The Game Changer of Japanese Pocket Fountain Pen - Sailor Mini, Aluminum Cap, 14k-gold nib

by Wai Tat Jerry

含蓋:10.6 cm
不含蓋:9.2 cm
套蓋:14.4 cm

Sailor is currently producing the PG Mini pocket pen. Interestingly, over sixty years ago, they also introduced another pocket pen model called the Mini, which became a huge success and even changed the trend in the entire Japanese fountain pen industry. This pen, known as the Sailor Mini (セーラー ミニ), was launched in 1963.


Historical Introduction: The Pen that Pioneered the Era of Pocket Pen for Two Decades

Let's go back to the 1960s for a historical introduction. At that time, Japan did not have short-sleeved shirts that could be worn with ties. Even in the scorching summer, Japanese office workers had to wear long-sleeved shirts and often suffered from the heat. It wasn't until 1962 when the legendary Japanese fashion designer Kenzō Ishizu designed the short-sleeved shirt called "Hong Kong Shirts." This shirt was breathable and comfortable. With strong promotion, it completely changed the wearing habits of the Japanese people.

Advertisement for Teijin's Hong Kong Shirts in 1962. If you want to know more about the original of pocket pen, please check:關於「短鋼」與「短鋼編年史」/

After the popularity of Hong Kong Shirts spread nationwide, pen manufacturers encountered a problem. The pockets of the shirts were not too deep, so if the fountain pen was too long, it could easily slip out. Recognizing this issue, Sailor introduced the first pocket fountain pen designed for shirts in January 1963: the Sailor Mini. And thus, the pocket fountain pen was born.

The Sailor Mini was priced at 1000 yen and initially targeted middle and high school students. Sailor heavily promoted the Mini's compact and portable design, claiming that it could "easily fit in the front pocket of a Y-neck shirt."

Sailor Mini 1963 promotional advertisement. The copy highlights the features of the Mini: its compact size that fits perfectly in the shirt pocket; the ability to attach the cap to the back of the pen, making it the same length as a regular fountain pen. The advertisement also emphasizes that the Mini is "cartridge-based," (カートリッジ式) meaning it uses ink cartridges to refill ink. At that time, ink cartridges had only become popular in Japan a few years prior, making it a relatively fresh method of refilling ink.

On a side note, I was curious about the phrase "TV提供番組、パパはなんでも知つている" in the bottom left corner of the advertisement. After doing some research, I discovered that Sailor sponsored the Japanese broadcast of the American sitcom "Father Knows Best" from 1958 to 1964. It's surprising to learn that Sailor, as a pen manufacturer, had connections with the television industry.


The Sailor Mini immediately struck a chord with people's demand for this type of pocket fountain pen upon its release. It was praised as the "easiest fountain pen to fit in the shirt pocket." With the popularity of Hong Kong-style shirts nationwide and the rising trend of "continuous holidays" in Japan at that time, where employees took long vacations to go shopping and enjoy leisure activities, the Sailor Mini became a bestseller. It became the top-selling model among Sailor's three new pen designs in 1963 and became a trendy product of that time.

More importantly, the success of the Sailor Mini demonstrated the immense market potential for pocket fountain pens, attracting all pen manufacturers in Japan to enter the production of pocket pens. This led to the boom of short fountain pens from the 1960s to the 1980s. Without the Sailor Mini, we might not have had the opportunity to see so many stunning pocket pens that we have today.







Unboxing the Original Sailor Mini

I was so fortunate to acquire a Sailor Mini, complete with its original packaging. Now, let me show you the Sailor fountain pen packaging from the 1960s!

Front of the original box. The transparent plastic lid features the old Sailor logo and the pen model name "Sailor Mini."


Back of the original box, made of sturdy cardboard, with the hollowed-out "Sailor" logo, revealing the quality assurance certificate inside. It also specifically states "カートリッジが中に入っています" (cartridges are included inside). The tradition of including cartridges with Japanese fountain pens continues to this day, although most pens now come with only two cartridges, while the Sailor Mini generously includes six.


Contents of the Sailor Mini, including the pen, original box, quality assurance certificate, and six blue cartridges stored in foam plastic. This packaging has a slightly inexpensive feel, likely because the Sailor Mini was initially targeted at junior high school students and had a lower positioning.


Quality assurance certificate for Sailor fountain pens from the 1960s, with a nostalgic charm. The bottom right corner features the signature and seal of the then-president of Sailor, Shiro Nakajima.


Back of the quality assurance certificate, with the stamp of the Sugiyama Stationery Store, which sold this pen at the time. Unfortunately, this stationery store has likely closed since then.



Design Highlights

Perhaps due to positioning and cost considerations, the Sailor Mini has a rather simple and unadorned appearance. It has minimal decorative elements. The cap is made of a champagne gold-colored aluminum alloy commonly used in affordable pen models at that time, which is prone to scratches or dents from minor impacts. The grip section and barrel of the pen are made of plastic. However, surprisingly, the nib is made of 14K gold, indicating that a significant portion of the cost was invested in the nib.

Its design established several characteristics of pocket pens:

1. It is shorter than standard fountain pens. The Sailor Mini pen I have in my hand is only 10.6 cm long (Sailor's advertisement mentions 9 cm, although it's unclear if this is due to different versions), even shorter than the later mainstream pocket pens (typically ranging from 11 to 13 cm). Due to its compact size, it can easily fit into shallow shirt pockets.

2. It has a long cap and short barrel, allowing the pen clip to firmly grip the shirt pocket, making it easier to slide into the pocket. When in use, the cap can be posted on the back of the pen, making the overall length more comfortable for writing.

3. It features a pull-off cap design, which is convenient for access and was popular for fountain pens at that time. Subsequent pocket pens mostly adopted this design, and I have yet to come across a pocket pen with a twist cap design.

When not in use, the Sailor Mini had a significant difference in length compared to the Sailor Mini 21, which was introduced in 1969. Know more:Mini 21.
When the cap was posted, the length of the Mini and Mini 21 was comparable. Know more:Mini 21.






In the development of pocket pens, I believe that the three major Japanese pen manufacturers, Sailor, Platinum, and Pilot, each played different roles. For example, Sailor pioneered the pocket pen, Platinum established the term "pocket pen," and Pilot greatly popularized and expanded the concept of pocket pens.

Although the design and appearance of the Sailor Mini pocket pens nowadays have changed significantly from the original, becoming more refined and durable, they still adhere to the principles of being compact, portable, and easy to write with. They remain steadfast in the pockets or pen cases of users, ready to script a new chapter in history. This commitment to tradition while embracing progress is also part of the charm of fountain pens, isn't it?

1963年的Sailor Mini與2022年的Sailor PG Mini同框攝影。

2024.02.19 維達 Jerry Yu



  1. セーラー万年筆105年の歩み。セーラー万年筆 |公式ウェブサイト。
  2. Bruno Taut (2015, March 28). Sailor 1963. Crónicas Estilográficas. Retrieved from
  3. Andreas Lambrou and Masamichi Sunami (2012), “Fountain Pens of Japan”. Kaplan Pens and Books, NA.

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