Now, you can easily experience traditional Japanese brushes through brush pens

They date back to about 5,000 to 3,000 B.C., and the writing brushes made of animal hair in China about 2,000 years ago were introduced to Japan along with Buddhism in around the 6th century. Currently, ballpoint pens are the main writing instruments used in Japan, but graphological art such as calligraphy and ink painting which can only be made with writing brushes is still popular. Thin brushes are still especially used by many people when writing the addresses on postcards known as “nengajo” for celebrating the new year.

A special ink known as “bokuju”, which is made by rubbing an ink stick on an inkstone, is needed in order to use brushes in the traditional manner, but writing brushes cannot be used by everyone as this process requires effors and the proper tools. This led to the manufacturers of stationary supply utilizing the advantages of ballpoint pens, fountain pens, and brushes to develop pocket brush pens, which are portable and automatically supplied with ink at the tips.

Handwriting by a brush pen: An example
Handwriting by a brush pen: An example

Brush pens with soft tips can be used to make dramatic yet delicate lines and drawings that cannot be made with fountain pens or ballpoint pens. First, try to write or draw a term or name that you like. The Japanese alphabet consists of kanji, hiragana, and katakana. Remember to tell a Japanese person that you would like to learn to write your name in Japanese. Then they would surely be happy to teach you how.

Brush pens generally come in black, but the “Art brush” is available in eighteen different colors. It is a brush pen that lets you create artwork like watercolor paintings such as by blurring brushstrokes and mixing colors using two pens. They are gathering attention from illustrators and cartoonists all around the world for a new form of expression.

Koto - a brush pen with its holder wrapped in Japanese paper with traditional Japanese designs
“Koto” – a brush pen with its holder wrapped in Japanese paper with traditional Japanese designs

Black brush pens are so common that they can be purchased at places such as convenience stores and kiosks at train stations. Special brush pens such as colorful ones and those featuring holders with Japanese paper having traditional Japanese designs including “Kyo-Yuzen” and “Edo-Komon” can be found at major stationery stores. Any of these brush pens ranging from low-priced ones to luxury items make perfect gifts and souvenirs to be enjoyed.