Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Review of Namiki Yukari Royale in Vermillion(Red) Urushi


A wait longer than words can define, an Emperor in Red singing a glistening rhapsody, and then a Yukari dazzling in Royale Red glory. The pens, an encompassment of elegance of words, combined with precision of maki-e artisans have been unsurpassed. The Yukari did anxiously waited in my hands to have it's first sip of ink and I had same thoughts with what if clauses! Before getting the Yukari, this is a must read-review by FPNer shuuemura, which is a rather poetic series of pictures with practical words, comparing two pilot beauties in black urushi. 

This pen, one can find ideal for everyday carry to write or to keep admiring the marvel it is! The doubly magnified and magnificent emperor would be more suitable for the latter though. Having said that, when both are together, it’s more fulfilling than a sumptuous meal. 

PS. Google says Yukari in Japanese means Affinity (上記) and is feminine by gender. 

In case you are looking for a review of the larger Emperor (sized pen), the below link redirects to the necessarily ‘unnecessary’ eye-candies :) 


A BRIEF HISTORY 


The Namiki Yukari Royale more or less derives itself from the 80th Anniversary fountain pen (with only 1918 produced) aka the ShiSen, which was launched in 1998. The cap band was then imprinted with four mythical creatures - Dragon, Phoenix, Tiger and XuanWu (Tortoise). 

The band decorated with the Shijin (four gods) was finished in Togidashi maki-e. The Chinese fable of these creatures goes like this - Each mythical creature is supposed to guard one particular Earth direction and is Harbinger of a particular season. They are respectively, Shujaku - the red phoenix of the South (Summer), Byakko - the white tiger of the West (Autumn), Genbu - the black tortoise of the North (Winter) and Seiryu - the blue dragon of the East (Spring). The latter four are the Buddhist guardians of the four directions who serve Lord Taishakuten (who represents the center), and are associated with China’s Theory of Five Elements. 

The 80th Anniversary pen is rather excellently reviewed here by RLD. 

And later, in 2005, another 50 Seki Shun LE pieces (branded as Dunhill Namiki) were made by Pilot/Namiki for the Elephant & Coral Store which are still available. The clip matches the colour of the main finish in the earlier editions, something which may or may not appeal to all of us. 

URUSHI 


Urushi as you may know is the otherwise poisonous sap of the urushi or lacquer tree (Toxicodendron Vernicifluum) which grows in Japan, China, and Korea and is primarily brown in colour. The sap of this tree polymerises to form a hard, durable, plastic-like substance, when exposed to moisture/air. Liquid urushi can be applied to multiple materials like wood, metal, cloth, resin, ceramics or ebonite as opposed to the best available synthetic lacquers. When it solidifies, it turns into a very hard coating that is waterproof and protects the coated object from effects of fungus, ambient chemical reactions at surface due to heat or humidity or even from caustic acids. By mixing pigments into cured urushi, colored urushi such as black or shu (red) are made. With natural exposure to air and ultraviolet light (extended UV exposure ends up in discolouration), the urushi layers gradually increase in transparency and the material gradually unveils shades of original bright colours within. 

Like the Emperor, the Yukari Royale also comes in a spacious wooden box, made of traditional Paulownia wood. The box is protectively packaged inside a cardboard box. I had to let go of the box, while someone hand-delivered the pen, along with the accessories! 

                            The model number of the pen, in this case FNK-128S-<R/B>-<F/FM/M/B> contains the launch price, colour and nib width. The 128 refers to the list price of JPY 128,000 whereas the third digit R/B refers to the red/black urushi. 

THE TORPEDO 


This Lacquer No.#20 model comes in two standard finishes - Black & Vermillion (Urushi) with gold plated clips. The brass body feels comfortable in hand, from dual perspectives of dimensions and weight. 

The torpedo shaped pen in Vermillion/Red is adorable in both light and shadow, and when light reflects through layers of urushi, it renders itself an electric red appearance. I believe the brass substrate is partly responsible for its bright hues compared to a relatively darker scarlet hue off the Emperor’s ebonite. The expected fit & finish seem impeccable. The simplistic yet elegant design comes with two golden accents, provided deftly by the traditional triangular shaped tension fit clip with a sphere and a thin gold ring at the cap lip. Again there is a marked absence of any other decoration like a cap band or ring or anything else on the entire pen, extending infinity to modes of artistic convergence. 

Vermillion is considered as an auspicious colour throughout East Asia, where it’s culturally imbibed. It has four synthetic & natural shades as of today: Red-Orange[sRGB (255, 83, 73)], Orange-Red[sRGB (255, 69, 0)], Plochere[sRGB (217, 96, 59)] and Chinese Red[sRGB (170, 56, 30)]. The shades/hue of the pens in red urushi might vary. 

                 The cap finds itself after two turns, revealing a nib with the modern Mt.Fuji inscription. The seamless grip shows a pronounced taper starting from the barrel and ends up with a smoothly carved out bump, rendering continuity. 

