With the exponential increase in the popularity of Japanese culture in the west, more and more people have taken to learning the Japanese language in both its spoken and written forms. Due to this, we often see people reaching out and asking for advice on the best pen for writing Japanese. After noticing an increase in people reaching out over the last few months, we have decided to dedicate this article to share our thoughts on the various pens that are suitable for writing Japanese.
Now, in reality, any decent cheap pen can be used for writing Japanese in its most basic form but many people who are studying the Japanese language like to go that extra mile. If you are wanting to work more with Japanese calligraphy and broad strokes when you write Japanese then something like the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is an excellent option and will perform well for the hiragana, katakana, and kanji forms of Japanese without breaking the bank.
Although the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is an excellent little pen that many people choose when using a calligraphy type of writing their Japanese characters, this is not ideal for many situations, especially if you are having to take notes in Japanese while writing fast. This is where the Pentel GraphGear 1000 comes in as it is perfect for quickly writing Japanese and is a very popular option.
The Pentel GraphGear 1000 is actually a mechanical pencil rather than a pen but is becoming more and more popular amongst the community of Japanese speakers due to its excellent performance when writing the language. It is cheap, performs well, has a great build quality, and is very easy to find both online and in local stationery stores. On top of this, the lead refills for the Pentel GraphGear 1000 are also very cheap and easy to source too.
In our opinion, it is one of the best, most cost-efficient writing utensils for writing Japanese and beats the performance of the majority of the popular pens out there while usually being cheaper. The Pentel GraphGear 1000 has a proven track record of writing the hiragana, katakana, and kanji of the Japanese language well ensuring that you can use it no matter what.
What Pens Write Japanese Characters The Best
The video above offers you a number of writing examples from different writing utensils when writing Japanese showing you exactly what you can expect from each pen or mechanical pencil if you choose it as your writing utensil of choice. We have listed the various options shown in the video in order below so it is easy to match the pen or pencil up with the writing example above.
- The Zebra Sarasa
- The Uni ball Signo
- The Pentel GraphGear 1000
- The Pilot Namiki Falcon ELABO
- The Pentel Fude
As you can see, all five of the pens do perform very well when writing Japanese but when it comes to practicality, budget, and performance, we definitely do feel that the third option, the Pentel GraphGear 1000 is the best of the bunch. This is why we have chosen it as our primary recommendation for any of our readers looking for a pencil or pen for writing Japanese.
We will now be going over some of the key points of the Pentel GraphGear 1000 to show what it has to offer as well as why its features have made it our recommended pen of choice. On top of this, it is also very easy to source in western countries where as some popular options for writing in Japanese can be a pain to find in some countries, even in specialist stationary dealers.
The Pipe System On The GraphGear 1000
Although the Pentel GraphGear 1000 does not strictly have a nib as such, it does have a pipe that holds the lead and one of the best features of this option is that the pipe is fully retractable into the barrel. Although this is a common feature, it is usually only available at higher price points but Pentel have added it as standard and it can help to protect your pipe by hiding it when not in use.
This helps to drastically reduce the chance of the pipe being damaged while your Pentel GraphGear 1000 is in your pocket, bag, case, or stationary organiser and breaking. The first full press of the button at the rear of the barrel of the GraphGear 1000 will reveal the pipe and then each additional half press of the button will push lead out from the pipe for writing.
This simple yet very effective system ensures that your Pentel GraphGear 1000 is ready to go and in good condition and although it is a very budget friendly option, we feel that you should only be purchasing stationary that has a good chance of lasting. With so many people learning Japanese being students and having to move heavy books around in their bags, knowing that your writing utensils are tough and robust offers you some peace of mind.
You are able to retract the pipe on the GraphGear 1000 by pressing the top of the clip and the mechanism within the barrel of the pen will activate and retract the pipe to protect it. One minor thing with this is that some lead can still be showing even when the pipe has been retracted. Thankfully, there is a quick and easy work around for this and we would recommend that you half press the button at the rear of the barrel, push the lead back into the pipe fully, and then press the top of the clip to retract the pipe with the lead already pushed back into it.
We love the fact that the retracting mechanism is directly attached to the clip on the Pentel GraphGear 1000. This means that after your writing session, if you forget to retract the pipe but press the clip to store your GraphGear 1000 in your pocket or on a notepad, the retraction system will trigger and pull the pipe back in to safety.
Although the recommended nib width will depend on the type of Japanese writing you will be doing, the two kana writing styles (Hiragana and Katakana) tend to do better with the 0.5mm option but kanji can be written with a nib of any width. The only popular area of writing Japanese where the nib system of the GraphGear 1000 underperforms in our opinion is for caligraphy but that’s where something like the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen comes in and takes the lead.
The whole body of the GraphGear 1000 is made from metal helping to ensure that it is tough and robust enough to take any punishment coming its way without breaking or taking significant damage. A very popular feature of the GraphGear 1000 is that its grip has metal knurling with rubber areas to help increase both your grip on the pencil and your writing experience. Although you can barely feel the rubber areas, they can definitely help improve your grip to accurately write the more challenging Japanese characters.
The barrel of the GraphGear 1000 can be totally debuilt and taken to pieces if required but in all honesty, when it comes to writing Japanese, we really don’t see any reason that you would ever have to do this. Even when fitting a the lead refill after you run out, there is still no requirement to fully take the GraphGear 1000 to pieces due to its design having been planned to be as user friendly as possible.
Another advantage of the GraphGear 1000 over the competing writing utensils at this price point in the market is that the rear cap comes off to reveal a hidden eraser. Although an eraser is commonplace, an adjustable eraser is usually only on the higher price point products. Once you have ran the eraser down, you simply pull the eraser holder out of its housing and push more of the eraser out of the barrel so you can use it. The standard eraser is around an inch long meaning it should last you for a long time before having to be replaced.
Depending on how long you have been practicing writing Japanese, you may be making mistakes often so having a hand, extendable eraser attached to your writing utensil is definitely handy to have. The eraser removes the lead from the paper without smudging too but keep in mind, if you let the eraser get dirty then you may have issues.
The clip has some decent flex on it so you can easily keep the pen in a blazer pocket without having any issues with it springing off or breaking. As we touched on earlier, the slip on the Pentel GraphGear 1000 actually has functional uses too for retracting the pipe that houses the lead. We feel that the clip on the GraphGear 1000 has been designed really well too making its practical uses and functional uses blend well without compromising either, lowering build quality, or increasing price.
The video above is a dedicated review of the Pentel GraphGear 1000 showing you many of the features that we have covered in our article in action. We feel that the video is well worth watching as it goes into great detail on the features and functionality of the GraphGear 1000 for general use. Although writing Japanese is more of a speciallist use, the improve grip on the GraphGear 1000 can definitely help ensure that you are able to easily write Japanese with it.
That brings our article going over what we feel are the best pens for writing Japanese to an end. As we touched on back at the start of the article, any decent cheap pen can write Japanese for you but the readability and quality may be questionable depending on the pen that you go with. If you are wanting to focus on the calligraphy aspect of writing Japanese then the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen is an excellent option that will serve you well and with its budget-friendly price tag and great performance, it is an excellent option for everyone.
That brings us to the Pentel GraphGear 1000 that is our primary recommendation for writing Japanese as it is also cheap but performs well for all other aspects of Japanese writing including Hiragana, Katakana, And Kanji with its only real weak are being calligraphy. The GraphGear 1000 has a great reputation amongst the community with many people using it as their writing utensil of choice for writing Japanese and we would highly recommend it to our readers to be their utensil of choice too.