The History of the Naginata Togi
Hi, it’s Jane again! Today, I’m writing about the rich history of one of Sailor’s most popular specialty nibs, the Naginata Togi. With its taller height and curved foot, which is created by grinding and shaping the tip of a Sailor 21k nib, it’s named after the naginata, a traditional spear favored by foot soldiers (ashigaru), warrior monks (souhei), and warrior noblewomen (onna-bugeisha) in feudal Japan. The curved tip creates brush-like strokes with variable width, depending on how you angle the pen, and lends the nib especially well to writing kanji.
Although the Naginata Togi was officially added to the Sailor Specialty Nib lineup in 1991, Sailor says that they were using the nib-grinding technique as early as 1911, the year of Sailor’s founding. According to Sailor, the nib disappeared around the mid-20th century as the company shifted their focus to mechanizing the mass production of fountain pens after the war. A few decades later, nib craftsmen Nagahara Nobuyoshi and Koyama Gunichi decided to revive the Naginata Togi grinding technique to meet the needs of fountain pen users who wanted a nib that could be used at different angles for different line weights without sacrificing ease of use. Nagahara Nobuyoshi, often referred to as Nagahara Senior, is best known as the master of the Naginata Togi. During his time at Sailor, he personally oversaw the grinding and shaping of every Specialty Nib. Nagahara Senior joined Sailor in 1947 as an apprentice, learning the basics of shaping and cutting nibs, and stayed at the company until his retirement in 2011. After a long and illustrious life, he passed away in 2015.
Nagahara Nobuyoshi, or Nagahara Senior. Image from Ink Traveler.
Nagahara Nobuyoshi's legacy in the fountain pen world is survived by his son, Nagahara Yukio, also known as Nagahara Junior. He took over his father's position at Sailor after his retirement in 2011 and stayed on until 2020, when he himself retired and started building out his own nib customization company, The Nib Shaper. He still tours stationery stores in Japan hosting nib repair and customization workshops in the tradition of Nagahara Senior’s “Nagahara Pen Clinics,” which were attended and loved by many.
Nagahara Yukio, or Nagahara Junior. Image credit: Fude Fan, Legendary nibmeister Nagahara reground my nibs (July 2019).
When the Naginata Togi nib was introduced into the Sailor Specialty Nib lineup in 1991, it became an immediate hit and an instant classic. Due to its popularity, Nagahara Senior experimented with the shaping technique to create several variations on the original theme, coming to comprise the Naginata family of nibs: the Naginata Concord, the Naginata Fude de Mannen, the Naginata Emperor, and the Cross Point series (another Specialty Nib inspired by the Naginata Togi). Due to the technical details of the way these nibs are produced and fitted onto the pen, they are not sold separately or on their own.
Pictured top to bottom, left to right: the Naginata Concord, the Naginata Fude de Mannen, the Naginata Emperor, the Cross Point, the Cross Concord, and the Cross Music. Image credit: Sailor Pen Company.
In the nine years that passed between Nobuyoshi Senior’s retirement and Nobuyoshi Junior’s retirement, Sailor aficionados began to find that Naginata Togi nibs, which were only available on 1911 Large pens at that time, were becoming increasingly difficult to come by. In February 2017, Sailor announced an 18-month suspension on taking any new orders for pens with Naginata Togi nibs. Online, people speculated that Sailor was working through an immense backlog of orders in the wake of Nobuyoshi Senior’s retirement as well as training more nib artisans to prepare for Nobuyoshi Junior’s departure. After a long wait, ready-to-purchase Naginata Togi nibs on gold- and silver-trimmed black 1911 Large pens finally returned to stores in April 2020. In the December 2019 issue of Hobby Stationery Box, musician and fountain pen lover Shindou Haruichi tours the flagship Sailor Pen Factory in Hiroshima and meets Nagahara Junior as well as Fujikawa Nozomi and Yashiki Naoki, who were at the time training to take over for Nagahara Junior. It's safe to assume that, since Nagahara Junior's retirement in 2020, Ms. Fujikawa and Mr. Yashiki have been in charge of overseeing the new Naginata Togi nibs produced since then.
First image: Nagahara Yukio (or Nagahara Junior), musician Shindou Haruichi, Fujikawa Nozomi, and Yashiki Naoki. Second image: snapshots at the Sailor Factory in Hiroshima, Japan. Images credit: Hobby Stationery Box Vol. 52 (Dec. 2019), pp. 20-23.
This year, Sailor debuted another new and luxurious Naginata Togi offering — a standard-release black ebonite 1911 King of Pen with Naginata Togi nib, the first time this pen and nib have been combined on a standard release (though the combination has been available on previous limited-edition pens, such as the Kouen and the Kaiha). Larger than a 1911 Large, the King of Pen boasts a huge #9 21k nib that flexes with the pressure applied and feels luxurious to write with. This King of Pen in particular also boasts a barrel made of ebonite, a synthetic resin created from natural rubber through a 3-day vulcanization process that renders it highly resistant to aging and moisture. Ebonite is much warmer to the touch than a regular plastic barrel; it’s also much more receptive of light, meaning that the pen shines a warm brown.
We are proud to say that we are one of the few authorized Sailor dealers in the U.S. that is carrying this super special pen, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading a little about its history and how it came to be!