Small Balls in Japan

I'm talking about pens here -- what were you thinking? Japan Times has the story:
Pen makers cross swords in battle for thinnest lines
Sharper points for drawing kanji seen as critical to profiting from teen microwriting craze

In the competition for writing ever sharper lines, pen makers have been jostling for the title of the world's smallest ball points.

The effort isn't merely an attempt to satisfy engineers' egos; it is a critical part of the stationery industry's latest trend: ball point pens that can draw razor-sharp lines for writing microscopic kanji.

The field was pioneered by Pilot Corp., a leader in the industry, which released a pen with a ball diameter of 0.3 mm in June 1994. Before that, 0.5-mm balls had been the smallest.

"Initially, I thought it wouldn't sell," said Toshio Yamauchi, general manager of the writing instrument division of Pilot Ink Co., the firm's production unit. "The common sense in the industry is that a ball point pen should be priced at no more than 100 yen, and that pens with such sharp tips would only form a niche market anyway."

Yet, despite its 200 yen price tag, the 0.3-mm ball point pen became an instant and long-lived hit. In the past 10 years, the firm has sold 200 million of the pens in Japan.
And who is buying these?
In an unexpected development, the new pens started attracting schoolgirls who were in the habit of jotting tiny notes in between the lines of text in their textbooks.

The introduction of numerous ink colors also helped power the craze, which was adopted by young women and others who wanted to express themselves in different ways.

The colors used for writing itty-bitty characters in diaries or personal day planners change according to the mood of the day, company officials said. Some girls will even use more than 10 colors in one letter.

"Their feeling is not writing text, but rather drawing text, I think," Yamauchi said.
Engineers would be a good market too -- when I worked for an Engineering company, most of the people there liked really fine-line pens and pencils. I used to use Rapidograph pens a lot when I was in college and for a few years later. Switched to felt-tip, now using ball-point. Gotten more fussy about content than style...

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on June 15, 2005 11:39 AM.

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