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Gojuon

Can any of our Tokyo readers comment?

An article in the Kyodo News mentions a specialty pencil store, as well as the resurgence of pencil sales in Japan.

“Gojuon, which means the Japanese alphabet, is a specialty retail store for ballpoint pens and pencils located in a back alley of Tokyo’s Ginza district, better known as the home to upscale clothing stores, top-class bars and restaurants.

“Old showcases line side by side on the floor, displaying an assortment of pencils, including red and blue two-color pencils, ones with mascots attached to them and pencils with the color of their sticks made to change according to differing temperatures. Pencil sharpeners and caps are also on exhibit.”

It sounds like a great place to visit!

7 comments to Gojuon

  • Juris

    http://allabout.co.jp/mensstyle/stationery/closeup/CU20050701A/

    You can see some pictures of Gojuon(literally “fifty sounds” which means the fifty basic phonetic alphabets of Japanese language constructed from 5 vowels(“aiueo”) and 10 consonants(“akstnhmyrw”). “u” of “Gojuon” is pronounced like “oo” of “ooze”). It is a very famous stationery shop among (perhaps only) stationery-maniacs in Japan.

    They sell not only pencils lacquered by genuine Japanese lacquer priced about 15$(!) but also pencils of top quality manufactured more than 10 years ago by Colleen Pencils, which was the most popular pecil company next to Mitsubishi(“Uni”,”Hi-Uni”) and Tombow(“Mono”) but have been thrown into bankruptcy by a certain group of fraudsters in 1997. It is one of the few faults of Gojuon that they sell a dozen of Colleen pencils for 80$. Even pencil-maniacs are rather quailed with their outrageous pricing. It is really worthwhile, however, for those who are interested in rare and special pencils to visit it.

  • Hello Juris,

    Thanks very much for the link and the information about Gojuon. It is very much appreciated!

    I have been confused about Colleen pencils. There is still a Colleen pencil company in Thailand – but is that a different company, perhaps reusing the name?

    There is also a regularly updated blog on Colleen pencils:

    http://colleenpencil-fun.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/

    They had a post on grooved pencils, and have a screen capture of my blog:

    http://colleenpencil-fun.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2007/09/colleen_6564.html

    I am not sure if they are saying that I have a Colleen pencil in particular, or just a grooved pencil in my banner photo – it actually neither – just a strong woodgrain impression in the wood of that pencil.

    The hand lacquered pencils are definitely the opposite of the idea of a pencil as a cheap, generic utility item.

    Again, thank you for sharing this information about Japanese pencil culture!

  • Juris

    Dear penciladmin,

    I’m somewhat surprized to find you know the Thailand Colleen. It’s a different company from Colleen, but Thailand Colleen was originally a Thailand branch of Colleen in Japan.

    According to this article (http://job.yomiuri.co.jp/news/jo_ne_07070505.cfm), after the bankruptcy of Colleen an ex-Colleen-employee Hideaki IGUCHI decided to preserve the technology and the tradition of Colleen and moved to the Thailand branch which was also on the verge of giving up production. He has managed to succeed the trademark rights of the original Colleen and ressurect production of pencils of quite high quality in Thailand with his mentorship and thanks to the co-operations of other pencil makers in Japan. Now they manufactures twenty thousand dozens a year and they are going to begin to export their products to Japan for the fans of the original Colleen around this year though only rather small amount of color pencils. They print “JAPAN LEAD” on the surface of the caseboxes for their pencils in memory of the original Colleen. I’m afraid, however, we couldn’t expect the new Colleen pencils to be so good as the old ones although their endeavour is highly praiseworthy.

    By the way, the blog you mentioned is arguing about the fairly old Colleen pencils made sometime between 1946 and 1950. They have rib patterns and the pencils with ribs are quite rare (with the exception of Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil and KOH-I-NOOR No.2125). So they wanted to know what brand are the pencils in your banner photograph of if other than those three candidates. Now we know it’s a woodgrain :-)

  • Hello Juris,

    Again my thanks for this excellent information. Your sharing of this knowledge about pencils is greatly appreciated.

  • One more link. I found this English language article from a Thai news source:

    http://www.nationmultimedia.com/search/page.news.php?clid=6&id=30040284

  • It looks like Gojuon now have a small website:

    Gojuon

  • s02

    Juris I also thank you for this valueble information

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