The manufacture and sales of felt-tip pen, marking nib, cosmetic nib.
AuBEX is, have always tireless passion for manufacturing, it will continue to support the future of life.

Keep evolving, without changing

AuBEX History

Our product range has expanded over the years from hats to pen nibs,
and then to medical equipment and cosmetics products.
These products may seem unrelated to each other, but they all come from technologies
that we currently possess and that people need now. In short, they all come from what we have “now.”
This is why the history of our growth is the history of our change, our evolution.



Birth of the first hat manufacturing company in Japan


Hat of Mr. Eiichi Shibusawa
( Source: Shibusawa Memorial Museum; photographed by Mr. Tadao Kodaira )

創業者、渋沢栄一 (渋沢史料館所蔵)

Founder Eiichi Shibusawa
(Source: Shibusawa Memorial Museum)

Begin with goal of helping Japan achieve economic independence

In the early Meiji Era, Japan was Westernizing rapidly to catch up with developed countries. When the government built the Rokumeikan, hats became popular among the public as a symbol of the cultural enlightenment. In those days, however, the hats that were available in Japan were mostly expensive items imported from Britain or France. Believing that the domestic production of hats would stop excessive imports and enable industrialization and economic independence of Japan, Eiichi Shibusawa and the other founders of our company funded and established Nippon Hat Manufacturing Company in 1889.

明治25年 当社の前身 日本憲帽会社

In 1892 Nippon Hat Manufacturing Company; predecessor of our
company has established

A factory was built in Koishikawa, Tokyo, and manufacturing of hats was started by inviting an engineer from overseas. However, despite the painstaking efforts of the company, the business struggled, due in part to a fire that ravaged a factory. Shibusawa, who led the reconstruction of the company, dissolved Nippon Hat Manufacturing Company and established the new company Tokyo Hat K.K. on December 12, 1892. He served as the principal director of the company. Though the company endured hardships such as the Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War, Shibusawa took the bold step to expand the factory by acquiring a hat wholesaler. Just two years of that expansion sales of the company reached a record high.


The Great Depression and depositors surrounding around bank
(source; Mainichi Newspaper)

Presenting the Showa Emperor with a hat during the Great Depression

After World War I, the Great Kanto Earthquake devastated parts of eastern Japan in 1923. This was also a time of chronic recession in Japan, during which the economy slowed even further. Most of the factories were destroyed by the disaster. Despite these adverse conditions, we resumed production a month after the earthquake and were able to sell most of our stock. Following this brief respite, however, the factory was struck by fire again three years after the earthquake, forcing us to endure a new set of difficulties. In time, the Emperor passed away, ending the very challenging Taisho Era. The economic slump continued into the Showa Era.


Showa Emperor visiting all over Japan with his hat in his hand
(source; Mainichi Newspaper)

Next, Japan entered the Showa Depression. The Japanese economy was in critical condition, and the cities were filled with the unemployed. We closed our factory in Koishikawa and consolidated production at the Honjo factory. We had endured many hardships since the founding of our company, but our management was in a really difficult state because of a depression that is said to be the most serious economic crisis before World War II. A ray of hope emerged when we presented the Showa Emperor with a fedora hat. The Showa Emperor used the hat for many years, and the sight of him waving the hat to the public was greatly encouraging and one in which we took great pride.

1945年(昭和20年) 東京大空襲など戦災で工場の大部分を焼失

In 1945 majority of the plant was burnt down during the Great Tokyo Air Raids

Rising up out of the ashes of the factories destroyed by air raids

War broke out between Japan and the United States, and our employees were mobilized to manufacture military supplies and produced the khaki national hats. The war went badly for Japan, and the majority of our factories were damaged and lost. We lost our Honjo factory, which was destroyed completely in the Great Tokyo Air Raids on March 10, 1945. We then lost our Tabata factory to an air raid on April 13, and our factory in Osaka to an air raid on June 15. The war ended while we were constructing a factory in Niigata to avoid war damage. The minutes of the board of directors meeting had not been taken for a while, so it is impossible to know what actions were taken during that time. However, preparations to resume operations started a mere three days after the end of the war.

1949年(昭和24年) 東京証券取引所に株式上場

In 1949 listed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange

We made effective use of materials we had on hand, such as producing hats from the cloth disposed of by the military. To make up for time lost during the war, we worked hard to form a technological tie-up with an influential manufacturer overseas. While tying up with an overseas company was not common at that time, we concluded an agreement with Stetson in the United States and improved our business performance by 40% year-on-year. We were listed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 1949, but the demand for hats started to decline because formal hats fell out of fashion in Western countries. We responded to this change by entering the markets for ties, shirts, and scarves, which were similar to the market for formal hats. This was our first step towards diversifying our businesses.



