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A fine line: The evolution of the ballpoint pen in Japan

Complex kanji characters drive demand for slender strokes

Ballpoint pens with 0.38 mm tips line the shelves of a Maruzen store in Tokyo.

TOKYO -- Even in today's digital society, ballpoint pens remain an essential tool in our daily lives, whether at work or for jotting down our deepest personal thoughts in a journal.

In Japan, stationery stores typically carry a huge selection of ballpoint pens. Tip sizes, for example, typically range between 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm, to as little as 0.38 mm. While the sheer number of choices can flummox buyers, it also tells us something about Japan's unique writing instrument culture.

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