5 Pen Tricks from Japan — Uh oh…


If you don’t have OCD already, I apologize. This post will give it to you… and you’ll thank me for it.

When I was 15, I went to Japan for one year as an exchange student. I was the lone American in a school of 5,000 Japanese, and I quickly acquired one habit that has since driven every girlfriend and teacher of mine absolutely nuts: pen tricks.

The Japanese, Taiwanese, and Koreans — none of them can hold pens still for a second. Now you won’t be able to either.

Here are the different moves I’ll show (and name) here. The higher the number, the harder it is:

The Helicopter (2)
The Pincher (4)
The Wheel (1)
The Drummer (3)
The Flip (5)

After you’ve dropped your Bic for the 15,000th time and want to punch through a window, just remember: you can stop anytime you want. Riiiiiiight.


[Like these tricks? Subscribe here and be the first to see them!]


Odds and Ends:

Please vote for my panel at South-by-Southwest!
Check out “The Art of Speed” here and take 20 seconds to vote so I can bring some of the world’s best minds and stories together in Austin, TX. Thanks in advance!

Posted on: August 29, 2007.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

100 comments on “5 Pen Tricks from Japan — Uh oh…

  1. No wonder we need to get our working week down to four hours, we need the time to practice ‘friggin’ about with our pens.
    Ohh, crap, I’ve dropped it. Again.

    P.S. Number 1 son is now behind with his homework, but ahead of me with his “Penmanship.” Little show-off.


  2. The flip is a trick I learned back in high school debate. Re: driving teachers nuts – in college I actually had a prof pause during his lecture to ask me to stop because the habit was so distracting!


  3. Fascinating. I learned something new! This reminds me of my juggling phase; no matter how frustrated you get, you’re somehow completely addicted.

    I just started college, so thanks for giving me something to do in class. ;)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi there Tim,

    Man, you’re crazy. I tried to do the first trick,
    and I failed. I know it takes months of practising
    just like online marketing and money-making.

    Nice entertaining video – keep them coming :)

    Codrut Turcanu.


  5. I loved it. I have never been able to get the helicopter, even though I’ve been shown fifty-billion times. Thanks for the others, they are much easier.


  6. I love your blog, Tim. I read FHWW and started coming here for related information. Now I’m hooked on Yerba Mate, and am reading The Elements of Style. I’ve figured out your plan: All of this has just been a way to get everyone doing pen tricks.


  7. Nice overview. There *are* somewhat official names for the moves, as follows:

    The Helicopter = Thumb Around
    The Pincher = Sonic
    The Wheel = Finger Pass
    The Drummer = Charge
    The Flip = Finger Pass

    (Your Wheel and Flip are variants of the general Finger Pass)

    Search for ‘pen spinning’ or check out the pentrix.com site for more info and tutorials and such. There are a bunch of cool videos on youtube as well.


  8. I love that you took the time to post this. I will now be obsessed with this. I will be to preoccupied to ever actually write anything ever again. Thanks a bunch!



  9. Hey Tim,

    I too am addicted to pen flipping. I learned it in continuation high school from this thug Korean kid. We used to battle in class.

    Side note:

    3 days before your last trip to Costa Rica, I was in Samara hanging out with Peace Corps Volunteers. I was sitting in a hammock on the beach ( very much like the cover of the book ), with the 4hww in one hand ,explaining to these volunteers how they could apply your lessons ,in aiding the Ticos at the sites they were assigned to. By the time I arrived home , I had received emails thanking me for the advice given.

    I am 25 years young and live my version of the 4hww.I have passed your methods onto dozens ( all purchased books of course :) ). Each soul, equally inspired. Thank you for contributing all that you have.

    Stay healthy,


    “Pura Vida”


    Hi Dave!

    Thanks so much for the wonderful story. I’d love more volunteer and development workers to embrace some of the 4HWW. They work so hard and get burned out quickly. I’m hoping to spread the word especially among Peace Corps and Grameen Bank-like entities, so we’re on the same page.

    Thanks again, and pura vida!



  10. Hey Tim!

    pen tricks were cool… but after that, what caught my attention was what was in your room. what two books did you have on your coffee table behind your laptop and in front of your tv? :)

    just nosey… i mean… curious!

    i don’t think i have the patience to learn the pen tricks tho. maybe after i master the 4hour work week i’ll have more time to try the tricks… or not. :)

    thanks for sharing as always!
    Professor X