Ink Review: Iroshizuku Tsukushi

Iroshizuku Tsukushi. Click to enlarge.

Iroshizuku Tsukushi. Click to enlarge.

Iroshizuku is a line of ink produced by Pilot under their high-end Namiki brand. The natural landscape and plants of Japan inspire the colors in the line, resulting in some of the most interesting and unique ink around. Some of my earliest reviews were of Iroshizuku ink: Yu-Yake, a delightful burnt orange; Momiji, an incredible, if subtle red; Yama-Budo, a ripe, juicy purple; Kiri-Same, the color of storm clouds in a bottle; and Kon-Peki, a deep and intoxicating ocean blue. To mark my recent return to ink reviews after a two-year hiatus, I just reviewed Asa-Gao, which is a daily-writer-worthy vibrant blue.

Returning to this line of ink made me remember just how much I love it. I’ve collected lots of ink over the years, which means that the average tenure of any particular color in my daily writer is probably one month, if not less. As a result, many of the Iroshizuku inks that I collected early on have sat, lonely and unused, for a few years. So, when I went to choose the next ink in my rotation, I picked an Iroshizuku ink that I had owned for years but never reviewed: Tsukushi.

Tsukushi means “horsetail” in Japanese, and can refer to either the horsetail plant or to a wooden stick with a burned tip that’s used to create under-drawings for artwork. According to Pilot, the ink is “a soft brown, like a young horsetail awaiting the coming of spring,” which I assume refers to the plant, as the idea of a burnt stick waiting around for spring can only be explained by artistic bears coming out of hibernation and then sleepily marching into the studio for a quick sketch before wandering off to hunt salmon.

At any rate, Tsukushi is a medium brown with a hint of earthy red. It’s moderately saturated, and does exhibit nice shading with both a fine nib and a wide stub nib. As a wet writing ink, it provides sufficient lubrication across a variety writing surfaces.

As a line, Iroshizuku ink behaves best on high quality, ink resistant paper like Clairefontaine, Rhodia, or Midori. Because most of the colors are wet-writers, they have a tendency to feather on cheap, absorbent paper like bagasse or copier paper. Tsukishi squarely fits the pattern, as seen by its behavior on the various papers I tested it on.

PaperDry TimeFeatheringShow ThroughBleed Through
Rhodia12 secondsNoneMediumNone
Midori15 secondsNoneMediumNone
Bagasse3 secondsHighHighHigh
Copier2 secondsMediumHighHigh
Iroshizuku Tsukushi water test. Click to enlarge.

Iroshizuku Tsukushi water test. Click to enlarge.

Tsukushi held up better than I expected during tests of its water resistance. On the smear test, in which I drag a wet finger across the page, the ink certainly smeared – the red compounds in the ink splayed across the page – but the underlying lines still remained legible. On the drip test, in which I let a few drops of water sit on the page before blotting them up, the ink bled slightly and some came up off the page, but it still remained readable.

On the soak test, in which I ran the page under a stream of water for half a minute, Tsukushi tenaciously clung to the page. While a considerable portion of the ink was washed away, the lines remained clearly visible; at least some amount of the ink appears to have bonded to the paper, preventing it from being fully removed. While nowhere near bulletproof, it was a solid performance

Iroshizuku Tsukushi bottle. Click to enlarge.

Iroshizuku Tsukushi bottle. Click to enlarge.

Iroshizuku bottles remain one of the loveliest designs in the field. Each beautiful, 50ml bottle brilliantly showcases the color of the ink it contains. They are quite solid and the thick bottom gives each one a surprising amount of heft. Also, an indentation in the bottom of the bottle is intended to aid in soaking up the last few drops of ink. These are bottles that deserve a place of pride on top of a desk.

Brown inks have not been in my regular rotation for the past couple of years, but my time with Tsukushi is making me rethink that – especially as we head into autumn here in the US. It’s well-behaved ink with nice shading in a color that I haven’t yet found elsewhere. It’s not cheap – Iroshizuku ink runs about $28 (US) per bottle – but from its time in my pen, I’d say that it’s worth it.

