Iroshizuku Inks And Their Meanings, Part 1

Iroshizuku Part 1

Pilot has launched their Iroshizuku range of fountain pen inks for some time now, and it is a very popular range among fountain pen enthusiasts and collectors of inks. Following the success of their 50mL glass bottled Iroshizuku inks, Pilot has recently launched the Mini Iroshizuku inks that come 3 in a set. Each mini glass bottle contains 15mL of an ink, and you can mix and match your preferred colours for each set.

I decided to dive in and let myself be tempted by the inks, as I had held back from buying them long enough to jump onto the opportunity to buy all 24 colours when the Mini Iroshizuku inks came out. I didn’t need 24 bottles x 50mL of inks, as I was sure I wouldn’t have been able to finish them all! So when the 15mL were out, it was perfect for me. All 24 bottles fit into a little box which I tucked away nicely in my cabinet.

Iroshizuku inks are named in Japanese, so while I found it exotic and attractive, it was really quite difficult to remember. I haven’t found a way to remember the ink names yet, but I have decided to take a deeper look at the meanings of their names, hoping to remember them better. If you have ideas on how to remember the Iroshizuku names (matching to the colours), let me know!

What “Iroshizuku” Means

The word Iroshizuku can be broken down into two parts: “Iro” and “Shizuku”. Iro in Japanese (色) means “colour”. Shizuku (雫) means “dew” or “droplet”. So the word “iroshizuku” translates somewhat to “colour dew” or “colour droplet”, representing the droplets of ink inside each bottle. It sounds very picturesque, and on top of that, each colour has been created to reflect the beautiful natural scenery in Japan, and Japanese culture.

As I will go through all 24 colours of Iroshizuku inks and their meanings, I’ll have to break the information down into 4 posts, covering 6 colours per post (so that it doesn’t get too long!). In this first part, I will be talking about Asa-gao, Kon-peki, Tsuyu-kusa, Aji-sai, Momiji, and Tsutsuji.

Note: Colours may differ according to settings of your screen and my camera. I have tried to capture as accurately the colour as possible, but there are some colours that are rather difficult to represent accurately on screen.

Note 2: Before you read my reviews of the inks, it may be good for you to know how I do my ink logging, in order to understand some of the terms I use and references I make in my review.

Iroshizuku Asa-gao

1-Iroshizuku-Asa-gao

Asa-gao (朝顔) means “morning glory”. The Japanese morning glory (Ipomoea nil) is a beautiful flower that originated likely from South America, and has made its way to Japan over time. It has then been cultivated in Japan over the years, and sports a brilliant, rich blue colour on its petals. Asa-gao was probably created with the Japanese morning glory in mind, as the ink itself has a rich blue hue as well.

Ink Characteristics

This blue is a very strong and deep blue colour, almost a colour I might associate “the blue hour” with, plus the faintest hint of purple in it. It has rather good water resistance for a non-waterproof ink as you can still see at least 50% of the blue ink retained in the round sticker after dripping water on it. The ink is saturated, with little shading. I would consider this a wet ink.

1-Iroshizuku-Asa-gao-Sheen

The sheen, if any, is very, very subtle. You might be able to observe a slight purple hue in parts where the ink is very saturated. It may be more visible when writing with a very wet nib.

Single Drop Chromatography

Asa-gao separates into mostly blue, with some purple at the edges of the water mark.

Iroshizuku Kon-peki

2-Iroshizuku-Kon-peki

Kon-peki (紺碧) translates to “azure”. Azure is a type of blue that is usually used to describe the colour of the sky. The word itself originates from “lapis lazuli”, a precious stone that is mostly blue in colour, and is often ground to produce ultramarine blue. However, according to Wikipedia, azure is a blue that is between blue and cyan on the colour wheel, so that means there are elements of green or turquoise within it. This is reflected in the colour of Kon-peki, which is mostly blue, but hints at a bit of green as well.

Ink Characteristics

This is a bright and cheerful blue which sometimes might be perceived as a cyan, especially if placed side-by-side with a rich blue (such as Asa-ga0). It has some degree of shading which is subtle enough, but easily observable. I would consider this a medium to dry ink. The water resistance is reasonable, as you can see the blue spot being retained on the round sticker label. The blue spot has a bluer tint than the original ink, probably because the green/cyan parts of the ink were less water resistant, and went away with the water when I did the test. This ink has no sheen.

