Yotsubishi Kawari-nuri sakura (cherry) bark pattern c1955-1959

by Jim Mamoulides, April 24, 2017

PenHeroYotsubishi Kawari-nuri sakura (cherry) bark pattern c1955-1959

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Four diamond pens

Ishi-Shoten, also known as Ishi & Co., was established in Tokyo in 1925 by pen maker Yoshinosuke Ishii. Following the lead of Pilot, who began making maki-e pens in the 1920s, Ishi-Shoten, though a small company with initially as few as ten workers, began competing by making inexpensive maki-e pens. Ishi-Shoten used the four diamond trademark, yotsubishi in Japanese, and the mark can be found on the clip top on most pens. In reference materials, on the pens, and in catalogs, there are three spellings, Yotsubishi, Yotubisi, and Yotubishi. The company ceased operations in 1984.

PenHeroYotsubishi Kawari-nuri sakura (cherry) bark pattern c1955-1959


Though maki-e literally means sprinkled picture, the many forms of urushi lacquer based artwork on Japanese pens are generally grouped under that heading. Kawari-nuri is not considered a maki-e technique, but means free patterns, so the artist is open to decorate the urushi surface with new ideas. This could mean altering the surface with patterns, textures or swirls, adding colors, or other decorations outside traditional maki-e. Kawari-nuri artwork on pens would likely not be signed by the artist.

PenHeroYotsubishi Kawari-nuri sakura (cherry) bark pattern c1955-1959

Japanese cherry tree bark has a distinctive pattern and it can be seen featured in wooden objects, such as boxes, frames, and vases. The free form artwork on this pen is intended to recreate the pattern with the red urushi lacquer base and contrasting elements.

PenHeroYotsubishi Kawari-nuri sakura (cherry) bark pattern c1955-1959

Identification guide and features:

The key identifier for this pen is the Yotsubishi four diamond mark at on the top face of the clip. The squeeze filling unit also is stamped with this logo, along with "YOTUBISI." The cap, barrel and section are all coated with urushi lacquer and finished with the sakura (cherry) bark pattern so that the artwork flows over the entire pen. The filling unit is a squeeze type, possibly aerometric (which would require a feed tube), and would date the pen to the 1950s, following the design of the Parker 51 Aerometric. The trim is gold plated. The nib is a warranted 14 karat gold number 4 size nib. The pen is on the large size, at 5 1/4 inches long and quite broad.


Having now seen several Yotsubishi pens, I can say that they are all very well made and the artwork is excellent. The fit and finish of the trim pieces is tight and shows little wear. The pen is a little longer and fatter than many contemporary pens from the 1950s. I did not fill or write with the pen, as it was on loan for photos, but the nib feels very smooth from dry write testing. The squeeze filler is in excellent condition and I would imagine it would work as well as many other similar units from the same era.

PenHeroYotsubishi Kawari-nuri sakura (cherry) bark pattern c1955-1959

This is a very beautiful pen. The artwork is eye-catching and simple. Many different beautiful Yotsubishi art pens were made in the 1950s. They are very uncommon in the United States.


Thanks to Stan Klemanowicz for loaning this pen for photographs.


Fountain Pens of Japan by Andreas Lambrou and Masamichi Sunami, © 2012 Andreas Lambrou Publishers, Epping, Essex, United Kingdom



Comments on this article may be sent to the editor, Jim Mamoulides Bibliography

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