Iroshizuku Tsukushi is available from:

Review notes: The hand-written portions of the review were created on 80 g/m2 Rhodia paper from a No. 18 Bloc pad. The flourished italic script was written using a Monteverde Prima with a 1.1mm steel stub nib, while the remainder of the text was written using a Visconti Homo Sapiens fitted with an EF palladium nib.

Ink Review: Iroshizuku Asagao

iroshizuku asagao.jpg

I’d like to begin by offering a hearty apology to the fine folks at Jet Pens, who sent me a bottle of Iroshizuku Asagao all the way back in October of 2013. At the time, I thought that I could sneak in an ink review in the middle of my EMBA program. That was a gross over-estimation of time and ability on my part. I managed to get the ink samples created, but the review itself never materialized – always de-prioritized in favor of papers, presentations, and projects. I’m finally back, though. My brain has recovered, and, for my first foray back into the reviewing realm, I’m delivering the long-overdue review of Iroshizuku Asagao.

The morning glory was first identified in China, where it was used for medicinal purposes. It was introduced to Japan in the 9th century, where it became cultivated for its ornamental properties. It became such a popular flower in Japan that the Japanese now lead the world in developing new varieties of the plant, producing a multitude of colors. Asagao is based on the most common color, though – a lovely, vibrant blue. It is highly saturated ink that produces significant contrast on bright white paper, and exhibits low levels of shading when used with a fine-nib pen.

The ink performed modestly across a variety of paper types. On Rhodia paper, which is very fountain pen friendly, the ink dried in 4 seconds, and displayed moderate feathering. Show-through and bleed-through were both moderate as well – manageable, but one wouldn’t want to use this ink to write on both sides of the page. It performed reasonably well on cheap copier paper, where it dried in 1 second, and had low to moderate feathering. It had above average levels of bleed-through and show-through, though. Asagao fared the worst on Staples’ bagasse, where it dried in 2 seconds, but exhibited extraordinary feathering, and had high levels of bleed-through and show-through.

iroshizuku asagao water test.jpg

Asagao is the first Iroshizuku ink on which I’ve conducted a water test, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. They are not advertised as possessing any significant water resistance, so I had no idea whether it would wash out easily, or hang on tenaciously. Overall, it did reasonably well.

The smear test, in which I run a wet finger over the page, turned the lovely blue lines into a lovely blue smudge. However, the original lines remain legible beneath the large blue smear – the information is preserved, even though you wouldn’t want to hand the paper over to anyone you wanted to impress.

The drip test, in which I leave drops of water on the page for a few seconds or so before blotting, caused the lines to feather and some ink to be blotted up, but the sample was still readable. The soak test, in which I run the paper under a stream of water for thirty seconds in an attempt to wash the ink off the page, did rinse a great amount of the ink away. However, enough remained behind to be completely legible.

Iroshizuku bottles remain one of the loveliest designs in the field. The beautiful 50ml bottle brilliantly showcases the color of the ink it contains. It’s quite solid and its thick bottom gives it a surprising amount of heft. An indentation in the bottom of the bottle is intended to aid in soaking up the last few drops of ink.

When I first put Asagao into my pen, I felt as though it was missing something. It was vibrant, lovely to look at, and well behaved, but it didn’t quite have the unique character that many other Iroshizuku inks seem to possess. They’re colors that you just can’t find anywhere else. Then I realized that, as much as I love those inks, they never make it into my regular rotation. Asagao, on the other hand, would be perfect for daily use. It’s a little bold, especially on bright white paper, but on the cream-colored paper of a Moleskine or Midori notebook, it mellows and really comes into its own. If you like Iroshizuku inks, and you’re looking for a daily writer, then Asagao might be the one for you.

Iroshizuku Asagao is available from a number of sources, including the fine folks at Jet Pens.

