We are exceptionally fond of Japanese stationery at Milligram. They are always well-made, designed with the user in mind and create a memorable user experience. That’s why when a few of our lovely Milligram customers asked us to start stocking OHTO, we listened. We were very excited to test out this highly recommended, quirky stationery brand.
Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, OHTO was established in 1929 and started manufacturing high quality dyes and inks before manufacturing writing stationery.
OHTO has a long history of ink manufacturing as the founder of OHTO, Nakata Tozaburo, worked for the ministry of finance and invented a special ink for Japanese bank notes.
Mr. Nakata went on to develop the first ballpoint pen manufactured in Japan in 1949. After the success of the ballpoint pen, OHTO went on to design and manufacture the world’s first rollerball pen!
The OHTO range now includes the original ballpoint and rollerball pens, as well as some excellent mechanical pencils, fountain pens and multi-function pens.
Leading up to this review, I used each of the OHTO pens and pencils over a one week period. The OHTO pens I used are the OHTO Tasche fountain pen in pink, the OHTO Dude rollerball pen in silver, the OHTO Super Promecha 1500p mechanical pencil in silver and the OHTO Free Ink graphic liners.
OHTO Super Promecha 1500p mechanical pencil
Before I get into this review, I need to state I don’t usually write with a pencil. I’m more of a rollerball and fountain pen user. I think the last time I used a pencil regularly was when I was in high school studying maths and Chinese, so using this OHTO pencil was a very nostalgic experience.
The OHTO Super Promecha mechanical pencil is packaged in a skinny plastic box with colourful Japanese writing all over the package. I felt the packaging made the pencil look like it was designed for children.
Once you take the OHTO mechanical pencil out of its packaging, you adopt a different perspective on the pencil. The first thing you’ll notice is the weight of the mechanical pencil. It’s actually quite a heavy pencil due to its sturdy aluminium body, but its length helps distribute the weight across your hand when you write with it. The body is on the thin side, but the grip is wider and textured to create comfort.
You’ll also notice a few dials and moving parts on the OHTO Super Promecha mechanical pencil. I have to admit, I got a bit overwhelmed by how technical this pencil is. I ended up doing a bit of research to understand it.
There is a total of four adjustable parts on this pencil:
– The grip
– The pocket clip
– The push button
– The lead dial
The grip section on the OHTO Super Promecha mechanical pencil is actually moveable. Just twist it and you’ll notice is goes up and down the pencil body. I initially thought this was done to help the user choose where the grip should be along the pencil. However, that’s not what it’s for.
When you twist the grip, the lead sleeve (the tiny cylinder where the lead comes out of) emerges from the pencil. OHTO have designed this so the lead sleeve is protected when you are travelling. This is different to other mechanical pencils where the lead sleeve is pushed back into the pencil.
The Pocket Clip
If you take off the push button, there’s a screw that holds the pocket clip in place. You can unscrew it and move the pocket clip around to where you need it to be, then screw it back into place. This doesn’t entice me very much but I can see how this can be useful to some people who want the pocket clip to face a certain way.
The Push Button
The push button on the OHTO Super Promecha mechanical pencil actually has a lead grade indicator, so you always know what lead you have in the pencil. Again, this function seems a bit superfluous to me but I guess this can come in handy if you have a lot of mechanical pencils or if you don’t remember what your preferred lead grade is.
The downside to this function is there’s no option for 2B lead, which is quite a common lead grade.
The Lead Dial
There’s a dial on the OHTO mechanical pencil (just after the pen grip) that allows you to adjust how much lead comes out of the pencil with each click.
I think this is an excellent function as there have been times where I didn’t use a mechanical pencil because it expelled too much lead per click — you don’t need that stress when you’re doing an exam or test!
Turn the dial to your right to allow more lead to come out per click. Turn to the left to allow less lead to come out per click. This is a great function for people who tend to press harder when they use a pencil as they can customise their pencil so less lead comes out with each click.
How does the OHTO Super Promecha mechanical pencil write?
Given the well-weighted feel of the pencil, this mechanical pencil is very comfortable to use for long periods of time. There’s also a small eraser with a lead sleeve needle tucked inside the push button. The HB lead that comes with the pencil is so smooth to write with. It’s not very dark so I think it’s most likely a HB lead.
I think the OHTO Super Promecha mechanical pencil is great for people who like writing in graphite but don’t like the process of sharpening a pencil. It’s also great for really precise line work, small handwriting, writing in languages like Chinese or Japanese, or sketching.
Its metal exterior also gives the mechanical pencil a more grown up aesthetic. The OHTO Super Promecha mechanical would have been a staple in my pencil case during high school.
The OHTO Super Promecha mechanical comes in 0.5mm and 0.3mm lead, and retails at an affordable $44.95.
