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TAG Kyoto - kyo-iro - Moonlight of Higashiyama

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TAG Kyoto – kyo-iro – Moonlight of Higashiyama



TAG is a stationary shop in Kyoto (Japan) that produces some interesting soft watercolour-style inks. With the kyo-iro series they produce a line of inks that that are inspired by the city’s many beautiful and historic sights. Each of these inks is dedicated to a specific town in the Kyoto area. The inks come in 40 ml bottles, packaged in luxurious thick paper with a texture that feels like heavy watercolour paper.



In this review I take a closer look at Moonlight of Higashiyama. This ink’s colour is a warm burnt-orange, that is inspired by the traditional wooden Machiya houses in Kyoto’s historic Higashiyama district. Like many TAG Kyoto inks, this one looks subdued and delicate, with tons of shading. And the shading is really well executed: very present, but never too harsh. My first impression: a seducing beauty, that is ideally suited for wintertime journaling.

There is big but though… this ink is really dry (about on par with kyo-no-oto hisoku), which will probably be a show-stopper for some. Adding a bit of flow-aid solves the lubrication problem, but also results in increased saturation which completely destroys the delicate nature of the ink’s colour. So I hunted for a workable pen/nib/ink combination, which I found with my new treasure: a Pelikan M600 Tortoiseshell Red with M-nib. Here the ink writes with quite tolerable lubrication; still dry but no longer uncomfortable.

Moonlight of Higashiyama is a soft ink with moderate saturation. Still, it produces a very readable line on paper, even with the finer nibs. Bear in mind: with EF/F nibs writing is a scratchy affair due to the ink’s dryness and writing is definitely not a pleasant affair. The ink works well with both white and more yellow paper. Personally I prefer this ink on the more yellow paper – the yellow/orange combination enhances the softness of the ink. 



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. Moonlight of Higashiyama has a limited colour span, which translates to soft shading. Very elegant and eye-pleasing – I like this ink’s shading a lot.



The ink’s chromatography shows yellow, orange and red tones. It also indicates that the ink’s dyes are only loosely attached to the paper. This is clear from the bottom part of the chroma: almost all colour dissipates with water. This already indicates that Moonlight of Higashiyama has no water-resistance to speak of. 



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 Pelikan M600 with M nib
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari)


The ink looks great on all papers, but – as I already mentioned – I prefer its looks on the more yellowish paper. See-through and bleed-through are not a problem. Only with the Moleskine paper did I get visible bleed-through. Drying times are in the 5 second range with the Lamy Safari M-nib. The ink has a tendency to feather a bit on some papers in my test set. Unexpectedly, I also noticed some feathering on the Paperblanks paper, which is usually very fountain-pen friendly. 







Because scans don't always capture an ink's colour and contrast with good precision, I also add a few photos to give you an alternative look on the ink.





Writing with different nib sizes
The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. Moonlight of Higashiyama writes with good contrast in all nib sizes, but feels horribly dry in the EF/F nibs. I like it best in a wet Pelikan M600 with M-nib – here is still looks subtle and elegant and with beautiful shading, while also loosing enough of its dryness to make for pleasant writing (word of warning: I have a high tolerance for dryness, so what I consider pleasant may not fit your definition).



Related inks
To compare Moonlight of Higashiyama with related inks, I use my nine-grid format with the currently reviewed ink at the center. 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. Callifolio Anahuac comes close in colour, but shows harsher shading. 



Inkxperiment – Kindergarten
I love to experiment with my inks in an artistic context. With my inkxperiments, I limit myself to the single ink I’m reviewing, allowing me to explore all of its colour range nuances. This is the part where I play with the ink, experiment with drawing techniques, and just have loads of fun. For this review, inspiration comes from the drawing of a lion that the youngest member in the family brought home from Kindergarten. “Kindergarten” … the word triggered an association: a child’s drawing in a garden setting. Et voilà, this inkxperiment was born.



