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TAG Kyoto - kyo-no-oto - aonibi

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TAG Kyoto – kyo-no-oto – aonibi



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.



For this review, the spotlight shines on aonibi. And I can tell you up front that this ink fully deserves to be the centre of your attention. Kyo-no-oto aonibi is a soft dark blue, more of a muted blue-grey instead of the typical blue-black. The colour is inspired by the light of the moon floating in a blue-grey sky above Kyoto. Tranquility, harmony, softness, elegance… a pastel-like toned-down dark blue that looks great on paper. I guess you can already tell that I like this ink a lot 😉


The ink writes fairly dry with moderate flow in my standard Lamy Safari M-nib test pen. With broader nibs or wetter pens, the dryness disappears. Although fairly dry, the ink writes with sufficient saturation even in EF nibs. Contrast with the paper is good across all nib sizes. Being a dark blue, aonibi offers a business-friendly colour that is not out-of-place at the office. It’s quite an elegant blue with lots of character, that will certainly draw attention… be prepared for some oohs and aahs. The TAG Kyoto inks share a common gene-pool, which consistently delivers nicely muted, elegant, good-looking inks. They totally fit my taste, and I’m quite glad that I discovered them.



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. Aonibi has a fairly broad dynamic range, ranging from light-blue to a fairly dark blue-black-grey. Despite this broad range, there is no harsh contrast between the light and darker parts. This translates to subtle shading, definitely present but never too strong. This aesthetic shading adds character to your writing. 



The ink’s chromatography shows the pastel-like nature of the dye-mix.  The chroma reflects the soft elegance of the ink. It looks simple and monochromatic at first sight, but a closer look shows hidden beauty and complexity. The bottom part of the chromatography indicates a measure of water-resistance. In practice, aonibi is just borderline water-resistant. It can survive a small accident, but that’s about it. Definitely not a water-resistant ink.



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 M205 Demonstrator with M cursive italic nib
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari)

Aonibi looks best on pure-white paper. With more creamy paper, the ink loses quite a bit of its beauty (in my opinion). The ink performs well on my test papers, even on the Moleskine paper (which is quite an accomplishment). Drying times are mostly around the 10 second mark. 






I’ve also added a few photos to give you another view on the ink. Scanned images and photos often capture different aspects of an ink’s colour & contrast. That’s why I present them both. In this case, the scanner captures the colour best, while the photos give a more accurate impression of the ink’s shading. 





Writing with different nib sizes
The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. Kyo-no-oto aonibi always provides enough contrast with the page, even in EF nibs. But with finer nibs in dry pens, the ink writes too scratchy and with bad lubrication, not pleasant at all. Once you move to broader nibs or wetter pens, the dryness disappears and aonibi becomes much nicer to write with. I really like the way the ink looks in the Pelikan with M cursive italic nib. This pen/nib combination brings out the best the ink has to offer: beautiful colour and really elegant shading.



Related inks
To compare this dark blue-grey aonibi 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. This kyo-no-oto ink is different from my other blue-greys – Prussian Blue comes close, but has more grey to it.



Inkxperiment – blue mountain
With every review, I try to create an inkxperiment using only the ink I am presenting. Such a one-ink drawing works great to show off the colour-range nuances that are present in the ink. These inkxperiments are the favourite part of my reviews: always great fun and a perfect way to experiment with inks using a number of different techniques. 



The drawing started with a doodle in my journal. I used an A4 piece of HP photo paper, and taped off the bars with masking tape. Next I painted in the background and sun. I then added texture to the mountain using multiple ink/water ratios and some Q-tips. Once dried, I removed the masking tape, and used a piece of cardboard and pure aonibi to paint in the bars. Finally, I used my Safari M-nib fountain pen to add the trees and birds, and to add some extra texture to the mountain. I cropped the scan of the drawing to a square format, because it looked stronger that way. The resulting picture shows really well what can be achieved with aonibi in a more artistic context. 



TAG kyo-no-oto aonibi is a great ink – a muted grey-blue with a unique colour that is both soft and elegant. The ink works best with broader/wetter nibs – it’s really too dry for finer nibs.  Aonibi fully blossoms with pure white paper – it loses quite a bit of its beauty on more creamy paper. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with this one: the beauty of Japan in a bottle!

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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  • namrehsnoom


  • Karmachanic


  • LizEF


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Thank you once again for your heroic effort. I find your reviews to be like a restful oasis; both calming and educational. Even for hues I'm not drawn to.

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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Thanks for the review!  Love this color.  As you noted, it looks great from pretty much any nib.  And thanks for the inky experiment tutorial. :)

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Your Inkxperiment is of such beauty....and your prose, hides a zen poet's soul... thanks  🙏


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What can I say which hasn't already been stated above by other admirers of you?

Even if I didn't like blue-blacks (who doesn't ?) I'd still love this one.

It has style!

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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That is a beautiful color! And your reviews are so wonderfully detailed - I love how many papers you test them across!

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And ahhhhhhh. 


That was a moment of simple happiness in what has been a pretty rubbish day. 


Flawless review. One of my favourite inks. Plus the little clever touches that make your reviews so special. 


Thank you :)

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Another one to put on my list. Thanks yet again for a wonderful review of a beautiful, peaceful ink. 

"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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i've been using this ink for years and it is definitely a keeper... and to think i bought it on a whim... thanks for taking the time to create this beautiful review

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