From hats to pen nibs – A bold business change


1960 年(昭和 35 年)オリンピック 3 大会で日本選手団に帽子を提供

In 1964 provided hats to the Japanese athletes in Tokyo Olympic Game

Sharp drop in sales and prompts shift from hats to pen tips.

We produced hats worn by Japanese athletes in three Olympic Games: Rome in 1960, Tokyo in 1964, and Mexico in 1968. However, these kinds of hats began to go out of fashion around this time, resulting in a sharp drop of sales. This change prompted us to look for ways to apply our hat-manufacturing technologies. We manufactured felt packing for fueling, for example, in our search of our next core product. In those days, oil-based felt pens attracted a lot of attention as an alternative to fountain pens because they could be used to write on cloth and glass as well as paper. We started to develop pen nibs, believing that our technologies could be applied in this area. This resulted in the unexpected shift from hats to pen nibs.


The article introducing the popularity of marking pen in those days (mid of 1960)

We had produced felt up until that time, but hats and pen nibs differ in both size and shape. The thin and long felt objects we attempted to make often broke, forcing us to start all over again. We labored late into the night nearly every day, working to create a prototype until we finally succeeded in creating a proper pen nib. When we placed an order for equipment to manufacture pen nibs, it was suggested that the equipment be used to manufacture fishing rods or some product if the pen nib business turned out to be unsuccessful. We started manufacturing pen nibs, and surprisingly received a flood of orders for pen nibs that surpassed our production capacity. To meet this demand, we installed additional pieces of manufacturing equipment.

1958 年(昭和 33 年)マーキング用フェルトペン先、本所工場にて生産開始

In 1958 pen tip for marking felt pen was started the production at Honjo factory

Ensuring each pen nib is reliable

Oil-based felt pens in those days had their shortcomings. The ink would run easily on paper, and the pen nibs would collapse, making it impossible to write thin letters. To address these problems, we developed a flexible, resilient pen nib and a hard pen nib that could withstand wear. These ground-breaking products were immediately accepted by the market. They were highly acclaimed not only by writing utensil manufacturers in Japan, but also in overseas countries. They spread so rapidly that sales tripled within a single year. We continued to manufacture hats, but the shift to pen nibs was apparently the right move. The growth was so dramatic that some competitors asked us to refrain from exporting our pen nibs.


Development documents in those days

While the sales remained brisk, we received complaints that lines blurred when they were drawn in a certain direction, and that the hardness and thickness of our pen nibs were uneven. These problems occurred because the fibers dried out after being soaked in a contacting liquid, which made it difficult to reproduce the same shape. In response, our engineers racked their brains to develop new processes that made it possible to manufacture pen nibs with the desired hardness levels in a stable manner. These products were highly acclaimed because they provided completely different level of quality unmatched by the previous pen nibs. One major Japanese manufacturer became a client, and we received an increasing number of orders from other countries, including Germany and France.

Seeking to create a marker pen that always writes thin lines

As we downsized our hat production, we began to offer pen nibs with various thickness and hardness levels to fit different uses and applications. The volume of sales kept rising despite the high prices, partly because of the high quality of the pens. When they were first released, marker pens were mainly used for writing addresses on envelopes. However, as the variety of colors increased, they came to be used widely by the public for sketching and creating illustrations, as well as in art classes at schools. Then, strong demand emerged for pen nibs that could write thin letters like those written with fountain pens and ball-point pens. This demand inspired us to pursue the development of thin pen nibs.

  • 1964年(昭和39年)ナイロン繊維束小径芯2mm丸型ペン先「Uタイプ」を開発

    In 1964 developed round pen nib with 2mm diameter made of nylon fiber; "U type"

  • 1974年(昭和49年) 細字用プラスチックペン先GPN「PA0003」を発売

    In 1974 plastic pen nib for thinner line; "GPN PA0003" was started to be sold

  • 1976年(昭和51年) 0.8mmプラスチックペン先が誕生し、極細ペン先の実用性を広めた

    In 1976 0.8mm plastic pen nib was in the market with making thin line pen nib popular

We started by creating a core as a prototype, which consisted of a thin, long rod with small holes like those of lotus. We started to develop a plastic pen core by stretching the prototype, with the idea of creating a long, thin pen core. However, this pen nib was too pointy to write smoothly. We continued to study ultra-thin pen nibs, such as by developing a machine for processing nibs. From the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, the spread of mechanical pencils that use 0.5 mm lead created a stronger demand for pens that could write thin letters. In response, we released a 0.8 mm plastic pen nib and increased the utility of ultra-thin pen nibs that offered the same performance as mechanical pencil lead. In addition, we introduced the use of computers before other companies, which made it possible for us to produce pen nibs more elaborately.



