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TAG Kyoto - kyo-no-oto - hisoku



namrehsnoom

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TAG Kyoto - kyo-no-oto - hisoku

 

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TAG is a stationary shop in Kyoto (Japan) that produces some interesting soft watercolour-style inks. With the kyo-no-oto series they produce a line of inks that replicates traditional Japanese dye colours. According to available only info, the manufacturing process of the kyo-no-oto inks follows traditional dying techniques dating back to the Heian era between the years 794 and 1185. The inks come in 40 ml bottles, packaged in luxurious thick paper with a texture that feels like heavy watercolour paper.

 

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In this review I take a closer look at hisoku, a grey steel-blue with green undertones. An interesting colour this one, soft and pale, but at the same time delicate as the seijit porcelain from which it draws its inspiration. Another TAG Kyoto ink that’s right up my alley.

 

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Hisoku translates to “secret colour”. It is named after the mysterious beauty of the ash-coloured blue-green unique to Celadon pottery (also known as greenware). The colour of this ink catches the porcelain’s colour perfectly. Very nicely done!

 

The ink writes really dry with my standard Lamy Safari test pens. Saturation is also quite low, especially with the finer nibs. Nevertheless, it still leaves a very readable line even with the Lamy EF nib. This may be a soft and pale ink, it still provides enough contrast with the paper to ensure very legible writing. With wetter pens, the writing experience improves significantly. I would personally avoid this ink with drier pens.

 

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To show you the impact of saturation on the ink’s look & feel on paper, I made some scribbles where I really saturated portions of the Tomoe River paper with ink. This gives you a good idea of what the ink is capable of in terms of colour range. Hisoku has a fairly broad dynamic range, but being a pale ink, there is no harsh contrast between the light and darker parts. This translates to strong but still elegant shading. Be aware that my scanner tends to exaggerate the contrast, making the shading look harsher than in reality. I’ve therefore added some photo’s to the writing samples below, to allow you to get a better feel for the ink.

 

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The chromatography shows the soft and delicate nature of this kyo-no-oto ink. The bottom part of the chroma suggests a fair amount of water resistance, but this is not reflected in the real world. With water tests, there does remain ink on the paper, but it’s not easily readable and requires patience deciphering. Slightly accident-proof would be more accurate to characterise hisoku’s water resistance.

 

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I’ve tested the ink on a wide variety of paper — from crappy Moleskine to high-end Tomoe River. On every small band of paper I show you:

 

  • An ink swab, made with a cotton Q-tip
  • 1-2-3 pass swab, to show increasing saturation
  • An ink scribble made with an M-nib Lamy Safari
  • The name of the paper used, written with a B-nib Lamy Safari
  • A small text sample, written with the M-nib Safari
  • Source of the quote, with a wet-writing Lamy Dialog 3 with M-nib
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari)

 

Hisoku looks great on all my test papers, with no visible feathering even with the horrible Moleskine paper. Show-through and bleed-through are quasi absent — only the Moleskine gets some minor bleed-through, but still not too bad. Drying times cluster around the 5 second mark with my Lamy Safari M-nib pen. I personally prefer hisoku with pure white paper, where it looks its best. A beautiful soft & delicate pale-blue that simply looks wonderful. I really appreciate the beauty of this ink.

 

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I’ve also added a few photos to give another view on the ink. In the scanner samples above, the shading contrast in the written text is a bit exaggerated, making it look too harsh. The photos below show a more realistic view of the ink’s shading.

 

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Writing with different nib sizes
The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. Kyo-no-oto hisoku has low saturation, but still manages enough contrast with the page to make for very legible writing, even with the EF nib. Be aware that it is a dry ink, and as such no good match for dry pens like the Lamy Safari. I suggest you use this ink with wetter pens and/or broader nibs to get a more enjoyable experience. And the ink’s elegant shading is always present, enhancing your writing, no matter what pen/nib combination you choose.

 

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Related inks
To compare this soft grey-blue hisoku with related inks, I use my nine-grid format with the currently reviewed ink at the centre. This format shows the name of related inks, a saturation sample, a 1-2-3 swab and a water resistance test — all in a very compact format. I really have no other ink that comes close in colour. J. Herbin Vert De Gris is from the same family but way more saturated. It doesn’t even try to match hisoku’s soft delicacy.

 

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Inkxperiment — angry Mother Earth
With every review, I try to create an inkxperiment using only the ink I’m working on. These one-ink drawings are a great way to bring out the colour-range nuances that are present in the ink. I really enjoy doing them: it’s fun, and a good way to stretch my creativity and drawing skills. Inspiration comes from the evermore visible results of climate change: climbing temperature, melting icecaps, stronger storms, … Mother Earth is not happy!

