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My Quest For Sakura Pens

My Sakura Gelly Roll Gelato Pen

My Sakura Gelly Roll Gelato Pen

I still haven’t found another Sakura Gelly Roll Gelato pen.  I spent more time and money than I intended on my quest — but I learned a bit, too.

Why do I like the Gelato?  Because it’s at least a bit better than other good pens (e.g. Pilot, Uniball) with a very fine line (Sakura claims 0.26mm line width for the 04 model I have), wonderfully smooth ink flow, comfortable grip, and retractable design.

A Gelly Roll Bonanza

My Gelly Roll Bonanza (L->R: Pigma Micron, Regular, Metallic, Gold Shadow, Stardust, Moonlight)

Basically, what’s available at retail are the “artsy” Sakura pens, such as the metallic Gelly Roll models.  The Gelly Rolls are nice pens, but they  are best for fun; for writing, I prefer the feel, thinner line, and retractable design of the Gelato.  My results:

  • Michael’s had a few packages of various Gelly Roll types and Pigma Micron pens.  They did not have any individual pens.
  • Jo-ann Fabrics had a similar, but larger, selection of Sakura Gelly Roll and Pigma Micron packages.  They did not have any individual pens.
    • Jo-ann does have a much wider range available on-line, including individual pens.
    • Jo-ann’s web and retail selection is much better than Michael’s.
  • Aaron Brothers is changing: they had individual Gelly Roll and Pigma pens, but were closing them out.  You can see in the picture that I went a little crazy buying Gelly Rolls.  (It’s for my kids, of course.)
    • Aaron Brothers did not have any multi-pen packages.  It appears they are closing out their more technical and artistic products (e.g. Sakura pens, Faber Castell pencils) in favor of a greatly expanded children’s selection.  The children’s area is pretty nice; I’ll check it out again when it’s close to my kids’ birthdays.

I haven’t had a chance to visit the stationery stores in San Jose or Palo Alto.  But I did find a very nice (but pricey) stationery store while having fun in San Francisco: Maido Stationery.  Actually, the Japantown store is called Kinokuniya Stationery, but it’s run by Maido.  Their other stores are in downtown San Francisco, Santana Row in San Jose, Los Angeles (with Kinokuniya) and New York (with Kinokuniya)

Pilot HI-TEC-C 0.3mm Pen

Pilot HI-TEC-C 0.3mm Pen

Basically, Maido is a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) store — everything is direct from Japan.  They have good selection of Sakura products, including individual pens, along with Pilot, Mitsubishi (Uniball), and such.

If you like pens, you should definitely visit sometime.  They have a wide variety of pens I’ve never seen before, down to 0.25mm width, in all kinds of cool colors.  I ended up buying the finest-line pen that I felt wrote well, a 0.3mm blue Pilot HI-TEC-C (and was lucky I didn’t spend a lot more).  Maido has the hard to find 0.3mm and 0.4mm mechanical pencils — and leads.  I was intrigued by them (I had a Staedtler 0.3mm pencil many years ago), but they were quite pricey, the  real world results weren’t much finer than a 0.5mm pencil, and it’s very easy to break the leads.

But Maido doesn’t have the Sakura Gelato.  The saleslady said it looked like an export model meant for Western countries.  The Sakura America web site says the entire Gelly Roll line was originally intended for export to the US.  In Japan Sakura sells a lot of normal writing pens, but Sakura decided it would be very hard to compete with the US market leaders, so they created a new market with the Gelly Rolls.

Apparently, Sakura was right; in 2003, they introduced the Gelato, and in 2004 some additional models, but it looks like all Gelatos have been discontinued, which is a shame.  The Gelato 04 model has a claimed line width (0.26mm) almost as fine as anything in Maido (0.25mm, 0.28mm) but it writes much more smoothly than any of the super-fine models I tried; I’d say it even writes better than my 0.3mm Hi-Tec-C.  Also, I prefer the retractable pen design; however, if Maido’s selection is any indication, I’d say Japanese prefer pens with caps over retractable models.

So it looks like I won’t get any more Gelatos.  Oh, well, I had fun — and ended up with a lot of cool pens.

2 comments

1 megan { 08.13.10 at 2:37 am }

how much were the hi-tec-c pens at maido?
i’m wondering whether i should buy them online or buy them at the store.
i live near the one in los angeles

2 Tony { 08.14.10 at 8:44 pm }

I’d recommend visiting Maido at least once — there is no substitute for trying out the pens in person; for example, I find the 0.3mm Hi-Tec-C writes much more smoothly than the 0.25mm (although neither one writes as well as my 0.4mm Sakura Gelato). So far I have found the Maido staff to be knowledgeable and helpful.

The Hi-Tec-C’s aren’t cheap; they were $3.95 at Maido, and it looks like they’re $3.00 at JetPens. Some of the pens are cheaper; IIRC, Zebra Sarasas were $1.95.

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