Review Notes: The hand-written portions of the review were created on 80 g/m2 Rhodia paper from a No. 16 Bloc pad. The flourished italic script was written using a Lamy Joy fitted with a 1.9mm steel nib, while the remainder of the text was written using a Visconti Homo Sapiens fitted with an EF palladium nib.

ink review: iroshizuku momiji

Rating: 4.5


Iroshizuku Momiji is currently my favorite ink of all time. I’m a big fan of red ink – though most people consider it too hard to read on an extended basis, I’ve never had an issue with most of them – and Momiji is currently at the top of my list. It is a deep red ink that falls on the bluish side of the spectrum. According to the manufacturer, Pilot/Namiki, it is intended to evoke the “bright red leaves that are iconic of a Japanese autumn.”

While I like the color of Momiji on white paper, I find its appearance on off-white paper to be complex and robust with a barely perceptible level of shading that lends an air of sophistication and depth. Momiji is to other red inks as a fine Cabernet Sauvignon is to grape juice.

Like many other Iroshizuku inks, Momiji is highly saturated – to the point that it tends to temporarily stain the ebonite feed on fountain pens. Fortunately, I’ve never seen it stain permanently – a good rinse with water will take it right off. The other characteristic that I’ve noticed in several pens is that it tends to clog them when left unattended for a while. I would recommend a good cleansing between fills with Momiji.

On paper, Momiji behaves similarly to Iroshizuku Yama-budo. It flows easily, though it is neither lubricating like Noodler’s inks nor overly wet like J. Herbin inks. It exhibits moderate shading with a wide nib, but is fairly consistent in a fine nib. When used with a fine nib, it exhibits little feathering on both Rhodia and Moleskine journal paper, and only minor feathering on the more absorbent Ecosystem paper. Despite its vibrant color, it displays minimal show-through, even on the thin paper of a Moleskine cahier. It behaves quite well on all papers with regard to bleed-through – showing only minimal bleeding on the thinnest of papers.

Unlike Yama-budo, Momiji takes a while to dry. In my tests on Moleskine and Rhodia paper, Momiji took 15 to 20 seconds to dry completely – longer than most other Iroshizuku inks I’ve reviewed. On more absorbent paper like Ecosystem or standard copy paper, though, it is dry to the touch in less than two seconds. Writing on an incline seems to produce no noticeable increase in drying time compared to writing flat for this ink.

While clearly not a standard color for use in daily business writing, Momiji makes a great highlighting or editing ink. For personal use, it works quite well for journaling and other daily use – it’s not too bright to be uncomfortable to read.


As with the other Iroshizuku inks, Momiji comes in a beautiful, solid, 50 ml bottle that looks great on one’s desk. The bottle has a depression in the base to allow for the last drops to be claimed with ease. The only minor drawback to this ink is the cost – for a comparable volume, Iroshizuku tends to run 50% to 100% more than other inks.

Despite the long drying time and the tendency to be a bit high maintenance in a pen, Momiji is an outstanding and inspiring color that I’ve never seen reproduced by any other manufacturer. If you can handle its quirks, Iroshizuku Momiji is highly recommended.

A note about the scan (or lack thereof): I normally scan in the written portion of my review and then make very minor adjustments to the brightness to bring the scanned image back into line with the physical version. However, Momiji appears to be impossible to accurately represent with a scan. When scanned in on both scanners I have available to me, the ink turns a bright pink. Thus, I had to resort to a picture taken in natural light.

Review materials: For the wide strokes, I used a Lamy 1.1mm steel calligraphy nib on a Lamy Safari. For the fine strokes, I used a Lamy 14K gold EF nib on a Lamy Studio. The paper is Rhodia 80gsm.

ink review: iroshizuku yama-budo

Rating: 5.0


Iroshizuku Yama-budo (wild mountain grapes) is a vibrant purple ink the color of fresh grape juice that’s been spilled across a glazed, porcelain countertop. It is brighter and juicier than J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune, which, itself, can be favorably compared to a red wine stain.