 

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I started with a piece of HP photo paper on which I drew a sketch of Mother Earth with my fountain pen. I then used a rolled-up piece of kitchen paper as a stamp, and filled in the background with water-diluted hisoku. I then added the radiance using Q-tips dipped in multiple water/ink mixes, and filled in the goddess figure with a Q-tip dipped in pure ink. Extra accents were added with my fountain pen. I’m not totally satisfied with the result, but the resulting picture does give you an idea of what can be achieved with hisoku as a drawing ink.

 

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Conclusion
I’ve tried a number of TAG Kyoto inks to date, and love them all. This line of inks really fits my taste – I’m glad I discovered them. Hisoku is an ink that totally nails it: a soft and delicate pale grey-blue with green undertones. A truly beautiful ink that works really well with all my test papers. Be aware that it definitely is a dry ink, and that it needs wet pens and/or broad nibs for a pleasant writing experience. Hisoku’s colour and toned-down appearance are probably not for everyone, but if you enjoy soft inks, this one is another winner from the TAG Kyoto stable.

 

Technical test results on Rhodia N° 16 notepad paper, written with Lamy Safari, M-nib

 

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Back-side of writing samples on different paper types

 

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Another "superlative" review of an haunting ink. I prefer to see these inks, but I won't be able to write with them, how ironic :)

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inkstainedruth

Interesting color, but unless it's in a pen that is wet or has a broader nib, it seems to be very pale.  Thanks for the review -- and my wallet thanks you even more.

I have one of the Kyo-no-oto inks, Sakuranezumi; it's an interesting color but I can't tell if it's very dry or it was the pen I tried it in (the Sailor Pro-Gear Slim, zoom nib) or a combination thereof.  Sounds if this ink is also fairly dry.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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Wow, it's beautiful - it has such a gentle, placid feel (notwithstanding Mother Earth's fury). Definitely right up my alley and I just added it to my want list.

Thanks for adding the photo - the shading did look to be too much for me until I saw it.

 

Really great review . Thank you very much!

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4 hours ago, tubular said:

Why not, yazeh?

In practice I prefer saturated inks. Pale inks, makes me feel I cannot see/feel what I'm writing....

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I’m getting a sample of this soon. I love mid-tone/paler inks (but not too pale!) with shading so it seems right up my alley. Thanks for such a comprehensive review!

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VillersCotterets

I recently changed my mind about pale inks. I used to think I won't be able to find use for them. But since I got a bottle of Kyo no oto (yamabuki iro), I surprise myself using it all the time, especially for todo lists with tasks I strike when done and quiet annotations.

Hisoko and its green cousin (its name escapes me now) is on my list potential buys.

Thank you for the review and presentation. It's very useful and pleasant to read.

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I have a sample vial of Hisoku.  I adore the color, but it’s a super non-lubricating, dry ink for me.  I did not enjoy actually using it at all.  Considering I’m generally okay with dry, low-lubrication inks.

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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1 hour ago, Intensity said:

I have a sample vial of Hisoku.  I adore the color, but it’s a super non-lubricating, dry ink for me.  I did not enjoy actually using it at all.  Considering I’m generally okay with dry, low-lubrication inks.

Indeed - it is a dry ink, no doubt about it. But with a good pen/nib combo it works just fine. I’m currently using it in a Pelikan M400 with M-nib - wet pen - and it writes smoothly and looks divine. It’s a fair warning though... this is not an ink that fits any pen. 

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I only had one of these already (have just bought four more) and it was also dry. I added the tiniest amount of Flow-Aid and it transformed it. Not gushy, just nice to use even with drier pens. 

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TravelCommons
21 hours ago, mizgeorge said:

I only had one of these already (have just bought four more) and it was also dry. I added the tiniest amount of Flow-Aid and it transformed it. Not gushy, just nice to use even with drier pens. 

 

I'll have to give that a try. I had the Nureba-Iro (Raven Black) in my wettest MB and it was like writing with chalk. I love the color -- with truly a "raven-y" purple-ish black sheen -- but I cursed it every time I picked up that MB. 

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1 minute ago, TravelCommons said:

 

I'll have to give that a try. I had the Nureba-Iro (Raven Black) in my wettest MB and it was like writing with chalk. I love the color -- with truly a "raven-y" purple-ish black sheen -- but I cursed it every time I picked up that MB. 

Funny Noodler's has a Raven Black, too....

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22 hours ago, mizgeorge said:

I only had one of these already (have just bought four more) and it was also dry. I added the tiniest amount of Flow-Aid and it transformed it. Not gushy, just nice to use even with drier pens. 

I’m unfamiliar with the use of Flow-Aid. How much to add to the ink? A drop per filling? Per bottle? Any pointers?

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