The Many Anniversaries Of Maruzen

Maruzen Booksellers Storefront

The Maruzen Co., Ltd. has long been one of Japan’s leading booksellers. With a core focus on books and other periodicals, the company has cultivated a diverse portfolio that includes stationery, fashion, and information technologies. Founded in 1869 as Maruya Shosha, its success and longevity over the past 152 years is likely due to the forward thinking of founder Yuteki Hayashi. Hayashi’s ambitions were reportedly spurred on by the encouragement of Yukichi Fukuzawa, an educator and founder of Japan’s first private system of elementary and secondary schools, who was a proponent of Westernization. Great change was underway in Japan during the mid-19th century, heralded by the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, an American naval officer in command of the East India Squadron. He played a leading role opening Japan to the West after more than 200 years of isolationist policy under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate which comprised the military government of Japan during the Edo period from 1603 to 1868. Hayashi saw opportunity brought about by this cultural shift and sought out translated versions of many of the seminal works of the Western world. His relationship with Fukuzawa positioned Maruzen to have a strong presence with educational institutions, a major areas of sales for the company. Maruzen further diversified its product lines throughout the twentieth century and was able to survive the damage inflicted by World War II. Many sources indicate that Maruzen played a major role introducing the fountain pen to Japan, predominantly by importing brands such as Onoto and Waterman from England and the United States. As such, it is hard to overstate the importance of Maruzen’s involvement in bringing this writing technology to the citizens of Japan. Today, the company has a number of stores and international offices to its credit. Of course, I’m not here to regale you about the company’s rich and storied history. As a stationary retailer, Maruzen has had the opportunity to partner with several manufacturers of fine writing instruments over the years in order to celebrate its various milestone anniversaries, beginning sometime around 1989. I’m sure that you have surmised by now that a Pelikan or two may have been a part of some of those past offerings. Read on to learn all about these unique and rarely seen models.

Maruzen Co., LTD. logo

Maruzen has celebrated many anniversaries over its long history. The first that I can find commemorated with a limited edition fountain pen was the company’s 120th which occurred in 1989. A distinct language barrier and a paucity of supporting evidence has made teasing out the large number of models released in the intervening 32 years a challenge so please forgive any omissions or inaccuracies of which I may be unintentionally guilty. For this occasion, three fountain pens appear to have been selected, one of which was a Pelikan. It was a black M800 that was chosen, a relatively new model at the time, having been introduced just two years prior. The logo on the brass medallion of the cap top dates the pen from 1987-1988. It’s a fairly standard offering, featuring the usual trim of a late 1980s M800 save for two distinguishing features. There are two trim rings at the piston knob, a trim ring at the section, two cap bands, and a beak clip whereas the cap top and bottom of the piston knob are adorned with brass medallions, a defining feature of these early models. The barrel, section, piston knob, and cap are made from black resin and a green ink view window sits just behind the section. Where this pen diverges from the standard offering is the text centered along the barrel. A simple engraving reads, “Celebrating 120th MARUZEN 1869 – 1989.” The other unique feature of this model is the inclusion of a 20C-833 nib which I recently touched upon in my article detailing the “Rebirth Of A New Germany” commemorative M800 from 1990. That pen which came to market one year after the Maruzen M800 incorporated the same nib, most likely done as an attempt to cater to the specific predilections of the Japanese market. It is unclear just how many of these pens were produced but based on some of their other limited editions, I would suspect that this one was confined to no more than 500 pieces, and likely far fewer, but that is simply speculation on my part. There are also some vague indications that a similarly appointed Green-Black M800 may have been available though I could not confirm this. As I indicated earlier, this wasn’t the only pen made to celebrate the company’s 120th anniversary. There was also a bespoke Maruzen 120 model made from black resin with gold furniture and a 14K nib, likely made to order by Pilot. Completing the trio was a standard Montblanc 146 with the same engraving along the barrel as seen on the Pelikan M800. Both the Pelikan and Montblanc are fairly standard, off-the-shelf models therefore it is unclear whether or not these pens were purchased and then had the engraving applied after the fact or if they were engraved by their respective factories as part of a special order. Given the similarity between the engravings of the two models, I suspect the former.

