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Meet the Brand: OHTO

Ohto have long been a successful pen maker in Japan, and are very well known there, but not so well known here in the UK. Along with their own range of pens that's very successful in Japan, they make refills and parts for many other manufacturers. So even if you've never heard of Ohto, you may well have used some of their products.


The story of OHTO started when Nakata Touzaburo, an employee of the Ministry of Finance invented a special ink, which he thought would be perfect for use in banknotes. When the ministry rejected his idea due to 'internal conflict', he decided to become independent, to be better able to make and find uses for his inks. He founded 'Nakata-Ohka-do' in 1919 as a manufacturer of ink.

Following the second world war, the American army occupied Japan, and brought ballpoint pens with them. The people of Japan were amazed by them - the long-lasting ink didn't need to be filled as often as fountain pens, and they didn't need regular sharpening like a pencil. Mr Nakata set out to make ballpoint pens in Japan, and succeeded in 1949.

The first Japanese ballpoint pen concentrated on the idea of being like a pencil that never needed sharpening - it was designed to look similar to a pencil, and was named "Auto Pencil". The company was renamed "AUTO" to match, and in 1957, Mr Nakata was awarded the "Shiju-Hou-Sho" medal by the Emperor of Japan for his improvements to ballpoint technology.

In 1974, the company decided that the word "auto" had become too closely associated with cars, and was becoming confusing to people. They changed the company name again, to their current name of "OHTO".

Although ballpoint pens were hugely popular, and much-loved for their convenience, not everyone enjoyed the feel of writing with them as much as a fountain pen. To get closer to the smoothness of a fountain pen, OHTO developed a way of making a ball-tipped pen that used liquid ink - what we call a 'rollerball' today. OHTO made the world's first rollerball pen in 1964.

Other firsts have included the first ballpoint pen with a rubber grip, and the first gel pen with a ceramic tip.

"OHTO makes innovation,
OHTO brings quality,
OHTO is the history of ballpoint pens"

OHTO Today

Along with ballpoints using their top quality 'Soft-roll' ink and rollerballs with ceramic tips, they make a huge variety of quirky products that could only come from Japan - a mixture of high-tech, high fashion, and kawaii cuteness.

  • The Promecha range of mechanical pencils includes models with more features than you can shake most other mechanical pencils at! The Super Promecha even has a control to set how much lead is advanced with each click of the button.
  • The Tasche is a range of fountain pens, mechanical pencils, ballpoint pens and rollerballs, using the traditional Japanese 'short pen' trick to make them small and neat in your pocket, but full-length when the cap is put on the back for writing.
  • Ever popular, Smile clips are a wonderfully Japanese product. Not only do they improve on the functionality of a standard paper clip by making it easier to use, and easy to remove and re-use, but they are also bright and happy, bringing a little cheer each time you use them.
  • OHTO's Sharp Pencils are brilliantly cute little mechanical pencils, each cunningly disguised as a wooden pencil.
  • Fude Ball and Graphic Liner pens take rollerballs to places they don't usually go. The Fude Ball is a super-broad rollerball pen that's intended for use in place of the traditional Japanese 'Fude' brush pen - a brush made for writing, sometimes also used for drawing. The Graphic Line pens are rollerballs in a range of sizes, made to match the tip sizes used in popular plastic-tipped drawing pens, but with rollerball tips that are stronger and last longer.

Now you know a bit more about them, go have a browse through all our OHTO products!

27 October 2014


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