MAY THE GODDESSES BE WITH YOU – Just and rational. Courageous. Artistic. Great multi-tasker. Skilled in battle and other heroic adventures. Sound like the women of FPN, yes? But these attributes equally describe Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, warfare and the arts. She was the favored child of Zeus, and according to mythology, sprang out of his forehead while he was agonizing with a massive headache. (You would too, if an adult goddess clad in full-dress armor burst forth from your noggin.)
“Athena” is also the name of an apparently difficult-to-procure fountain pen ink that is an in-house brand of Japanese book store Maruzen Company Limited. Founded in Tokyo in 1869 by Yuteki Hayashi, and originally known as “Maruya Shosha,” the store was established just as Japan’s years of isolation ended with the arrival of the Americans, bringing about a period of rapid modernization and sweeping social and economic change. Amidst this cultural shift, Maruzen began importing books from Europe and America, thus paving the way for Western thought and influence.
Maruzen initially distributed “Onoto” pens, and then created the “Athena” brand in 1915 to complement domestic pens made by inventor Eisaburo Sakasai. As the ink, supposedly made by Sailor, is meant only for domestic consumption, Maruzen, even up to this day, reputedly sells “Athena” only in-store (with no online distribution), and often limits sales to one bottle per person.
What a delight therefore to have recently come across a black and a blue specimen of this fabled ink. Perhaps the goddess Athena, in her infinite wisdom, deemed it only just that this ink, heretofore wallowing in reclusiveness, should – like ancient Japan – finally emerge from its self-imposed exile, so that other inkthusiasts outside its shores should have the opportunity to luxuriate in this legendary liquid.
(featured photo: The vintage packaging of the Athena comes with traditional Japanese script using the Katakana syllabary, the writing system for the transcription of foreign words into Nippongo. The main characters in the center (from up to down) literally translates as “Atenainki.” The glass bottle itself has an embossed “M” which could stand for Maruzen, and “15 cc” which is likely its volume, on its base. The plastic cap has an embossed Athena trademark and the words “The Athena Ink Maruzen Tokyo” around its circumference.)