| Stationery | My Celluloid Pen Case

Celluloid captured my heart in Japan.

Beautiful, fragile yet resilient with way of toying with light that's verging on magical. Yet its story is brief and poignant. So much so, that the very mention of celluloid to people of my parents age and older will send them nostalgically down memory lane.

This is not just a pen case for my precious writing implements. It's a memento of Japan's manufacturing history and quite a bit more.

Celluloid is the world's very 1st thermoplastic. Unlike the petrochemical derived plastics of today it is made from a natural mixture of camphor, nitrocellulose and vegetable oils so it has always been a more earth friendly material. Camphor is a tree is native to and much loved in Japan ( Totoro lives in one).  With an abundant resource of required raw materials,Japan was at one point producing 40% of the world's celluloid products. In the aftermath of WWII, celluloid accounted for over 50% of Japan's total export and in many ways it contributed to the country's post-war rehabilitation. 

However, with the rise of cheaper mass produced plastics, the production of celluloid fell into decline and by 1996 the large scale production of Japanese made celluloid ended.

Today celluloid is manly used for ping-pong balls, spectacle frames, plectrums and accordion bodies. But there are a few craftsmen and small scale companies in Japan who are still devoting their skills to creating such lovely things as this pen case. Its design hasn't changed since the 1920's.

My pen case is precious to me. It protects the tools that I use everyday of my life. When I put it up to my window, I can see light dancing through its nuances. It looks like the skin of a koi. How fitting then that the koi symbolises perseverance and the overcoming of adversity.

>>>>> P.S. In answer to questions about similarities between lucite and Celluloid, I just wanted to say that the differences are many. Lucite is a thermoplastic and so a synthetic material where as celluloid is naturally derived. Lucite is rigid and shatterproof while Celluloid is flexible and reacts to high temperatures.

USEFUL LINKS | Yamada Stationery (Japanese Site)| Choosing Keeping UK  |


  1. Beautiful case and what an interesting history

  2. You always write about the most interesting things, Yasumi. Your pen case is lovely but it might have been just that - a lovely thing. Instead, you've explained its history and taught me more than I ever expected to know about celluloid. While also tempting my penchant for shiny objects with your lovely photos, of course :)

  3. It's such a beautiful case and what a wonderful history it has! I never knew celluloid had such an interesting story. Lally X

  4. It's so beautiful, really special item :))) xx

  5. such a pretty case and with an amazing history too. (and Totoro fact)

  6. Absolutely love Totoro! Enjoyed your honeymoon feature...I've actually always wanted to try cooling cucumbers in the river and using a massive leaf as an umbrella when I was a child. Also like how cute and interesting you blog is...is celluloid considered the same a lucite? Just wondering about vintage handbag frames. Have a lovely day!
    May x

    1. Hello May. I am so pleased that you found me. Thank you!

      I want cucumbers like that too!! But the cucumbers here are full of seeds and are ever so mushy inside, nothing like the ones in Japan which are small and soooo crunchy. I want to live a house like them too! A partly european partly Japanese home in the middle of farms and rice fields.

      Lucite is a thermoplastic and so a synthetic material where as celluloid is naturally derived. Lucite is rigid and shatterproof while Celluloid is flexible and reacts to high temperatures.

  7. It's so beautiful! I love the colours <3 xx

  8. yes! it definitely looks like the skin of koi! i nodded furiously when i read that sentence! and seeing light dancing through it must look magical!

  9. Pretty, looks just like the back of a koi fish (and it looks like the description on the UK website is 'red koi' as well!). I especially like how small it is, just enough for an eraser pencil and a pen. I remember as a child I was never satisfied if I didn't have a giant pencil bag bursting with billions of different writing implements, but I might've traded all that for such a pretty case.

    Interesting stuff about celluloid's origins too, as I tend to associate anything related to "plastic" as being made in huge far-off factories with black smoke spewing out of them.


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