Tackling challenges in new fields
-- Medical equipment and cosmetics


1996年(平成8年) ペン先の技術を取り入れた医療用注入器「べセルフューザー」販売開始

In 1996 started to sell infusion instrument for medical with utilizing the technology of pen tip called "vessel fuser"


In 2004 started to sell "Swan excel wire"

Taking advantage of our pen tip technologies to enter the medical field

The company name “Tokio Hat,” which had remained unchanged for nearly a century since the company was founded in 1892, was changed to AuBEX to reflect our intention to “expand the future.” Just as the new name stated, we decided to expand new possibilities before our 100th anniversary by establishing the Product Development Office. We had shifted from hats to pen nibs, but were now looking for new fields to enter, reflecting our belief that only those who keep changing can survive. The first product developed in line with this philosophy was the stick used for colon cancer tests. The finely-woven pen tip also proved to be ideal for absorbing samples, and because of its versatility the product continues to be sold today.

We later developed a vessel fuser, which is an infusion instrument for medical use. The fine adjustment of volumes is essential for feeding drug solutions used to relieve pain after surgery and other operations. We applied our pen tip technologies for the fine processing of the insides of tubes, and successfully achieved an accurate level of control for infusing tiny amounts of drug solutions. It took only a year to develop the instrument, but our pen nib technology for maintaining a constant amount of ink was the very thing that was needed for drug infusion control. This instrument has been highly acclaimed by medical professionals as an innovative product.

The latest model comes with two new functions – one that permits 12-step control of the amount of drug solution infused, and one that allows the patient to add the solution on their own. These functions allow for the immediate alleviation of pain, which varies by patient. Despite these sophisticated functions, our vessel fuser does not consume any power. In addition, it is lightweight and compact. We hope to market this product overseas in the future. The unique technologies we developed in manufacturing pen nibs are also applied to guide wires inserted into blood vessels. We are currently developing new products that use these technologies.

New deployment ... To cosmetics field

Our expansion from the pen nib to cosmetics business began in a slightly surprising way. Our nibs were first applied to the nail care products made by our client in the 1970s, but at that time we never imagined that our pen nibs had been used for cosmetics, which is one of the last fields people would associate with stationery. The nibs for line marker pens are thick and have a soft center, and these qualities made them ideal for nail-care products, such as those used in cuticle care, and they became regular products in overseas markets. In addition, cosmetic liquids are made from gentle ingredients because they are applied directly to the skin. In that regard, they are similar to water-based inks and compatible with nibs for line marker pens.


In 1980, development of eyeliner nibs was promoted using the nibs for calligraphy pens. This was started because a writing utensil manufacturer, who was one of our existing clients, also dealt with eye makeup products. The key point for cosmetic pen nibs was the softness, because they are used for human skin, unlike stationery pens used to write on paper. For this reason, ensuring stable production of soft pen nibs was an important goal to process nibs into certain shapes. Male developers also checked the softness of the nibs by actually using them to put on eye makeup. Developers would become so absorbed in development that they would almost forget to remove the eye makeup before leaving the laboratory to go home.


After repeated improvements, thin, flexible eyeliner nibs are now used for a variety of eye makeup products in Japan and other countries. They are also used for many popular products. In 2007, lipsticks which use pen nibs appeared, and they have been popular largely in countries overseas because they can be used easily without running over the edge. Cosmetics go in and out of fashion, so we must closely monitor changes in the market. In an effort to create new markets, we are developing new products by always seeking to anticipate what will happen in three to five years. This approach allows us to act as the main player behind the scenes contributing to the creation of hit products.

120th anniversary marks the beginning of new challenges

In 2006, we decided to withdraw completely from the hat and apparel business, despite people persistently urging that we continue it. However, the technologies developed through this business have continued to evolve. By the time we celebrated our 120th anniversary, their applications had expanded to pen nibs, medical equipment, and cosmetics. We are taking the next steps forward using what we have now, including our technologies and experiences, to develop new products that create a sensation in different industries. This represents the inexhaustible drive to take on challenges that has made our history.

創立120周年、 新たな挑戦のはじまり

We have always been thinking about what kinds of products people need, and how the world will change as we take on challenges. Tackling a challenge does not necessarily mean doing something new. It is important to create something new based on the technologies we have now and what people need now. This is, in other words, creating something based on what we have now and what we should cherish. We will continue to evolve so that we can keep developing exclusive, attractive products, and contribute to the creation of an affluent society. That is our mission.

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