I confess: I started out biased against the Platinum Izumo, based on pictures on the internet and five minutes handling one in a pen shop.
To me, the design seemed just plain oddball. Take a pen that looks lovely capped: almost dolphin-like curves, beautiful urushi lacquer, strong proportions.
Take the cap off and what the hell? The outward curve of the barrel meets a sudden step-down to the barrel, where there’s an inward sloping upper section, then some shiny gold cap threads, then a lower section with a different angle of slope. It just looks wrong.
And then at the end of it, on this rather large and voluptuous pen, the comparatively tiny #6 nib from the Platinum President.
And that in itself seems an odd choice: the Izumo is a pen that revels in its Japanese finishes, packaging and design (the name Izumo is from a city in Japan); why use the nail-like nib from a pen reputedly designed for Westerners?
In my head, I compared the Izumo unfavorably against its cousin Nakaya (like my Decapod, below), which has a much more proportionate design, urushi from end to end including the threads, and the much more Japanese 3776 nib.
Given all of that, suffice it to say an Izumo was not on my wish list.
Then a kind reader sent me one, and I’ve rather changed my mind.
Some of my perception was spot on. The Izumo is a good-looking pen when capped. The cap is huge. The clip mirrors the shape of the pen, pleasingly.
The whole pen curves naturally, and the urushi finish (my sample is the akatame, which shades to red) is lovely.
The pen is a joy to hold. In the hand, the Izumo is much more substantial than a Nakaya: it weighs about twice as much, and it’s thicker, too.
The cap threads are good. Take off the cap (less than one turn!) and yep, there’s that weird double section. I still really don’t like the way it looks. But put it in your hand, and it’s actually rather nice.
The cap threads sit smack in the middle of the (huge) section. With my usual grip, my fingers sit all over the threads. Depending on the position I found myself writing in, this would sometimes be really uncomfortable – at other times, I didn’t notice the threads at all. For sure, they stop my hand sliding down the urushi, but this is one of the factors that would put me off buying an Izumo.
The step up to the barrel is sizeable, but the nature of the urushi lacquer means that the curve is polished smooth, and I didn’t find it uncomfortable.
The 18k medium nib is like a nail, it’s not incredibly wet, and it’s rather fine indeed. It has pencil-like feedback, as you’d expect from a Platinum. I inked it with SBRE Brown and rather liked the way it wrote – it makes for a good, competent note-taker.
This very pen will set you back under £400 at Cult Pens, which means you can have it with you next day with a choice of F, M or B nibs. There are a range of other colours and finishes, including wooden versions, if you fancy some variety. A comparable Nakaya would set you back £600 or more, which is no difference to sniff at, and you’d probably have to work a bit harder to get hold of one, too.
The price sounds a little high for a cartridge-converter pen that has exactly the same nib as the Platinum President, a pen that costs 140 quid. But urushi is incredibly time-consuming and manual to create, and you buy this pen for the material and artistry.
The only other option I know of that’s readily available at this price point is the Wancher Dream Pen True Urushi, which is around £350 – but in my opinion its black ebonite threads are even uglier than the Platinum’s, and overall its design is not as distinctive.
I probably still wouldn’t buy an Izumo, even though the design and writing experience has grown on me. I find the mid-section threads just that bit too annoying, and the nib isn’t special enough. But if you want a urushi pen as a daily driver, it’s a good place to start your search.