Single Drop Chromatography

The ink spreads out into mostly one single colour, which was the original Kon-peki colour.

Iroshizuku Tsuyu-kusa

3-Iroshizuku-Tsuyu-kusa

Tsuyu-kusa (露草) translates to “dayflower”, and in particular, this refers to the Asiatic dayflower (Commelina Communis), which is native to East Asia, including Japan, and Southeast Asia. The flower is so named because it blooms for only one day. It can be found throughout Japan from the northern parts to the south, so it was a flower significant enough to be included in the Iroshizuku range.

Ink Characteristics

This is a blue ink that is very much like Asa-gao, except softer. It’s a medium blue (not too dark, nor too light) that seems to me like the colour of a cloudless sky. The water resistance is similar to the above two blues (Iroshizuku blues seem to be rather resistant) – the colour retains on paper enough for you to still see the mark. It has subtle shading like Kon-peki.

3-Iroshizuku-Tsuyu-kusa-Sheen

Like Asa-gao, Tsuyu-kusa has a bit of sheen but is definitely more visible than the former. Under strong light, you can see some pink hues amidst the blue.

Single Drop Chromatography

The Single Drop Chromatography shows quite a bit of pink/light purple separating from the blue, especially at the edges of the water mark.

Iroshizuku Ajisai

4-Iroshizuku-Aji-sai

Ajisai (紫陽花) translates to “hydrangea”, yet another flower that can be found in East and Southeast Asia. Although I am not sure which exact species of the hydrangea this ink is designed after, I find that it rather resembles the colour of Hydrangea Hirta, which is native to Japan.

Ink Characteristics

This ink is of a soft indigo colour, which is a mix between purple and blue. It tends to lean slightly more towards the purple side. Subtle shading can be observed with this ink. The wetness of this ink is medium. No sheen observed. Water resistance is limited, but you can see mostly blue retained on the round sticker, while the purple elements of the colour has been lost.

Single Drop Chromatography

The ink separates into a lot of purple, and some blue. There is also a hint of pink observed at the extreme edges of the water mark.

Iroshizuku Momiji

5-Iroshizuku-Momiji

Momiji (紅葉) translates to “maple” and refers to the Japanese maple (Acer Palmatum) of course. In Japan, the fall season brings with it a plethora of red, brown and orange hues from their maple trees. In my opinion, Momiji is quite an accurate representation of those colours (which does not seem to reflect very accurately on my photo, unfortunately).

Ink Characteristics

Initially I had thought that Momiji was just a red, but on closer observation, I can see hints of pink, orange, and brown to it. This makes the ink a little more three-dimensional and very interesting. The water resistance is bad – most of the ink gets washed off by the single water drop, leaving only a pink cloud and the faintest of the original spot on the round label. The shading, again, is present but subtle.

5-Iroshizuku-Momiji-Sheen

The sheen of Momiji is very evident, and you can see some orange/gold (although not the shimmery type like the Herbins) in the saturated parts of the ink. The sheen is visible even under lower lighting.

Single Drop Chromatography

Momiji separates into a lot of red. And pink. Just reddish-pink. Plus the very slightest hint of a muted red/orange at the edge of the water mark.

Iroshizuku Tsutsuji

6-Iroshizuku-Tsutsuji

Tsutsuji (躑躅) translates to “azalea” (Rhododendron). In Japan, rhododendrons are traditionally classified into two types, namely the Tsutsuji and the Satsuki, and they differ in their blooming times. Rhododendrons are widely cultivated in Japan. There is even a Japanese Azalea Festival (Tsutsuji Matsuri) that occurs in spring when the flowers are in full bloom.

Ink Characteristics

Iroshizuku Tsutsuji is a vibrant pink colour with a bit of magenta, and has subtle shading. It has also a medium wetness, and poor water resistance, just like the Momiji.

6-Iroshizuku-Tsutsuji-Sheen

There is definitely sheen from this ink. While not very visible at lower light, it shines brilliantly when placed under strong light, even more evidently than Momiji. The sheen is of an orangey-gold tint and can even be observed faintly at less saturated parts of the swab.

Single Drop Chromatography

The colour doesn’t seem to separate. Everything is bright pink.