Click on an image to view the gallery

The next anniversary to be celebrated was their 125th which came in 1994. An Onoto-like Stream Line model was released to commemorate the occasion, also made by Pilot. Maruzen had a history of collaboration with the English pen maker Onoto who manufactured pens for the retailer in the early twentieth century, but this Pilot made reproduction has no such ties with the Onoto company itself. Fast forward to 1999 and we arrive at the 130th anniversary of the company, an event which should once again please fans of Pelikan made fountain pens. That year was commemorated with what has become an especially rare Pelikan M600 Tortoiseshell Brown model, something not reproduced since. Done in the post-1997 trim, this model includes two trim rings at the piston knob, a trim ring at the section, two cap bands, and a beak clip. The cap top features Pelikan’s screened two chick logo and it shipped with a standard two-toned 14C-585 gold nib. This model was released as a set with a matching K600 ballpoint, and the packaging included a card, signed by Pelikan’s president Loo Hooi Keat. The card reads;

“Dear Valued Customer,
It gives me great pleasure to share with you the honor of being appointed by Maruzen to present to you, as a valued customer, the exclusive collection of Pelikan fine writing instruments to commemorate the 130th Anniversary of Maruzen. Pelikan and Maruzen have been very good business partners for a long time in offering to you, exclusive high quality products. Pelikan also has over 160 years of history and tradition. And to commemorate this special event, I am proud to present to you the exclusive collection of only 500 sets of our Souverän collection of M600 fountain pen and K600 ballpoint pen set in tortoise-shell brown stripe finish.
Sincerely yours,
H.K. Loo
President, Pelikan Holding AG”

That M600/K600 set would be the last collaboration between Maruzen and Pelikan and it marks the only occasion to date that Pelikan has made a Tortoiseshell Brown M600 in the post-1997 trim style. Also released that year was a limited edition of 1000 pieces made by Sailor and sold under the moniker “Lemon.” This model’s theme would become a recurring one for future anniversaries and for good reason. The design was inspired by Kajii Motojirou’s collection of short stories titled Lemon, which heavily featured Maruzen of Kyoto. The company next celebrated 135 years in 2004 with a blue Parker Duofold Rashin (Japanese for compass) made in a run of just 300 pieces. Maruzen revisited the Lemon made by Sailor in 2009 with a run of 1400 pens for the 140th anniversary. This brings us to the most recent anniversary celebrated by the company, the big 150, which took place in 2019. That year saw three limited edition models released. There was a model made by Sailor called “Voyage” limited to 100 pieces, another Lemon model made by Pilot in an edition of 1000 pieces, and “Athena The Pen” made by Pilot as a run of 500 pieces. It would be remiss of me to not convey that there have in fact been other limited edition releases not included in this article, ones made on a smaller scale for some of the regional Maruzen stores as well as those for their annual March pen shows but none of those have been from Pelikan.

Click on an image to view the gallery

As you can see, the bulk of Maruzen’s anniversary models came from major Japanese manufacturers with pens custom made for the company. As one might expect, the models offered have all had some unique tie to the company and its history. The Onoto model harkened back to Maruzen’s partnership with the English manufacturer during the early twentieth century. The Lemon models pay homage to an author and his work which featured the company. The Parker Duofold Rashin featured a compass, significant because of its prominence within Maruzen’s company song. How does Pelikan fit this mold? Mr. Loo Hooi Keat alluded to it above when he mentioned Pelikan and Maruzen’s long time business partnership. By the time of their second collaboration, Pelikan was owned by a Malaysian company and Malaysia and Japan have long enjoyed warm business relations. Looking for more information, I reached out to Maruzen directly and received a reply to my query from Yoshiro Miyahara, a buyer of fountain pens for the Maruzen Junkudo bookstore. He related to me that much of the history behind the origins of these models is lost as there were few retained records and much of the staff from that time have since retired. Mr. Miyahara did recount that the connection between the two companies goes back to the 1970s when Maruzen was heavily involved with sales of the Merz & Krell edition of the 400NN. Both of the commemorative models made by Pelikan were sell outs for Maruzen and either makes for an exceedingly rare find today with the Tortoise M600 being particularly desirable and not one to be passed up lightly. As an aside, it has always been a suspicion of mine that some exclusivity agreement may well be the reason that we have never seen another M600 Tortoiseshell Brown since but that is just conjecture on my part. I am continually amazed at the special relationship that the Japanese market seems to have enjoyed with Pelikan from perhaps the early 1970s through the mid-1990s. These Pelikan made Maruzen models are just two more fruits born out of that relationship.