(If you’re interested in mechanical pencils, you may like to check our this post on when and where you can use mechanical pencils.)
OHTO Dude rollerball pen
How can you resist a pen called Dude?
The OHTO Dude rollerball pen is a hexagonal-barrelled aluminium pen. It comes in silver, black and blue, and is available in rollerball and fountain pen. I tested out the rollerball in silver on my Milligram Studio memo pad and it was, quite honestly, a dream to write with.
The Dude is a capped rollerball pen. When you pull off the pen cap, there’s a smooth black pen grip. The lid posts comfortably at the end of the pen. It’s actually quite a well-weighted pen, edging over to the heavier side. The aluminium body has a slight satin finish, with polished metal accents on the pen clip.
I really enjoyed writing with this pen because it was sturdy and reliable. The ink dried quickly and flowed freely onto paper. The OHTO Dude rollerball pen also looks quite stunning so it made me feel very important when taking notes in my Milligram Studio meeting book during a meeting.
I personally love this OHTO pen, and would recommend it to everyone that enjoys a heavier pen with a polished aesthetic. It’s also very affordable at $29.95.
If you’re interested in the fountain pen, I spoke with our pen doctor Tom at the Milligram store in Melbourne Central. He’s been using it at the store and he said while he found the nib of the OHTO Dude to be on the rigid side, it was super smooth to write with and felt very comfortable in his hand.
The other great thing about it was OHTO Dude fountain pen uses universal sized cartridges, so it’s great for people who like to write with different colour ink.
The OHTO Dude fountain pen is only available in a fine nib, and comes with 2 black ink cartridges.
OHTO Tasche fountain pen
Standing at just under 10cm, the OHTO Tasche fountain pen is a compact pen for when you are on the move. Available in silver, pink and blue, the fountain pen is only available in a fine nib and comes in a satin aluminium finish with a polished pen clip.
To be honest, I didn’t expect very much from this OHTO fountain pen because it was so small. Once I started writing with it, it grew on me very quickly.
The pen is lightweight and thin so it might not suit people who have big hands or prefer a heavier pen. When you pull off the pen lid, you’ll notice the body of the pen is actually a silver colour, which I thought looked really nice, especially when the lid was posted.
Once the lid has been posted, the pen sits at 14.5cm.
The OHTO Tasche fountain pen accepts universal ink cartridges, and this pen came with a black cartridge. If you want to use different colours with your OHTO Tasche fountain pen, just make sure the length of the cartridge isn’t too long. Any of the standard OHTO, J. Herbin and Kaweco cartridges will work with this pen.
The nib, while a bit rigid, was actually quite smooth on paper, although it’s not the smoothest fountain pen I’ve ever used. I found no feathering or bleed on either papers, which is excellent. The ink took a little longer to dry on the Rhodia pad, but that might be because the paper on the Rhodia is coated.
I would highly recommend this fountain pen, I like how it writes, how it looks and how the pen lid clicks on. With that said, it might not be suitable for people with big hands or like heavier pens.
OHTO Free Ink Liner
I’m no artist but I wanted to include the OHTO Free Ink liners in this review because I think they are really unique. What separates the Free Ink liners from other fine liners is OHTO ones actually use a rollerball tip. Available in different sizes from 0.3mm to 1.5mm, the Free Ink liners are also available in a pack of six of all sizes.
I did a quick doodle with the liners and found them to be smooth, but I decided to get Joanna and Jack from our design team to use them to see what they thought from a design and illustration perspective.
Joanna said she found the OHTO Free Ink liners really smooth to use and the sturdier rollerball tip meant she could be freer with her sketches without worrying about damaging the tip. Jack said something similar, he felt he could apply more pressure to his drawings without damaging the tip. Joanna also said she liked that the liners came in a pack of six of all the difference sizes.
Joanna also did a break down of the different sizes of the OHTO fine liners.
To put it mildly, I have fallen in love with OHTO, and cannot recommend the brand enough to anyone who enjoys quirky, fun and affordable Japanese stationery.
- Variety: There is a vast range of pens in this collection, including great ballpoint pens and multi-function pens. They also have refills in their range so your OHTO pen is designed to last.
- Affordability: The most expensive pen from the OHTO range is $59.95 so it’s a great, budget friendly collection.
- Quality: The quality is surprisingly high for the price, and the designs have all been created with the user in mind.
- Unique: OHTO are really creative with their designs, so it’s a great brand to look at if you’re after writing stationery that’s a bit different.
- Packaging makes OHTO feel inexpensive and young when it’s actually very well made.
- Some ranges like the OHTO Super Promecha is “techier” than it needs to be. Perhaps it just needs better instructions so everyone can enjoy it.