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.


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Posted on: August 29, 2007.

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

  1. Not to be a jerk, but he is correct in calling it OCD. OCD stands for obsessive compulsive disorder, and I would say that (being a pen spinner myself since early high school) this is definitely an obsessive compulsion.

    There are varying levels of OCD, of course.

    Also, ADD is a myth, I don’t believe ADD exists. ADHD on the other hand, is obvious, but ADD is just a reason for teachers to drug kids.

    Finally, on topic! Great video Tim, I have seen 1 or maybe 2 kids in high school do some of the other tricks, but I never picked them up. I have been doing the helicopter for years but never been inventive enough to create my own trick, but now I can at least add some diversity to my pen spinning portfolio, thanks!


  2. Ever wondered what it looks like when someone tries to sign language one-handed with a hand that is full of glue?
    Look no further!

    A hearfelt “thank you” for providing me with my daily dose of laughter at myself (as usual)!


  3. You know this is where celebrity status really shines. If we were to spot some half-wasted crack-head doing pen tricks, we would just shake our head and wonder why this fella has nothing productive to do with his free time …

    Yet when Tim does pen tricks (looking just as wasted as mr crackhead), we pound our clubs on the ground and scream like cavemen did when fire was first discovered….

    Hey .. I am no exception either … now my index finger won’t stop twitching.

    damn you – ferriss


    Hi T,

    I look like a crackhead? Sweeeeeet! ;)



  4. Yo i lived in Turkey for 3 years, and they do the exact same pen tricks there, with little variations (Like the flip Turks literally throw it in the air). Craziness i know.


  5. En Costa Rica aprendi un par de trucos con lapices y manos, muy diferentes a los que se ven en el video.
    Los de el video son nuevos para mi.

    Soy originario de Costa Rica y estoy planeando volver a mi tierra. Tengo 54 años y 22 años viviendo en San Francisco, California. Me canse de este pais voy de regreso a mi bello pais.

    Viva Costa Rica.


  6. My favorite part; Gosh, what are those TWO books on the coffee table… he he. Nothing better then shameless self promotion. Love it….


  7. I’m so jealous – I tried learning pen tricks for hours and couldn’t get anything down except for the occasional spin around the thumb. Inspiration: some crazy korean internet video…one guy in the vid did a trick where he bounced the pen off a wall and kept spinning away.


  8. Dang. You make me sick. First the four hour work week and now THIS :-P I saw someone on a plane doing this with ease about a year ago and I tried it hundreds of times with not a single success.

    Now I’m determined.


  9. Thanks for the pen tricks but the family is tired of hearing pens fall on the floor all day. Quickly approaching OCD status :)

    Couldn’t but help notice the laptop screen … inquiring minds want to know … what does Tim Ferris listen to on Pandora?


    Hi B,

    Nice catch! My two stations are “Three Days Grace” and “Sevendust” at the moment. I really dig the general riffs and vocals of the first and the acoustic virtuosity of the latter. Hope that lends an idea ;)

    Have an awesome weekend,



  10. Hi Tim,
    Cool stuff, I can’t wait to get me some bic pens and annoy my co-workers. Ha!

    By the way, I noticed you listen to Pandora? There is a certain beauty in randomness – be in music or life.

    Looking forward to reading your book.



  11. Tim, you bastard. I was happily studying until 5 minutes ago. Now I can’t stop doing the helicopter. Actually I’m spending most of my time chasing a frickin’ pen around the room. Not happy Jan!


  12. Tim,
    Sometimes I wonder at your post subjects. When you posted on pen flourishes I must admit that although neat tricks, I could not connect the dots with the 4HWW. I have been interested in conjuring and street magic for quite some time. I thought I would try to pick up at least one move for my routine so I decided on the Helicopter (aka the Thumb Around) move. On Thursday I practiced most of the day off and on. By day’s end I was shooting about 2 for 100 after close to what seemed like 2000 tries. Friday came and I actually succeeded almost 20 times for the approximately the same 2000 tries. I got up Saturday morning and realized after dropping my “Bic� umpteen times why, in my opinion, this was posted. Success always comes from trial and error, never from trial and success! My first muse just went online in the middle of August and although I have gotten several hits no orders to date. I know that “my muse� just like the pen flourish will take some time and constant practice. Thanks again for your encouragement and, by the way, today I am 5 for 20 so far!

    Ken Duncan


  13. Tim, you rock. Just read your book in the last few hours (speed reading since 12yrs old). I live in Barbados for 6 months of the year and Toronto for the other 6. I am 33 years old and have my own consulting business. I have been following your same rhythm for a long time now and was amazed by how much more I could learn. Merci.
    Anytime you are on the island, give me a holla. -Y-


  14. What are you doing out in Japan, Josh? Come work on my campaign!

    Have you considered spin-offs for your book? “The Four Hour Work for Parents” or “The Four Hour Work Week Congressional Candidates” would be great. You would be like the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” guy.


  15. Hi Tim,

    Hey this is Cal from the Blendz inside Classic Car Wash… you just stopped in and gave me the link to your blog a short while ago. I read it and will read more in depth when I get home. Thanks, it’s a wealth of information!

    I just realized I went to school with your friend Noah. I don’t remember if it was Lynbrook or Cupertino since I went to both but I remember him!

    Well, thanks for the information and I will definitely check out your book!



  16. http://www.asianoffbeat.com/default.asp?Display=848

    You will not believe the pen-spinning virtuosity on display in these embedded YouTube clips. The second clip, in particular, will dizzily spin your conceptual pen-spinning foundations. Apparently boys in Thailand have taken up pen-spinning as the new craze. The first clip is a shakycam recording of what appears to be an English-language Asian news channel. It reports that the community site ThaiSpinner.com has 10,000 members.


  17. i got the helicopter down, almost got the pincer down. all in the first 20mins, no practice, don’t kno how lol. but yea, u got any other kewl ones?


  18. I waste hours printing large documents for work. Yes, i am an employee, but one, who after reading your book is hell bent on automating & outsourcing all that I can. Is there software or some website out there that will automatically download documents from the web and my computer while I sleep? I’ve found a bunch of software, but I’d like to know what you recommend. I truly appreciate any ideas you have.

    many thanks – M


  19. ok, i tested the slim jim, after weeks of practice.. it works somewhat but is kinda hard.. (and greasy) it would work alot better if the end of it was weighted, but u have to spin it really off center. worked for me in the end, goodluck to you


  20. Tim

    I would just like to say thank you for you instruction video. My frustration has been born more out of lack of instruction rather than difficulties in practice. I have been teaching in South Korea for the better part of two years now and my kids are always doing these tricks. I wanted to learn and now you have given me the starting point.



    P.S. – If you are on facebook feel free to add me.


    • these tricks are not hard to learn .. If you try and you can spin for like 2 3 hours a day alone it will take like a week to get them all..