Earl Shigemoto, fountain-pen authority
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Will Hoover
Earl Shigemoto, Honolulu fountain pen dealer, collector, repairman and recognized authority on fine writing instruments, died Friday of heart failure. He was 60.
Shigemoto's Honolulu Pen Shop at 1857 South King St. featured the largest selection of quality contemporary and vintage pens in the state, and gained a reputation as an oasis in the Pacific for fountain pen collectors. Shigemoto's client list was worldwide and included everyone from generals and corporate CEOs to automobile mechanics and office secretaries.
His personal mission was to offer folks the pleasures of writing the old-fashioned, unhurried way — by hand — and, whenever possible, using pre-ballpoint era technology that featured bottled ink and gold, flexible nibs.
In 1991, he founded Honolulu's annual Veterans Day Pen Fair, which was dedicated to acquainting everyday people with the exceptional aspects of elegant writing instruments and all that's associated with them.
Soft-spoken and unassuming, Shigemoto had an infectious, childlike laugh and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. His sales approach was so laid back it bordered on no pressure at all.
"Earl was just a very nice guy," said artist and communications specialist Jason Kimura, a longtime friend of Shigemoto's. "He was generous to the point that sometimes I didn't want to accept things from him. He would want to practically give things away."
"He treated his customers well. He always had time to talk story — not just about pens but all kinds of stuff."
Those entering his shop for the first time were often surprised to find it part pen shop, part pen museum. Customers were invited to spend as much time as they pleased observing the shop's glass cases filled with examples of stunning pens, fashioned from exotic materials. He was forever willing to share his encyclopedic knowledge of his favorite subject to anyone who with a question.
Raised in Manoa, Shigemoto graduated from Mid-Pacific Institute in 1964. An aspiring accountant, he graduated from the University of Hawai'i's college of business in 1970.
Then, in 1972, Shigemoto's life took a turn when he accepted what he thought would be a temporary job as an apprentice to Philip Kuwabara, owner of the Honolulu Pen Shop, then located in the old Merchandise Mart building at Alakea and Hotel Streets.
Kuwabara, whose work dated to the days when fountain pens were an American mainstay, was an authorized Sheaffer and Parker Pen repairman. He became Shigemoto's mentor, teaching him the craft. After 10 years under the hand of the master, Shigemoto was an expert himself. That same year he bought out the business.
When fountain pens staged a revival in the mid-1980s, Shigemoto began collecting contemporary Montblanc, Montegrappa and Namiki pens, among others. But it was his rare and near-mint-vintage writing instruments, some dating to the late 1800s, that caused fountain pen collectors around the world to take notice.
Many writing instruments in his collection have been featured in fountain pen books and magazines. His vintage Sheaffer pen collection from the 1920s, '30s and '40s is regarded by experts as among the finest.
Shigemoto is survived by his wife of 32 years, Corinne; two daughters, Sherra, 29, and Kelly Uyeda, 27; granddaughter, Angela Uyeda, 3; mother, Elaine Shigemoto; and brother, Brian. Services are pending.
Reach Will Hoover at email@example.com.