A Brief History of the Pioneer of Pilot Pocket Pens - the Sporty 12

by Wai Tat Jerry

Previously, like many pen enthusiasts, I mistakenly believed that the first pocket pen by Pilot was the Elite S in 1968, as it was the most well-known. However, after communicating with Mr. Nobuyoshi Arakura, a.k.a. Mr. Pilot, he revealed to me the true originator of Pilot's pocket pens, which was the Sporty 12!


Pen Model History

In 1962, the legendary Japanese fashion designer Kenkai Ishizu introduced a new short-sleeved shirt called the "Hong Kong Shirt" (ホンコンシャツ), which immediately changed the dressing habits of Japanese office workers. People started placing pens or notebooks in the shirt's left chest pocket, resulting in a sharp increase in demand for pocket pens. Recognizing this trend, Pilot launched their first pocket pen, the Sporty 12 (スポーティー 12, model name RS-150), in August 1963.

Advertisement for the Sporty 12 in 1963, indicating that the target audience was office workers wearing shirts. For a detailed account of this history, please see:https://pocketpenchronicle.com/2017/04/15/關於「短鋼」與「短鋼編年史」/ 


The Sporty 12 was priced at 1500 yen and came with a 14K gold nib. According to the information provided by Mr. Arakura, Pilot released a total of seven colors for the Sporty 12: black, red, pink, light blue, light green, beige, and purple.




Design Highlights

Compared to other pocket pens that followed the "long cap, short body" design, the Sporty 12 was simply a proportionally scaled-down version of the standard-length pen.

Comparison of the Sporty 12 with Platinum's first pocket pen, the PK-1000, and that of Sailor, Sailor Mini. The Sporty 12 is the longest at 12 cm, followed by the PK-1000 at 11.5 cm and Sailor Mini at 9 cm.


Limited by the technology and era of its time, the Sporty 12's design appears quite quaint. For example, there is a small hole on the pen barrel to balance the air pressure inside and outside the pen, preventing ink from failing to flow or bursting due to pressure differences. It featured a push-button ink filling system, with the ink sac integrated into the barrel. These design elements have mostly disappeared since the mid to late 1960s.

Upon disassembling the pen barrel, the Sporty 12's ink sac can be seen, with the words "SPORTY 12" engraved on it.



Enigmatic Pen Body Engravings

The Sporty 12's pen body is also engraved with model information, "PILOT SPORTY12-150," and a production number, "DS 15." According to online information, the first two letters of the production number represent the year, month, and manufacturing facility. "D" represents 1963, and "S" represents Pilot's Shimura factory (Tokyo factory) in July. However, for more accurate details, I still need to inquire with Mr. Arakura.

Regardless, these production numbers provide valuable assistance and a lot of enjoyment in studying the history of this meticulous pen model. I wish other pen manufacturers had similar practices back then!




Previously, I insisted on only introducing "genuine" pocket pens with long caps and short bodies (even in the annual pocket pen group photo, I didn't include other pocket pens). However, the Sporty 12 has compelled me to break that rule. It represents the beginning of the golden age of pocket pens and symbolizes the exploration and interpretation of the concept of "pocket pen" by different pen manufacturers at that time. This diversity and individuality are part of the joy of fountain pens.

Here, I would like to express my gratitude once again to Mr. Arakura for generously sharing various information and even gifting me this Sporty 12. I will never forget when I participated in Tainan Pen Show in October 2023 and Mr. Arakura suddenly rushed over from the neighboring booth, handed me this Sporty 12, and said, "This pen is for you!" before rushing back to attend to his booth. This kind of charm is also one of the emotions created by fountain pens.

2023.12.18 余維達 Jerry Yu





  1. にほんブログ村,PILOT SPORTY12 14K その2, retried: http://blog.livedoor.jp/nekopen23/archives/46154665.html
  2. 万年筆蒐集家二右衛門半によるテキトーな文具紹介,パイロット/スポーティ12ふたたび (2),retried: https://plaza.rakuten.co.jp/idesitukikamo/diary/201002220000/
  3. 沒人用過吧,百樂鋼筆科普-主系列(1)-Super系列(1)Super無字母系列,retried: https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/642256823
  4. 沒人用過吧,百樂鋼筆科普-小系列(2)-Sporty系列,retried: https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/642256823

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