as an average converter). After using a good number of these Con-70s I have found that some work better than others. I always fill them with a syringe for this reason. I also find them more difficult to clean but the huge capacity outweighs any of these of these drawbacks.
This is my favorite Pilot/Namiki fountain pen I have used so far…the elegant design, balance, and wonderful nib have won me over.
The retail price for these pens is a staggering $750! That is quite a lot of money for this pen. I paid around $200 for mine second hand. In my opinion these pens are a good buy at around $200-$350. Some designs are more attractive than others and some have more handiwork.
The Pilot Vanishing Point is an extremely popular fountain pen with a click mechanism that retracts the nib. I have had mine for several years now and while it’s frequently inked it’s far from my favorite pen. To me the Vanishing Point is purely a tool; it’s reliable and can be operated with one hand for quick notes but it’s not fun to write with. My VP has a brown lacquered brass body with rhodium accents weighing in at 30.9 grams with a full converter. The VP measures just under 5.5″ long and is about half an inch thick at its widest point. The Vanishing Point is a pretty ugly pen; it’s definitely not a show piece. The VP looks the most dignified in matte black and unfortunately for me it was released well after I purchased my brown one.
The stiff 18 carat gold medium point nib has no personality but is smooth and reliable. The medium point is a bit finer than most European mediums and the flow is pretty average.
Depending on how you hold your pen the clip may be an issue because it is so close to the tip. Having a pretty standard grip it does not bother me but this pen definitely wont work for everyone. Also, I do not find the VP to be comfortable for long writing sessions as the grip area is relatively wide and the pen is quite heavy. The Vanishing Point comes with a converter, a cartridge and a metal cartridge cap (that prevents the click mechanism from crushing a plastic cartridge). The VP offers a lot of pen for the money with an average street price $140. The build quality is excellent as with all Pilot products and it has held up well quite well for me. The nib has a lot of tipping material so I may have it ground down into a stub to give this great pen some character. I recommend trying the Vanishing Point in person before purchasing.
Here are some great reviews of the Vanishing Point:
(I have no affiliation to the sites linked below)