I started with a piece of A4-sized HP photo paper. This has become one of my favourite media for ink drawings. The photo paper really enhances any ink’s colour, making it look that much more vibrant. I created the background using a piece of kitchen sponge.  Next I drew in the lion’s mane, and added flower stems. As a final step I used my fountain pen and a glass dip pen to add structure to the lion’s mane of the three flowers and to draw in the lions faces. The end result is my Kindergarten, which shows what can be accomplished with Moonlight of Higashiyama as a drawing ink. In my opinion: an ink with lots of potential for artistic purposes.



TAG kyo-iro Moonlight of Higashiyama has a beautiful burnt-orange colour. A soft-looking and elegant ink, warm and glowing, and ideal for winter-time journaling. But also: annoyingly dry and with a slight tendency to feather. Hunting for the right pen/nib/paper combination is a must with this ink. But still… I personally like the looks of this kyo-iro ink a lot, and really appreciate its potential in more artistic settings. Not an ink for everyone, but for me Moonlight of Higashiyama totally works.

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



Back-side of writing samples on different paper types






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  • ENewton


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Thanks for the review!  Love the lionflowers! :D  And I agree, looks best on creamier papers (based on your images, never tried this myself).

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Thank you so much for such a great review as always. The review is as beautiful as the ink's own colour (or vice-versa, which is by no means meant as a joke). The only thing I don't fathom completely is the name ("MoonlIght"), which would represent a totally different colour IMO, but who cares?

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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Thank you namrehsnoom. Lovely and informative as always.


This was on my buy list until I saw a side by side comparison, here on FPN, (doppelganger?) with less costly SK Cognac, which I bought instead.


As for "Moonlight", it's not about the moon itself, but the effect of moonlight shining on Higashiyama District in Kyoto..

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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I must chase the doppleganger. I loved the colour of this ink but the dry aspects prevents me from using it in anything but a broad very wet nib. It is seriously dry.

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Oh NO! Another one for the list. 


Fabulous review - I adore the lionflowers, and love the slight pinkiness of the colour.


I utterly love the colours of the kyo no otos, but also had problems with their dryness (funnily enough, apart from urahairo, but only in a pretty wet pen). After some hexperiments, I've added Liquitex flow aid in a 10:1 ratio (so 4 ml for a full 40ml bottle) and it's transformed. Any less was not quite enough, and any more made it too slippery. I tried small volumes, and then got bored and just did the full 4ml on all of mine. I've not regretted it yet but only time will tell! 


(And my boxes don't look like that at all...)

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Your reviews are such a joy.  


I had also read elsewhere that this ink is dry.  Not being a person who dares to add flow enhancers to my inks, I am glad that the one TAG Kyoto ink I own, Soft Snow of Ohara, flows nicely.

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3 hours ago, ENewton said:

Not being a person who dares to add flow enhancers to my inks


Be Brave! Try it; you'll like it!   Liquitex, and a sample vial.  Add one small drop, fill the pen and have a scribble.  Sometimes two small drops are needed - Zaferanno for instance.

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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Why, what a lovely pen!

It's hard work to tell which is Old Harry when everybody's got boots on.

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Thank you for your excellent review :)

This ink was the first that made me stumble down the inky rabbit hole. It almost seems years ago, when I got this as a surprise sample.I discovered the term dry and my first attempts at drawing were with it,  which made me appreciate the beauty of any ink colour but blue... It feels like writing with rust..... 

Truly an exceptional ink despite it's shortcomings.... fond memories :)




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Thanks for a very complete and beautiful review! Very interesting color.


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Truly spectacular review!!!  So many papers and examples of performance...it must have taken you a long time to do.  I equally appreciate your Asimov quotes!!!

With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

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Thanks for another exceptional review as well as for including the photos of writing. Somehow I feel that photos are often better than scans at giving an impression of what the ink will actually look like in use. (Just a small suggestion: assuming that your camera has an aperture control you might try a higher setting for pictures like the second one so you can get more of the photo in focus. Of course with a higher aperture you will have to make a longer exposure so if you have a small tripod or another way of stabilizing the camera it should help a lot.)

Based on your comparisons it looks like maybe a mixture of Callifolio Anahuac and Itzamna might get a close approximation of this color while being better performing and much less expensive. I am slowly going through L'Artisan Pastellier's inks and I might put those two on my next order and give it a try.

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