By Michael Wakin
The Kakuno (stylized as Kaküno) doesn’t get quite the attention that some of Pilot’s other affordable pens, like the Varsity or Metropolitan, do. It’s the odd one out in their lineup with its hexagonal body and blocky silhouette, but I feel that it goes largely underappreciated.
This pen takes Pilot’s proprietary cartridges and CON-20/CON-40/CON-70 converters. I know that some people have even made it into an eyedropper fill after plugging the two holes at the butt end. Although I haven’t seen this in action, I imagine the chunky demonstrator would make for a neat-looking pen. Still, out of the box, filling is very plug-and-play, although the feed does take a bit of patience after a flush.
The Kakuno’s body and cap have a rounded hexagonal shape, and the long cap pinches in a bit toward the end, making it easier for tiny hands to grasp. In lieu of a clip, there is a small bump on the cap; I hear the pen’s shape and cap bump are there to keep it from rolling away. The pen tends to perform well after having remained capped for a while but dries out fairly quickly if left out; keep an eye on the little guy. The section is contoured similar to the Lamy Safari to encourage a proper grip. It is decently long, tapering toward the nib and then flaring out. The lightweight cap posts firmly and doesn’t throw off the pen’s overall balance. This is a pen you can comfortably use posted or unposted; I personally change it up depending on the day.
The Kakuno comes in several colors, including a few clear demonstrator models; regardless of the body’s color, the section is always clear. Each of the color options has either a cream or gray body, so the color personalization comes largely in the cap color. The pen weighs a light 11g and is 13.1cm long when capped, 15.9cm posted. All things considered, the Kakuno is a well-made little pen that fits firmly, if a little clumsily, in the hand.
One detail that I have to note, and that you can easily miss in faraway pictures of the pen, is a little smiley face on the nib. That’s right: where most fountain pen nibs have fancy scrollwork or heirloom filigree, each Kakuno has one of three little faces smiling up at you. Like the pen’s shape, this serves a function: kids are encouraged to keep the face looking up at them to ensure they’re orienting it correctly with the paper.
It’s these little things that make this pen so much fun.
The Kakuno is unique enough that it would still find its enthusiastic audience, even if it didn’t write well. Lucky for us, it writes like, well, a Pilot fountain pen!
Pilot offers their nib in fine and medium for all models and additionally in extra-fine for the demonstrators. I personally own a medium and an extra-fine Kakuno and enjoy them both in their own ways. The medium nib is wonderfully smooth with a little bit of bounce under pressure. The extra-fine nib is, well, extremely fine. At 0.25mm, this is without a doubt the narrowest nib I have. Some amount of scritch-scratch is to be expected with a nib this thin, but while the Kakuno fits the bill, it is by no means unpleasant. I have found that it writes pretty well on bad paper. Unlike the medium nib, this one is nail-hard.
Regardless of the nib I’m using, the Kakuno performs well, and its light weight makes it easy to forget it’s in my hand. The pen’s balance is nice, and hard starts and skips are rare.
The more I look at it and use it, the more I’m charmed by this little pen on my desk. At ~$12, I think this is a fantastic buy for collectors and writers alike. It isn’t something I’d whip out at a business meeting, but it certainly has its charm. It is a fantastic option as a gift to the right person or just a little something cute to look at. With that said, be careful giving this to fountain pen newbies.
They may be disappointed to learn that most pens don’t wink at them.