Like many other Iroshizuku inks, it is quite highly saturated – to the point that it tends to temporarily stain the ebonite feed on fountain pens. Fortunately, I’ve never seen it stain permanently – a good rinse with water will take it right off. This ink exhibits moderate shading with a wide nib, but is fairly consistent in a fine nib.

Yama-budo flows easily, though it is neither lubricating like Noodler’s inks nor overly wet like J. Herbin inks. In a fine nib, it exhibits no feathering on either Rhodia or Moleskine journal paper, and only minor feathering on the more absorbent Ecosystem paper. Despite its vibrant color, it displays minimal show-through, even on the thin paper of a Moleskine cahier. It behaves quite well on all papers with regard to bleed-through – showing only minimal bleeding on the thinnest of papers.

On Moleskine and Rhodia paper, Yama-budo dries in six to ten seconds – comparable to other Iroshizuku inks. On more absorbent paper like Ecosystem or standard copy paper, it is dry to the touch in less than two seconds. Writing on an incline seems to produce no noticeable increase in drying time compared to writing flat for this ink, at least in the pen I was using to test with.

The vibrancy of this ink makes it inappropriate for conservative business use, but it is wonderful for personal use of all sorts. In a fine nib, it produces a dark enough line to provide plenty of contrast for everyday reading.


As with the other Iroshizuku inks, Yama-budo comes in a beautiful, solid, 50 ml bottle that looks great on one’s desk. The bottle has a depression in the base to allow for the last drops to be claimed with ease. The only minor drawback to this ink is the cost – for a comparable volume, Iroshizuku tends to run 50% to 100% more than other inks.

I’ve mentioned before that Iroshizuku is one of my favorite ink producers, and each new bottle I purchase reaffirms my growing devotion. Their colors are bold, inspiring, and difficult to find from other manufacturers. Yama-budo is highly recommended.

Review materials: For the wide strokes, I used a Lamy 1.1mm steel calligraphy nib on a Lamy Safari. For the fine strokes, I used a Lamy EF steel nib on a Lamy Safari. The paper is Rhodia 80g.

ink review: iroshizuku kon peki

Rating: 4.0


Iroshizuku Kon-peki is a beautiful, azure blue ink that captures the tempestuous nature of the wild ocean. It is a highly saturated ink that exhibits a surprising level of shading – representing the light blue of the ocean surface and the deep blue of the bottom of the sea. Because it is highly saturated, it creates a bold line on both white and off-white paper.

Like other Iroshizuku inks, Kon-peki flows liberally. It exhibits minor feathering on Moleskine journals and on Ecosystem paper, but no feathering at all on Rhodia paper. Due to its bold color, it demonstrates moderate show-through on thin paper, like that of a Moleskine cahier. However, even on the cahier paper, it suffers from very little bleed-through.

The dry time of Kon-peki is similar to other Iroshizuku inks: on Moleskine paper, it takes roughly six seconds, and on Rhodia, ten seconds. The pen I used for the review, a Lamy Studio, tends to write wet, however – which increases the dry time when compared to my Lamy Safari or 2000. Also, I typically write on an incline, which often causes ink to pool at the bottom of letters, thus increasing the time it takes ink to dry when compared to writing on a flat surface. Therefore, flat-writers might experience a quicker dry time.

While the color of Iroshizuku Kon-peki is probably too bold for typical business use, it would be a good choice for editing or other highlighting. I also find it to be great for journaling and other artistic use – the ink provides sufficient contrast on multiple paper tones to be easy to read.

As with the other Iroshizuku inks, Kon-peki comes in a beautiful, solid, 50 ml bottle that looks great on one’s desk. The bottle has a depression in the base to allow for the last drops to be claimed with ease. The only minor drawback to this ink is the cost – for a comparable volume, Iroshizuku tends to run 50% to 100% more than other inks.

Review materials: For the wide strokes, I used a Lamy 1.1mm steel calligraphy nib on a Lamy Safari. For the fine strokes, I used a Lamy 14K gold EF nib on a Lamy Studio. The comparison strokes were made with a Lamy 2000. The paper is Rhodia 80g.