Japanese pencil comparison: Mitsubishi, Hi-Uni and Tombow

I recently purchased several of the more popular Japanese wood-cased pencils from Jet Pens. I got the Tombow 2558 ($1 each) and three Misubishis: the 9800 ($0.70 each), the Hi-Uni ($2.35 each) and the 9850 ($1 each). All of the pencils are the standard HB/#2 hardness.

Japanese pencils end caps

As far as I can tell, the only difference between the Mistubishi 9800 and 9850 is the color and the 9850 has an eraser top while the 9800 has an unfinished end.

Japanese pencil comparison points

This means that the Tombow 2558 and the Mistubishi 9850 are basically a head-to-head comparison with the same price point, metal ferrule and eraser top. The 9850 is finished in a burgundy, deep red lacquer and stamped in silver with coordinating silver ferrule and white eraser. On one side it is stamped “For Office Use”. The Tombow 2558 is painted in a bright yellow gold, comparable to classic American Ticonderogas. The ferrule is a bronze color rather than silver but it is topped with a classic pink rubber eraser. The 2558 is stamped on “For General Writing”.

Despite the fact that the Mitsubishi 9800 and 9850 should essentially be the same pencil at the core, the 9850 seemed smoother on paper than the 9800. Maybe it was just my perception. I like the looks and I do like pencils without eraser caps because I almost never use them.

Japanese pencil comparison writing sample

All four pencils wrote really well. They performed light years better than the cheap, no-name pencils found at drugstores or big box stores. When compared to each other though, I found the Mitsubishi 9850 to be my favorite. It just wrote silky smooth, the finish on the pencil was good and it looked good. The Tombow 2558 was an equally good performer and had the classic yellow pencil looks to recommend it. These two performed so similarly it was hard to say if one was better than the other beyond a preference for red over yellow pencils.

I was least impressed with the Hi-Uni if only that it performed quite similarly to the other three pencils but at twice the price. I realize I’m splitting hairs when comparing $1 versus $2.35 pencils. Yes, the lacquer finish is smoother and the end is dipped in black for a smooth cap. There are other design details in the finishing of the Hi-Uni like the white dot, gold foil ring and extra glossy finish, but in actual writing performance, the Hi-Uni was quite similar to the other pencils though maybe a little bit harder and therefore a little lighter on paper.

Japanese pencil comparison writing sample

I forgot to test the erasers but since only two of the four have erasers it is an unfair comparison, right? Besides, I use a hand eraser like a Black Pearl or a Staedtler Mars anyway.

All-in-all, the Japanese sure know how to make good pencils. There really isn’t a dud in this bunch but rather just personal preferences. They all sharpened easily and cleanly with my Lefty hand sharpener and retained their points well (the photos were taken after doing the writing tests).

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

9 Comments on Japanese Pencil Comparison: Mitsubishi and Tombow

  1. I just love the Tombow 2558. I got it for kicks in a Jetpens purchase, and have since bought many more dozens when I can find them. The rubber on the end is what kicks it over the top for me.

  2. I was lucky enough to get a 9850 in a swap with someone on the Erasable Podcast facebook group (and found your post while looking at what other people thought of it).

    I’m amazed at the quality of it – the lacquer is thickly and evenly applied, and is a gorgeous colour, and the pencil writes really nicely. I’ll definitely be getting a box of them, if I can find a supplier without ruinous shipping to the UK!

  3. I prefer to use a softer lead pencil to write programming code vs a pen. Just me. Some may prefer the HB hardness, the Ticonderoga 2 HB I purchased at Office Depot is deplorable for my tastes. I finally Googled and found your observations very worthwhile and may I congratulate you on your writing style. I think I want to try the Tombow B first. Am mnot sure if the 9850 comes in B hardness or not. I thank JetPens for a most excellent discussion on graphite hardness – remember folks this “stuff” is NOT lead (Pb), it’s graphite – a crystalline form of carbon. Thank you for a great review!! Most refreshing to know someone can actually write on here!! In retrospect, isn’t it so amazing how something so ultra simple as a pencil can invoke such a passionate following. OK, time to contact JetPens.
    Mort in Dallas

  4. Recently I bought some pencils to try. Taunted by the Ticonderoga “World’s best pencil” trade-mark, I had to look to see what is regarded as the world’s best pencil. That turned out to be the Blackwing, which proved to be luxurious indeed. Then I came to the Mitsubishi 9850. In my humble opinion I think this could be, for practical writing purposes, the best pencil in the world. The rubber is better that the one on the Blackwings, and doesn’t unbalance the pencil. The lead is beautifully centred in the wood, and the wood itself is very smooth to sharpen. The lead is superbly smooth, writes nicely black, and is stronger that that of the Blackwings (the very tip of your newly sharpened pencil doesn’t snap off when it hits the paper for the first time). I found that I could write with it almost up to the wood without sharpening it by repeatedly finding a new facet on the point of the lead. I found the Blackwings too soft for that and they had to be resharpened a lot more.

    The Mitsubishi 9800 is an excellent writing pencil, with lovely British Racing Green paint (well, almost). Strong, smooth lead. The lead is slightly firmer than that of the Mitsubishi 9850, but the results look much the same. The effect is that the lead lasts longer between sharpenings, but it exerts a bit more “drag” on the paper. This latter effect can be desirable, as some people find that the slight resistance disciplines their handwriting. Very good pencil wood smell if you want to go that far into the details. European style, not American (i.e. no rubber on the top).

    The Tombow 2558 is a quality writing pencil. It’s very satisfying to use. It doesn’t look like a fancy pencil, but it is. It’s a smooth writer, somewhere between a Mitsubishi 9850 and a Mitsubishi 9800. The wood (classically Californian Incense Cedar) is not as scented as the Mitsubishis’ (possibly because it’s made in Vietnam). The rubber is OK, but wears quickly. The tip of the lead of a newly sharpened 2558 will snap off quite easily when it hits the paper, as the lead is not as strong as in the Mitsubishis. I think I’ll stick with the Mitsubishis. I think the Mitsubishi 9850 is a better pencil.

    Rubbers? I find the Mitsubishi Boxy is very satisfying to use, and is almost as good as the Staedtler Mars. The most effective rubber I can find is, however, the Tombow MONO. It just beats the Mars.

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