Maruzen Booksellers Interior

Timeline of Milestone Anniversary Models For Maruzen Booksellers (1989 – 2019)

  • 1989: Maruzen’s 120th Anniversary

    1. Pelikan M800 Black
    2. Pilot Maruzen 120
    3. Montblanc 146 Black
  • 1994: Maruzen’s 125th Anniversary

    1. Pilot Onoto Stream Line
  • 1999: Maruzen’s 130th Anniversary

    1. Pelikan M600 Tortoiseshell Brown (500 sets)
    2. Sailor Lemon (1000 pieces)
  • 2004: Maruzen’s 135th Anniversary

    1. Parker Duofold Rashin (300 pieces)
  • 2009: Maruzen’s 140th Anniversary

    1. Sailor Lemon (1400 pieces)
  • 2019: Maruzen’s 150th Anniversary

    1. Sailor Voyage (100 pieces)
    2. Pilot Lemon (1000 pieces)
    3. Pilot “Athena The Pen” (500 pieces)
Maruzen Anniversary Fountain Pens 1989-1999

Maruzen’s milestone anniversary models from 1989 to 1999. Left to right: Pelikan Black M800, Montblanc Black 146, Pilot Maruzen 120, Pilot Onoto Stream Line, Pelikan Tortoiseshell Brown M600, Sailor Lemon (click the image to enlarge)

Maruzen Anniversary Fountain Pens 2004-2019

Maruzen’s milestone anniversary models from 2004 to 2019. Left to right: Parker Duofold Rashin, Sailor Lemon, Pilot Athena The Pen, Pilot Lemon, Sailor Voyage (click the image to enlarge)

9 responses

  1. Great post, Joshua. Another fascinating historical piece, especially for me as huge modern (post ‘97) M6xx fanboi. This is a pen I never knew existed.

    The marketing relationships in Japan seem to only get more intriguing.

    I never considered myself to be a huge tortoise fan, but with the recent acquisition of a white M600 tortoise, and now the red K/M600 tortoise set, I must admit the pattern is growing on me.

    I may have to go hunt down one of these pens or sets for myself!

    Like

    • If you’re going after one of these Tortoiseshell Brown M600s, good luck. Pelikan is a very popular brand in Japan. These sets are now 22 years old and have really held onto their value. If you find one, it will be pricey most likely. Look to the Japanese auction sites to have the best luck but they come up very infrequently.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another fine piece about Pelikan, here tracing its Asian ties.
    Appreciated the inclusion and photo of the Pilot “Onoto” as the original is a favorite of mine.
    Finally, I am probably the last to notice your The Pelikan’s Perch logo: it is extremely well done.
    gary

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post as always , Mr.Joshua . I’ve been wondering about collecting some rare Pelikan pens with rare nibs, which are only available in the Japanese market. You published this article just at the time, and it is pretty useful to me. Thank you.

    Like

    • I’m glad that the post was a timely one for you. If you’re looking for unusual Pelikan nibs, I’d say the bi-color 12C followed by the bi-color 20C followed by the monotone 12C. That is the order that I’d go hunting if I wanted to get the most unusual/rare to the least.

      Like

  4. Pingback: Putting Karats To Paper: The Various Gold Purities Of Pelikan’s Nibs And The Impact On Performance « The Pelikan's Perch

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