Nakaya Akitsu-shima

Today we take a look at a Nakaya, featuring a contemporary interpretation of a symbolic insect of Japan. 


Nakaya specialises in Urushi and Maki-e and as such are more pricey than your regular pens. For those that don’t know Nakaya and Platinum are closely linked together, with retired platinum employees making up the bulk of the company. However, the urushi and maki-e are split between different regions of Japan. 

Akitsu-Shima translates to Dragonfly Island and this is what the motif is based on. I will speak more about the techniques later in the article.

Interestingly it’s rumoured that many many years ago, a past emperor remarked how Japan looked similar to two Dragon Flies mating.  Since then, Dragon Flies which are now referred to as Tombow have been considered symbols of happiness, strength, courage and success.

This is yet another example of culture being celebrated and as such, shows how Nakaya understands the importance of keeping the tradition of Japan alive.


I had requested Catherine to have the Nakaya wrapped in a Furoshiki, which I had also purchased from her and as such I felt that this gave the pen an even more special experience of unwrapping! All of the other items were wrapped in beautiful paper and ribbons. 

The pen as usual comes in a beautifully presented wooden paulownia box. On top, it’s adorned with Kanji characters that translate to Special Fountain Pen, as well as the Nakaya logo.

Lifting off the lid, you are presented with several items such as the pen sitting in its pen kimono, ink cartridges and a converter, both of which are platinum branded.


The pen sits beautifully on a plush red velvet bed and really goes a long way to impressing the traditions of Japanese Presentation.

Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery presentation


This pen could be categorised in one of two ways, depending on personal tastes.

The first glaring omission is the lack of a clip, for some this could be an issue. But from my perspective, we have to take into account the maki-e.  You see, quite often clips come in bare metal and as such can distract from the design. As an artist, we are told to give the viewer a point of reference to focus on and try not to include elements that can distract. 

So I am glad no clip comes with the pen! 

The Cigar portable long in size comparison to the Piccolo

In terms of the length of this pen, it’s considerably longer than the piccolo and as such could make this a better choice for writers that have larger hands. Although, I still prefer the finals and shape of the piccolo!

It should be noted that Nakaya offers the piccolo in a long model from Aesthetic Bay, a Ryogiri from Nakaya, which is the base of the Dorsel Fin 2 and lastly a Naka-ai from So if you prefer a longer pen and the aesthetics of the piccolo, you do have options!

Section-wise is decent with the ability to sit comfy in the hands of many and with thanks to the pen being slightly longer, it will feel more balanced.

Of course, with the pen not coming with a clip, you’ll want to consider how you transport the pen.  Fortunately, the pen comes with a pouch to keep the pen protected, but I would not particularly feel comfy putting this in my trousers or shirt pocket! Still, it’s great that the pen comes with some form of protection and as such you could always place it in a pencil case or pen roll, which is how I generally transport pens to meets.

Overall I find this pen to be practical, you can certainly get to writing quickly enough, thanks to the quick uncapping. One note, please don’t post your urushi pens, whilst urushi is very tough it is prone to micro scratches that can lead to damaging the artwork. 


There’s a bit to cover here, so this is where I will be focusing on the majority of today’s pen perspective.  

Firstly we will talk about the urushi techniques. Unlike my previous Nakaya which utilises the same Yakoh maki-e on a Tamenuri red background, there are a few more steps involved with the Akitsu-Shima. The base pen uses black urushi and then shu-ai urushi is applied, which is essentially a darkish red. 

Byakudan-Nuri is where the pen starts to get interesting, this technique uses either gold or aluminium foil to create a background for the Yako Maki-e. Powders are sprinkled over the barrel and then another layer of shu-ai is applied. It’s with polishing we are now getting to see the pen in all its glory. Give it a year or two and the pen’s background will get brighter and brighter, allowing the next process to really stand out.

Yako maki-e is a wonderful technique in which thick black urushi is applied to the barrel and creates a wonderful relief, giving so much dimension to the pen.