The cap threads on the barrel are carved out with artistic finesse, deftly spaced and carved out of brass. The barrel at the other end leads leisurely to the smoothest tail. 

The brass cap again displays the most subtle art, sans any discernible extravagance. It carries the same perseverance and focus with a fluid like finish. The finish is impeccable with a parabolic finial and with colours hovering between bright and dark red, with the play of light. The clip is traditional triangular Pilot with a sphere at the end, inscribed with Namiki with the ‘Isosceles Triangle within a Pentagon’ logo. There is a thin gold ring at the cap lip, the only adornment than the golden clip. There is a alphanumeric code inscribed on the upper base of the clip, where it delves into the cap. 


FILLING SYSTEM - ‘CON-70 ZINDABAD’ 


The section unscrews from the barrel with three and half turns, with a metallic clink, given the metallic threads on both the section and the barrel. This exposes the golden metallic threads of the section, which would otherwise remain ever hidden! A special CON-70 converter, in black, is pushed inside. 

The inner barrel carries the opposite metallic threads. With a short black coating near the threads which contacts with the section, the rest of the brass barrel is all exposed metal on the inside.

The pen can take all pilot converters CON-20/40/50 (0.4-0.5 mL) & CON-70 (1 mL) along with pilot proprietary cartridges (0.9 mL). I have used the included ‘special black’ CON-70 converter, which has a push button filling mechanism. Mind you, the ink bottle with have some froth during the otherwise fun filling exercise. Although, for Yukari I have always directly filled the converter from an eye dropper! 


NIB WITH THE ‘OVAL’ BREATHER HOLE 


The nib with the Yukari Royale is 18k, Size#20 (similar to Pilot#15) and it comes in four stock widths - F, FM, M & B, across Japan and other distribution countries. Inscribed upon it, is the symbol of Mt. Fuji and the upper part does seems symbolic of the snow caps! Comparatively the nib weighs a tad more than a usual pilot#15 nib (middle vs right, 0.78g vs 0.70g), but at the same time it is much less wide at the shoulders. 

The oval breather hole rests within the snow caps. Below the snow, etched are the Namiki Logo (Isosceles triangle inside a Pentagon), Namiki, gold alloy specs (18k-75%) and Nib width <M

On the left the #20 nib carries the Namiki Logo with Ste PP-F hallmark and on the right it carries a simple date stamp. The red plastic feeder does converge with the overall color of the pen, though I would have preferred a similarly urushi coated feeder, which only the Emperor has! May be it’s a feed size limitation, may be Pilot doesn't want to spend more money, I have no idea. The moderately spaced fins ensure levelling ambient air pressure and give you a good buffer, my experience says it’s a tad better than the usual pilot feed. You can see the three different feeds, Size#50 Emperor, Size#20 Yukari Royale & the Size#15 Custom 823, side by side. 


PHYSICS AS RELATIVELY IT IS


The lacquer somewhat helps in keeping the pen warm which is otherwise metallic, and renders it comfortable for writing. The pen is deftly balanced for writing, even for extended use. The grip, smooth & soothing, showcases both utility and elegance at the same time. I do not post the pen as the cap is not as inlaid with as much felt/velvet as the Emperor. Figures for weight and dimensions run below for the technically minded ones. 
  • Length closed ~ 14.9 cm 
  • Length open ~ 13.4 cm 
  • Grip Diameter ~ 1.1 cm 
  • Nib Leverage ~ 2.4 cm 
  • Weight (without ink) ~ 45 g 
  • Weight (without cap) ~ 27.4 g 
Capped, uncapped pictures with a Pilot Custom 823 run below for your reference. There is an Emperor posing, just to highlight its relative significance :) 

The uncapped Emperor without weighs around 31 grams and the Yukari with an unfilled converter weighs around 27 grams. And this is one of the most comfortable pens, I found.


ECONOMIC VALUE 


The Yukari Royale retails at around USD 1200 in the US, and you can find it at similar prices in Japan. I was able to source the pen at a good bargain. 

                     Logically the economic value should be equal to salvage value of the pen after a few years of use and I don't think the price will vary by much even after few years of use, given that someone finally decides to sell it off. Having said that, even though the pen is one of its kind, you should give it a serious thought. It will result in a fair amount of money trapped within the urushi layers! 

FINAL WORDS IN WRITING 


The medium nib is graced with a super wet flow, which might put a few of my Pelikans to utter shame! The nib is as smooth as I want it to be, with a slight hint of control, evident in all pilot gold nibs, strictly speaking. I feel that there is some characteristic spring and softness because of the size & shape of the nib, and it does open up with a bit of pressure. The verticals grow thicker with pressure, and this nib runs a tad thicker than a usual pilot medium nib. No skips with fast or normal writing. It writes pretty similar at whether held at a high angle or a low angle. A relatively wet Sailor Nioi-Sumire ink takes around 55 seconds to dry completely on Tomoe River paper with the #20 medium nib. 

Thank you for going through the review. 
You can find other pen and paraphernalia reviews here

REFERENCES 



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