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TAG Kyoto - kyo-no-oto - ochiguriiro


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TAG Kyoto – kyo-no-oto ochiguriiro



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.



In this review I take a closer look at ochiguriiro, a soft warm brown that works great as a journaling ink for the late-winter season in my part of the world.  The colour is supposedly named after the colour of freshly fallen chestnuts. An interesting brown, this one, with a colour that sits somewhere between iroshizuku yama-guri and J. Herbin Lie de Thé. Quite different from the other brown inks in my collection.

This ink was a welcome surprise after the dry to very dry kyo-no-oto inks I tried earlier. It writes wet with excellent lubrication, even in the drier Lamy Safari pens. It’s also a well-saturated ink that can handle all nib sizes, including the finer ones. I prefer the ink’s look in finer nibs, where it produces a softer pastel-brown line. My perfect pairing is with a Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown with a fine cursive-italic nib (see nib sizes sample below) – this combination of ink & pen looks simply gorgeous.



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. Ochiguriiro has a fairly broad contrast range. Fortunately, there is no harsh contrast between the light and dark parts. As a result you get strong shading that avoids being excessive, giving extra elegance to your writing. Well executed!



The chromatography shows the complex nature of this kyo-no-oto ink, with dark red-orange and grey-blue in the mix. 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 a ghosting image of your writing on the paper, but it’s very faint making it nigh impossible to reconstruct your writing. Not an ink that can survive watery accidents. 



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 M400 wit F cursive italic nib
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari)

Ochiguriiro works well with all test papers, with just the tiniest bit of feathering on the low quality papers (Moleskine, cheap notepad & copy paper). No issues with show-through or bleed-through, with the exception of the crappy Moleskine. Drying times are mostly in the 5 to 10 second range with the Lamy Safari M-nib. I like this kyo-no-oto ink best on the creamy paper, where it gains extra warmth and softness. Very nice-looking brown!






I’ve also added a few photos to give another view on the ink. In this case, the scanned images seem to capture the ink’s actual colour best.  





Writing with different nib sizes
The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. Kyo-no-oto ochiguriiro lays down a wet and fairly saturated line in all nib sizes. This one easily handles F and EF nibs – it evens shows some shading with the EF nib, which is not a mean feat. My perfect pairing for this ink is my Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown with an F cursive italic nib I bought from fpnibs.com. With this combo the ink looks gorgeous – you get really elegant shading and line variation. Just perfect!



Related inks
To compare this soft warm brown 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. Ochiguriiro is quite different from my other browns. My first thought when using the ink was that it looked similar to Lie de Thé or Edelstein Smoky Quartz. But in a side-by-side comparison, ochiguriiro looks more of a grey-brown. Not as grey a brown as iroshizuku yama-guri though. This ink sits somewhere in the middle between grey- and yellow-brown. 



Inkxperiment – playtime
I find great satisfaction in creating inkxperiments using only the ink I’m working on. A fun and at the same time challenging way to show off the colour-range nuances that are present in the ink. And I definitely enjoy the monochromatic look of the resulting drawings. For this inkxperiment, I decided on an interpretation of a cat playing with a mouse. I’m lousy at realistic-looking drawings, and therefore tend to go for a more abstract interpretation. Ochiguriiro with its broad colour span made it easy to get a good-looking result.



I started with an A4 piece of watercolour paper. I first drew in the cat figure with a pencil, and then painted in the checkered background with heavily water-diluted ink. As a next step, I  coloured the cat figure while adding ever more ink to the mix. Final accents on the cat and the drawing of the mouse were added with my Lamy fountain pen and pure ochiguriiro. The resulting picture shows what can be achieved when using this kyo-no-oto as a drawing ink.


Drawing with ink is fun but challenging. You can’t paint over ink to correct mistakes – it just doesn’t work. So I learned to live with less than perfection, and tolerate errors in the drawing as being part of the creative process. And this drawing definitely has its number of mistakes: the square next to the cat’s head is too wide, some bleed-out of ink in the cat’s body, and the cat’s ears are out of proportion. But who cares… I had great fun drawing this one.



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. Ochiguriiro is a surprisingly wet and satured ink in the kyo-no-oto series. An earthy brown – sitting somewhere between grey-brown and yellow-brown - that looks great on creamy paper. I was impressed with the shading in this ink – quite heavy but still not harsh – really well executed in my opinion. If you enjoy warm brown inks, this one is certainly worth a closer look.

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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Thank you for your superlative ( as usual ) ink review and talented ( humouristic )cat  illustrations. 

Ochiguri iro and smokey quartz are very close , though not identical.

I too like the kyoto line inks a lot.


The bellow writings are pictures ( not scans ). Rhodia 90gms ivory paper.





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Ahhh... Lovely in every way. Lovely ink, lovely review, lovely pen, lovely drawing.


Thank you :)

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What a breath of fresh air. Truly a work of art.... Thanks a lot for your cubist artistry :)

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A portrait of Picasso's cat! :lol:  Thank you for another great review.  Not sure this is quite my shade of brown, but you make it look wonderful!  It works especially well for the flowers in your swab "box" at the top of the review.

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  • 8 months later...

Superb, thank you!


I have had my eye on Stone Road Of Gion (and Soft Snow and Moonlight) forever, and having recently been delighted by a sample of Moonlight have decided to pull the trigger...but wait, the Kyo No Oto line adds two more violets (one discontinued!) and a second brown! Now choosing becomes a difficult thing!


I can't find justification for both browns, so I think I'll choose one and a sample of the other for comparison.


... and all three violets!

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22 hours ago, pgcauk said:

Superb, thank you!


I have had my eye on Stone Road Of Gion (and Soft Snow and Moonlight) forever, and having recently been delighted by a sample of Moonlight have decided to pull the trigger...but wait, the Kyo No Oto line adds two more violets (one discontinued!) and a second brown! Now choosing becomes a difficult thing!


I can't find justification for both browns, so I think I'll choose one and a sample of the other for comparison.


... and all three violets!


I really like Ochiguriiro but love Stone Road, perhaps more than Cacao or R&K Sepia. Ochi is definitely wetter than Stone Road but I don't have the dryness issues that others seem to have with Stone Road. I currently have it in a Pilot Elite and Sailor Profit, both with soft fine nibs, with the Pilot being a somewhat dry pen. (I love Moonlight too - first ink that really turned me on to orange.)


Edit: No promises, but if you want and I have time, I can try to generate and show a comparison of the two tomorrow. 

"Most people enjoy the sight of their own handwriting as they enjoy the smell of their own farts." - W. H. Auden

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20 hours ago, PithyProlix said:

if you want and I have time, I can try to generate and show a comparison of the two tomorrow.

- that would be wonderful, thank you!

I have so many taupes already, but Stone Road has always fascinated me. I would have got a sample of Ochiguriiro if available but Jet Pens, who have the best prices for Kyo No Oto, don't do samples.

As a reward I'll show you some mushrooms I picked yesterday:



Oh, and here's my swatch page for that pen, as it gives a comparison with PenBBS Guilin.

NB That 2 should be a 7!

Ink Studio #373!



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