I adore Muji. The lack of branding. The simple designs. The functional materials. Just walking around its stores is a calming experience, everything just so, everything essential.
It’s a dose of simplicity that I think we all crave right now — the same appeal that Marie Kondo tapped into when she taught us to let go of things that don’t spark joy.
I’ve always felt this way about Japan: its architecture, gardens, tatami mats and martial arts, ceramics and cuisine, Grand Seiko watches and clean-swept streets. It all speaks to simplicity, elegance and efficiency.
Naturally, I attempted to tap in to this ethos by buying a new pen. Namely, the Muji round aluminium fountain pen.
Spoiler alert: good pen for the price, but did not spark joy.
This is a very distinctive pen, very recognisably Muji. No packaging to speak of, and just 18 euros or 23 dollars. It is superficially very simple, made of matte-finished silver aluminium. The body is long and thin; the cap is short and features a short clip.
The section is finely knurled for grip.
The cap doesn’t cover the section; it actually has a lip that slides slightly inside a ring in the the section and finishes flush. The cap posts the same way, flush with the end of the barrel (although the pen is ridiculously long that way).
The section in turn screws off on metal threads, and takes standard international cartridges. A black cartridge is supplied.
The cap pulls off to reveal a small silver Schmidt nib, in fine width only. The nib has scrolls and flourishes on it, which is incongruous next to the rather utilitarian lines of the pen itself. Something like the Lamy nib design would have looked better.
In the hand, this is a very light pen. It’s a good length, and because there’s no step from the section up to the barrel, it’s easy to hold no matter what your grip. Everything is matte finished so there’s no chance of slipping around.
I found that the bead-blasted aluminium “sings” when you run your fingers over it, including the tiny movements during writing. It’s a surprisingly noisy pen to use.
The nib itself is very firm, very narrow, and I found it dries out when left capped for less than a week, despite the presence of a plastic inner cap.
But it fits with the Muji aesthetic: black ink, narrow lines, no excess of ink splashing on to the page.
Ultimately, this pen left me cold. It is functional, and in some respects (like the capping mechanism) it’s smart, but without curves, without personality, without expression. And to me that’s not what a pen is — a pen should be more than just a tool.
So while I continue to admire Muji’s aesthetics, its fountain pen did not spark joy, and it won’t stay in my collection for long.