I plan to release one new part (6 inks) weekly. There would be 4 parts in total, covering all 24 Iroshizuku colours that have been released so far. Here are the other parts:

Iroshizuku Inks And Their Meanings, Part 2: Shin-ryoku, Tsuki-yo, Yu-yake, Yama-budo, Ku-jaku, and Syo-ro

Iroshizuku Inks And Their Meanings, Part 3: Fuyu-gaki, Kiri-same, Fuyu-syogun, Tsukushi, Yama-guri, and Kosumosu

Iroshizuku Inks And Their Meanings, Part 4: Murasaki-shikibu, Chiku-rin, Ina-ho, Ama-iro, Take-sumi, and Shin-kai

25 Responses

  1. dlyz 21 September 2015 / 7:09 PM

    I started using Kon-Peki last week in a Pilot 742 FA. On Rhodia dotpad, there is sheen. However i got more sheen when writing in a cheap primary school exercise book.

    • Maybelline T. 21 September 2015 / 7:52 PM

      Interesting. I though a less absorbent paper would have more sheen…

      • dlyz 22 September 2015 / 9:05 AM

        Emm, the exercise book I used is not absorbent. Some light inks looks too light on it (looks faded) and therefore not the best paper to show ink beauty unless u really use a very wet pen. I prefer it to practice dip pens as there is no feather or bleed but lots of show through as it is only 50gsm. It is also not very smooth. I spilled a huge drop of lamy blue and black own mix and I got sheen when I did a tardiff test on it. Lol. Anyway, the exercise book is forest brand mafe by chee wah.

  2. Sahil Gulati 20 September 2015 / 8:34 PM

    This is really cool. Thanks for the research and the photos too!

  3. Gilberto 20 September 2015 / 3:00 PM

    Great review! Just a little thing, check the scientific names, they are a littke wrong. But really really nice review, thanks a lot!

    • Maybelline T. 20 September 2015 / 3:22 PM

      Thanks Gilberto. Which ones in particular?

  4. Yuk Yee 18 September 2015 / 1:26 PM

    Thanks so much for the review of those wonderful inks. Where did you purchase them from? Would love to get some of them in mini bottles to try.

    • Maybelline T. 18 September 2015 / 2:38 PM

      I got them from a friend who was buying stuff from Japan, we bundled the shipment to Singapore together. If you’re interested to get it in Singapore, Fook Hing sells them.

  5. pamelake 18 September 2015 / 4:27 AM

    Your reviews are wonderful. I feel I could describe these colors to friends because of the completeness of your review.

    • Maybelline T. 18 September 2015 / 6:54 AM

      Thanks! Glad you found value in it 🙂 Now go and poison more people! 😉

  6. Rob Maguire 17 September 2015 / 7:54 PM

    Great review and horticulture references are wonderful also as we learn about the flowers.

    • Maybelline T. 19 September 2015 / 8:15 PM

      Glad you like them, many of the inks in the iroshizuku range have flower references.

  7. jmccarty3 17 September 2015 / 7:37 PM

    Being a lover of purplish blues, I bought Ajisai as my first Iroshizuku ink. It proved a little disappointing, , possibly due to a lack of saturation. As you mentioned, there is hardly any shading, and no sheen at all–nothing is present to make the ink any less dull and uninteresting.

    Asa-gao is very dependable, and quite well-liked by most people. But Tsuyu-kusa, I think, is the star of the Iro blues. With certain pens and papers, it can resemble the iconic Parker Penman Sapphire. Many people like Kon-peki (I have a bottle of it as well), but to my mind there is too much turquoise in it.

    Thanks for these nice reviews. I look forward to seeing the rest of them.

    • Maybelline T. 19 September 2015 / 8:17 PM

      Thanks for sharing about your ink preference, and glad you found a nice blue for yourself. I haven’t decided which iroshizuku ink I like most yet!

  8. Mike Grove 17 September 2015 / 5:33 PM

    Excellent review, Maybelline. I look forward to more. As I said elsewhere, I love these inks. They work well in many different pens. Also, I was never much a fan of blue inks, until I tried Iroshizuku blues, and now I am totally converted.

  9. Catherine 17 September 2015 / 4:17 PM

    I love your reviews ! Interesting way to expose them with these cards.

    • Maybelline T. 17 September 2015 / 1:54 PM

      Glad you found it useful, stay tuned for the others!

I would love to hear your thoughts!