This is honestly a pen you need to see in person as the relief can’t really be conveyed well in photos or video. Of course, obtaining a pen such as this is not cheap, so I hope that the video goes some way in terms of expressing the beauty which the artist has expressed.

The fact this pen has motifs wrapping around the entire barrel makes me extremely happy! Not one inch of the pens has been left and as such, I feel this gives the pen a form of completion. This was something I felt was a little lacking on the Enjoying the Moon Cat. Still, this is reflected in the price!

As mentioned prior, I want to reiterate Nakaya’s conscious design choices. Not all the pens they sell have what you may consider, traditional patterns. If you consider dragonflies, for example, they are pretty common everywhere and it’s certainly not something that one would associate with Japan. But as I have researched into the pen more, I have grown to appreciate how dragonflies are so symbolic.  

Part of the reason why these designs are not always apparent in tradition, I feel has more to do with the execution of the maki-e design. You see, Nakaya deploys a lot more styles of maki-e beyond that of the traditional forms that Namiki uses. This, I feel shows how diverse maki-e can be, but on the flip side, newcomers to the hobby who may have seen maki-e before on other ornate objects may find some of Nakaya’s approaches a ‘bit different.


Maki-e comparison between Namiki and Nakaya

It’s this difference that I feel affects how tradition could be potentially be perceived. Unfortunately with English not being Japan’s first language, some of the translations get a bit lost on Nakaya’s website and if I had one wish. It would be to have more details about the design aspects and how they pay homage to Japan’s cultural history.

Overall I really love how the dragonflies stand out in the foreground, this contrasts wonderfully with the glistening oranges and yellows that adorn the barrel of the pen. 

Is there anything bad with the design? Not really, but I can’t help but wonder, what this pen may look like with even more pronounced aluminium or gold powders.

Writing and Drawing Experience

Writing with this pen could seem like an acquired taste, you see it provides feedback not too dissimilar to that of writing with a pencil. It’s in no way unpleasant, but for those that prefer smoother glassy writing experiences, I am afraid this may not be the pen for you unless you are happier with broader nibs! Now, you could always get Nakaya to smooth it out more, but as a stock pen, this may be more of a hassle to do so.. Still, as I am one of those people that fall into the camp of preferring a bit of feedback when writing and drawing, this pen is perfect.

What I especially love, is this soft fine nib, with which it’s equipped with. Flow is always consistent and even when flexing the nib, it always seems to keep up!

Nib choices are wide and plentiful, with one of the best customisation experiences known to mankind. I have mentioned this before, but for those that are new to the channel and to Nakaya, I will reiterate. This is like customising up a Rolls Royce… just in pen form. If you want an oblique nib,  you got it. Fast writer maybe? Sure, no problem, Nakaya can adjust the flow to meet your demands.

I really love drawing with Nakaya’s, mainly for their wonderful thin lines. But, and this is a big but! You can get fantastic drawing pens for a fraction of the price. But I’d argue that Nakaya’s charm and presence in the hand, really inspire you to pick up the pen and draw or write more frequently. 

I’d implore you all to check out Nakaya and try to spec up a nib! Few companies offer what Nakaya do and as such you will have a fantastic time choosing from a cornucopia of nib platings and sizes.

Final Thoughts

This is a personal pen and of course, there will be a bias towards this purchase. But, is this pen for everyone?

Simply put, no. These pens are extremely expensive and as such, some people just won’t be able to afford them. Which is a great shame for those that are wanting to venture into maki-e or urushi.

Overall, there is so much charm to owning a Nakaya, the idea that the pen is pretty much fully handmade, ranging from the hand-turned Ebonite barrels to the beautiful application of urushi. I just love how this pen sparkles subtly in certain lights and I love love love the wrapped design of the dragonflies!

To finalise my thoughts on this pe. Simply put, I am over the moon… the only issue being… I want more!

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