Japan's Stationery Sector Rocked by Pencil Crisis

December 02,2015
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(Photo by bee/PIXTA)

(AFP)--Japan's usually sedate stationery sector has been rocked by a pencil supply crisis that is drawing a backlash -- and panic buying -- among architects and animators.

The drama erupted in response to a plan by Mitsubishi Pencil -- one of the nation's oldest stationery makers -- to stop producing a line of a dozen coloured pencils, sparing only the red version from the chopping block.

The company, which traces its roots back to the 19th century, earlier said the move was in response to weak demand.

But that failed to satisfy pencil-loving architects and the animators behind Japan's well-known manga cartoons.

In a dramatic turnaround this week, Mitsubishi Pencil said it would keep churning out three key colours -- light blue, yellow-green and orange -- in addition to its coveted red pencil.

But "we will end production of the other colours by the end of the current year as scheduled", a company spokeswoman told AFP Wednesday.

Worries over the coloured pencil line -- first produced in 1971 -- saw buyers rush to scoop up existing stock this week.

Major art supply chain Ito-ya's location in Tokyo's busy Ginza shopping district had already sold out of eight of the dozen colours on Wednesday, with only brown, pink, white and dark blue still on offer.

Mitsubishi Pencil's reversal didn't stop the Japan Animation Creators Association from airing its concerns over a looming supply crunch.

"The inventory of coloured pencils is already gone," it warned on its website.