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TAG Kyoto - kyo-no-oto yamabukiiro


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TAG Kyoto – kyo-no-oto – yamabukiiro



TAG is a stationery 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 online 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, yamabukiiro takes the stage and fills it with its presence. This ink is named after the Yamabuki flower (“Mountain Breath”), that is found in abundance on Japanese mountainsides. The yellow-amber colour grabs your attention, not because it is bright and bold – au contraire – but because it is tender and soft, harmonious and elegant, and with a surprising depth of character. No ink for mundane work, but one that feels right at home for personal journaling. I guess there’s no need to tell you that I like this ink – a lot!


The ink writes moderately wet in my standard Lamy Safari M-nib test pen, but with fairly low lubrication. I also found the ink to be too light and low-contrast with the dry-writing Safari. You really need a wet pen to make this ink blossom and to unlock its full potential – it works great with e.g. a Pelikan, even when using an F-nib. With the Pelikan, the ink has decent saturation, and also shows its subtle complexity with a hint of green in the undertones. 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 a strip of 52 gsm Tomoe River paper with ink. This gives you a good idea of what the ink is capable of in terms of colour range. Yamabukiiro has a fairly broad dynamic span, ranging from a wispy light-yellow to a fairly dark amber with a touch of green. 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 subtle depth and complexity of the dye-mix.  The ink’s base colour derives from the yellow and orange dyes. The depth and character come from the blue component, that combines with the yellow to produce the ink's green undertone. This is without a doubt the work of a master mixer!



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 an F-nib Pelikan M600
  • Source of the quote, with a Pelikan M200 with M nib
  • Drying times of the ink on the paper (with the M-nib Safari)

Yamabukiiro looks good on all types of paper. Personally though, I like it best on pure-white paper. The ink performs well on my test papers, even on the Moleskine paper (which is quite an accomplishment). With the lower-quality paper (Moleskine, generic notepad paper) there is a certain amount of bleed-through. Drying times are mostly around the 5 to 10 second mark. Water resistance is clearly absent – this ink won’t survive watery accidents. If you are in the habit of tipping your drink over your notebook, this is no ink for you 😉






I’ve also added a few photos to give you another view on the ink. Scanned images and photos often capture different aspects of the ink’s colour & contrast. That’s why I present them both. In this case, both scanner and photo capture yamabukiiro’s golden glow fairly well.





Writing with different nib sizes
The picture below shows the effect of nib sizes on the writing. In my opinion, kyo-no-oto yamabukiiro really requires a wet pen. It is too light for my taste in the dry-writing Safari. With the wetter pen, the sub-par lubrication of this ink mostly disappears. Also, the ink becomes more saturated, gains more depth and brings forth its green undertones. The wet pen really shows off the ink’s golden radiance.



Related inks
To compare the yellow-amber yamabukiiro 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 yellow-gold-amber inks, and as such a welcome complement to my ink collection.  



Inkxperiment – genesis
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 loads of fun and a perfect way to experiment with inks using a number of different techniques. Yellow inks are often great for drawing, and this TAG Kyoto ink is no exception!



Inspiration for this drawing comes from the cycle of life – a seedling starts growing, and metamorphoses into a beautiful flower. I started with an A4 piece of HP photo paper, onto which I drew the background with water-diluted ink, spread on the paper through a kitchen towel. I also used a piece of carpet anti-slip underlay to add some background accents. I next used different-sized glass jars to stamp in the enlarging circles that represent the seed’s growth. Finally I drew in the flowers to complete the drawing. The end result is not too bad, and shows what can be achieved with this beautiful yellow-amber ink in a more artistic context.



TAG kyo-no-oto yamabukiiro is a great journaling ink – a complex yellow-amber with a unique colour that is both soft and elegant. The ink works best in wet pens, where it can express itself in full saturation, showing its golden glow with subtle green undertones. A truly beautiful ink, that makes a great impression! In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with this ink – a piece of art from the master mixer at TAG Kyoto.


Technical test results on Rhodia N° 16 notepad paper, written with Pelikan M600, F-nib



Back-side of writing samples on different paper types






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Yamabuki-iro is a wonderful ink with the right nib, and it is worth finding the right nib for it. It is one of the inks that I really enjoy, and quite legible for a yellow that leans to brown. I normally favour fine nibs that are not too wet, but when I have a nib that is usually a little too wide and wet for my taste this is the ink that makes those nibs work for me so that I am even glad I have them.


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Thank you! I've been thinking about getting this ink for well over a year.  The wait is over.  The comparison convinced me that Ambre de Birmanie won't object to this neighbor.

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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Excellent review of a fantastic ink! Thanks and who couldn't agree more... it is the work of a master mixer! At first I thought it might be great only for art work (like yours). I now see that (with the right pen and right paper), it'll work well for every kind of writing!!

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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Wonderful review

Wonderful ink


Thank you :)

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This looks to be a very appealing ink.  Thank you for the review!

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Thank you.  Yamabukiiro looks like a beautiful ink.


I faced a similar project with Sailor Kobe Taisanji Yellow, a lovely, wet gold, low in saturation, for which I had to find a wet enough pen.  

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I love how it goes from bright gold, to a  tarnished vintage nib colour. I also love the  ink is named after a favorite flower, Keria japonica, which I prefer in the single form....

Truly your reviews tell story... thank you 🙏

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I don't have many inks in the yellow/gold range.  Mostly they seem to be too pale and therefore not legible on the page.  This one though?  This seems to be dark enough to not make my eyes hurt trying to read it.  

Thanks for the review.  And, well, maybe not....

Ruth Morrisson aka insktainedruth

"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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a great review namrehsnoom, agree that it is a brilliant shader with the m nibs and above.

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