Photo/IllutrationThe Pegcil pencil is useful for writing down scores on a golf scorecard. (Mihoko Takizawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion

OSAKA--Golfer Yasuhiro Ijiri had his eureka moment while he stopped at a snack stand on the course for a bottle of milk.

He used a small and flat opener with a needle to remove the paper lid off the glass container.

In doing so, he had a sudden flash of inspiration, realizing that the milk opener could become the “best tool to write golf scores on cards if the needle was replaced with a pencil lead.”

Today, Ijiri's unique clip-on pencils can be found virtually everywhere and used to complete questionnaires, census cards and scorecards at golf courses.

Many people have perhaps at least once used the thin, light plastic writing tool equipped with short pencil lead and a clip, which is available in various colors and can be easily carried.

While the writing tool is sometimes called a simple pencil or a pencil for questionnaires, it was originally developed under the brand name of Pegcil by golf goods maker and retailer Okaya in Yodogawa Ward here.

In the mid-1970s, Ijiri, the first president of Okaya, still worked as an employee of a medical equipment firm.

He loved to play golf so much that he worked at his game until he became a single-digit handicapper.

At the time, golfers typically used short pencils to write down their scores but the lead often stained the inside of clothing pockets or fell out of the pocket before their owners were even aware.

Ijiri thought that a plastic pencil would be used by golfers everywhere.

He also hit upon the idea of adding the shape of a greens repair fork to the opposite end of the lead side.

As Ijiri had never been involved in manufacturing, he visited small local factories to learn about plastic resin and metal molds. He also quit his company to set up Okaya and to repeatedly make improvements to complete the Pegcil, a combination of the words “peg” and “pencil.”

Kazuko, his girlfriend at the time and former coworker, joined Ijiri’s corporation as well.

“I did not understand the superiority of the Pegcil at first,” said Kazuko, now 75, with a grin. “But he was a devoted and charming man.”

Kazuko married Ijiri a few years later and now serves as president of Okaya.

Since the fork end of the Pegcil was too easily broken in use, it was replaced with a handy clip.

Initially, the lead was inserted by hand in the Pegcils at an apartment to make samples that Kazuko’s younger brother would give out to businesses. Buoyed by the golf boom at the time, golf clubs across the country started introducing the handy scorekeeping device in rapid succession.

Japanese pro golfing great Isao Aoki, 76, is a fan of the Pegcil.

“I came to use it frequently before I knew it,” said Aoki. “It can be kept between scorecards, so it rarely goes missing or stains clothing. I found it convenient at that time.

“Although I can remember all the scores of both myself and other players without writing them down,” he added.

Since the Pegcil is very easy to grip, use of the unique pencil spread outside golf courses. A plant established in Sasayama, Hyogo Prefecture, Ijiri’s hometown, produces Pegcils around the clock.

Currently, 10 million Pegcils are made a month, which means 120 million are manufactured annually, about the same number as Japan's population.

Misato Kan, who loves stationery and works to promote and develop writing tools, said she once sold Pegcils and other types of writing utensils at a shop.

“Some of the latest stationery products are difficult to use, and the appeal of the Pegcil is that anyone can instinctively understand how to use the Pegcil, such as which side to write with and how to clip it on,” Kan said. “It is resistant to humidity unlike wooden pencils, so some people use it even in the water and in forests.

“Contrary to ordinary people’s expectations, characters written with pencil lead cannot be erased without the use of an eraser. The Pegcil is an ultimately simple and high-performance writing tool.”

Many years after the Pegcil’s development, Ijiri died in 2008.

Although other firms have marketed writing tools similar to the Pegcil, Kazuko described her husband’s invention as being “not too hard, not too soft and the easiest to write with.”

Kazuko said she feels proud of her late husband from deep in her heart when their grandchild finds a Pegcil in daily use and praises Ijiri, saying, “My grandpa is great because he invented such a thing.”

Pegcils are available on Okaya’s site at (http://www.pegcil.co.jp/) in two sizes: a 96-milimeter-long one and a 110-mm one. Each is priced at 5,000 yen ($45) per 1,000 units, excluding tax.