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Which Japanese pens are best?

Handwriting is a form of art in Japan, so it is no wonder stationery gets a lot more attention there. Calligraphy is a big part of Japanese culture; it is taught to children in elementary school, and many adults take it up as a respected hobby. There are even calligraphy lessons for beginners (English-speaking tourists mostly) in many temples and cultural centers. Beautiful writing needs quality pens, and Japanese pens are known for innovation, practicality and craftsmanship. If you are looking for the best Japanese pen, the Pentel EnerGel Retractable Liquid Gel is the one.

What to know before you buy a Japanese pen

Type of writing

Do you need an everyday pen to take notes, or are you looking for a high-end one to sign work documents in style? There are also pens designed specifically for journaling, calligraphy and drawing.


A quality Japanese pen should be made from durable plastic or metal with an aluminum or brass ink cartridge. If the pen has a push button, it should be sturdy and work with just one click.

Type of pen

There are many different types of Japanese pens, including old-school fountain pens and felt tips, loved by artists and crafters. However, three main types primarily used in the office and for everyday writing needs are ballpoint, rollerball and gel.

Type of ink

All ink pens use some sort of liquid and color. Types of ink depend on the liquid; it can be water-, oil- or alcohol-based. There are also pigment and dye-based pens. Water-based ink is most common. Oil- and alcohol-based pens write better on slick surfaces and dry faster but can sometimes have a strong smell. Dye-based ink is not waterproof and is more transparent than pigment ink.

What to look for in a quality Japanese pen

Japanese pens are multi-functional, come in many colors, have great pigments and are made of high-quality materials.

Size of the pen tip

Pen tips come in many sizes, from micro to medium, fine and bold. The thickness of the tip is usually marked right on the pen, with a 0.7 mm fine tip being the most common for everyday tasks. Japanese pens are known for offering extra-fine tips suitable for writing in tiny spaces, such as side notes or calendar reminders.


The last thing you want is to sign a birthday card beautifully only to have it smear and imprint on the other side as soon as you close it. Smudge-proof pens do not bleed out on the paper or require blotting. To find a smear-proof pen, make sure it has fast-drying ink. It also helps to check reviews for the product, as this feature tends to be the most mentioned by users.


Whether you write by hand a lot or only use pens sporadically, an ergonomic design and comfortable grip with a rubber insert can make a big difference.

How much you can expect to spend on a Japanese pen

Japanese pens are known for being high-quality products at a very low price. Most pens cost a few dollars per unit and usually are sold in packs of six or 10. However, some high-end pens can cost up to $250.

Japanese pen FAQ

What are refillable Japanese pens, and can you refill them yourself?

A. Pens are often made from plastic. Refillable ink can reduce the number of pens you use, therefore helping the environment while still delivering high-quality results. As long as you have an ink cartridge that matches the brand and type of pen, it is easy to switch the old for the new.

What is the best Japanese pen for journaling?

A. Rollerball pens with water-based ink are easy to use and make for a smooth, comfortable writing experience.

What are the best Japanese pens to buy?

Top Japanese pen

Pentel EnerGel Retractable Liquid Gel

Pentel EnerGel Retractable Liquid Gel

What you need to know: This slick metal pen with black ink has over 4,000 positive reviews on Amazon and is perfect for everyday use.

What you’ll love: The gel ink is vivid and has a smooth-flowing formula that dries fast and won’t smear or blot. Acid-free ink will not fade over time, while the 0.7 mm fine point is perfect for notes and freehand writing. A soft rubber grip makes for comfortable writing while innovative pocket-proof clips prevent the pen from leaking; the tip automatically retracts when the pen is clipped to a notebook or a pocket.

What you should consider: Some users said the ink did not last as long as expected, with pens only lasting one to two weeks with moderate use.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top Japanese pen for the money

OHTO Fude Ballpoint Pen Extra Bold

OHTO Fude Ballpoint Pen Extra Bold

What you need to know: This bold 1.5 mm pen has very dark ink that is water resistant.

What you’ll love: These pens have comfortable grips and last a long time. The extra-bold tip is great for signatures and dries fast, preventing smearing and smudges. The pen works great for people who don’t like the way their writing looks with finer tips.

What you should consider: Some users said the pen skipped on certain surfaces, an issue usually resolved after using the pen for a while.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Zebra Pen F-301 Ballpoint Stainless Steel Retractable Pen

Zebra Pen F-301 Ballpoint Stainless Steel Retractable Pen

What you need to know: Lightweight and durable, this 0.7 mm fine-point pen has close to 5,000 positive reviews.

What you’ll love: Nonslip grip makes for super-comfortable use, while easy-glide ink promises top-of-the-line writing performance. The pens are easy to refill and will last a long time.

What you should consider: Some users said the pen could be a bit short for writers with bigger hands.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Agrippina Fadel writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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