Iroshizuku Inks And Their Meanings, Part 4

Iroshizuku Part 4

This is my fourth and final part of the Iroshizuku Inks And Their Meanings series of reviews, where I reviewed 6 Iroshizuku inks per part. In this last instalment, I will review the remaining 6 inks: Murasaki-shikibu, Chiku-rin, Ina-ho, Ama-iro, Take-sumi, and Shin-kai.

To read about how I log my inks, click on this article. It may be helpful for you to read that to understand some of the terms and references that I make in my post below.

Iroshizuku Murasaki-shikibu


Murasaki-shikibu (紫式部) has a couple of meanings. Most call it “beauty berry” but Murasaki Shikibu is also the nickname of a famous Japanese poet/novelist from the Heian period. She was from the Imperial Court in Japan and served as a lady-in-waiting to the Empress then. In fact, when I asked my Japanese colleague about the meaning of “murasaki-shikibu”, this lady was the first to cross his mind. Other than that, the Japanese beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica) is a tree that has purple berry fruits, a plant native to Japan.

Ink Characteristics

This is the only purple ink in the whole Iroshizuku series, a bit of a pity because I love purple inks myself and hope that there might have been more purple options. But at times, one option is the best option. I like this purple because it’s a very sweet colour without being too royal or striking, giving it its own special qualities. This was the first Iroshizuku ink that I used in the series, to put into my Pilot Capless Bamboo fountain pen. No sheen.

Single Drop Chromatography

Murasaki-shikibu separates into purple and pale pink, with a hint of blue in the centre.

Iroshizuku Chiku-rin


Chiku-rin (竹林) means bamboo forest. The word for “bamboo” in Japanese is actually “take” (竹) like in “take-sumi” which I will cover later in the post. The bamboo is symbolic in Japanese culture as it is a hardy plant and symbolises prosperity and strength. Interestingly, Japanese people are told to take shelter in bamboo forests during an earthquake as the root structure of the plants can hold the earth together.

Ink Characteristics

Chiku-rin is a very bright apple-green, probably a colour representing that of a bamboo grove when sunlight filters through its green leaves. I suppose it is not too bright to be used for normal writing, but can also be used for highlighting. For the water resistance test, the greens move away leaving only some blue spot in the centre, so if your Chiku-rin writing gets water, it probably won’t be Chiku-rin anymore. No sheen.

Single Drop Chromatography

When the yellows have separated, there is a spot of teal-blue in the centre, which is darker than the original Chiku-rin ink. I wouldn’t expect such a light and bright ink colour to hide this darkness inside.

Iroshizuku Ina-ho


Ina-ho (稲穂) is an ear of rice, and we all know that rice is a staple in Japan and other Asian countries. The rice that we cook and eat is typically pearl in colour, but this ink depicts the colour of rice fields during harvest season, when everything turns golden-brown.

Ink Characteristics

The ink itself is a delightful golden brown. Despite its lighter colour as compared to other inks, it gives quite a solid saturated colour. No sheen. I don’t come across a lot of golden brown inks (the last I’ve used was Private Reserve Shoreline Gold), so this is an interesting ink for me. Water resistance is ambiguous again, as a dark teal is left behind after soaking in water, but it is totally different from the original Ina-ho golden brown colour.

Single Drop Chromatography

Ina-ho has a lot of yellow, with some hint of blue-black in the middle (or grey, I’m unsure). I swear there might even be the slightest bit of light pink in there too.

Iroshizuku Ama-iro


Ama-iro (天色) translates to “sky colour”, or in this case, sky blue. The Iroshizuku range has quite a number of blues which gives us a good variety of choices. It seems to me like the lighter version of Kon-peki, which is also a nice blue colour of the sky (but darker). Ama-iro is probably the colour of the sky at noon while Kon-peki the colour earlier or later in the day.

Ink Characteristics

Despite being lighter in colour, it is another rather saturated ink, and doesn’t not appear to be a watered-down version of Kon-peki. Rather, it looks like it has a little more cyan in the ink than Kon-peki (which has more blue), making it look a little brighter and lighter. It’s a slightly dry ink. Water resistance is not as good as Kon-peki as the blue travels away into a blue cloud. No sheen observable.

Single Drop Chromatography

Not much separation observed here – everything looks like the same blue to me, just darker in some parts and lighter in others.

Iroshizuku Take-sumi


Take-sumi (竹炭) refers to bamboo charcoal which is also widely used in Japan. In the world of writing instruments, Japanese ink for brush pens in the past were called “sumi” ink, and were produced by rubbing an inkstick, made of soot from burning oils or wood, against an inkstone, with some water. The concentration of the ink can be varied by changing the amount of water. Such ink is then used with a brush to produce calligraphy or paintings. While bamboo charcoal may not be directly related to “sumi” ink, I thought it may be worthwhile to share that information anyway. Bamboo charcoal itself is activated carbon, and can be used as dehumidifiers, air and water purifiers, and interestingly, as health supplements. I’ve also seen beauty care products like facial cleansers in Japanese stores containing charcoal, which are meant to cleanse the skin well too.

Ink Characteristics

Take-sumi is a very deep and dark black, very saturated and rather wet. It is probably not the darkest black out there, but is dark enough if you like a saturated black ink. The parts of the swab where I did a single pass and double passes did not show a significant difference. Water resistance of the ink is pretty decent, as you can still see the original mark well even if some of the ink bled out with the water. No sheen as well for this ink.

Single Drop Chromatography

I always like to see how blacks separate, as I have never seen a single black ink that is made up of just pure black. The components of Take-sumi include some blue-black, grey, and pink. Interesting.

Iroshizuku Shin-kai


Shin-kai (深海) translates directly to “deep sea” and it’s the colour of the dark sea deep inside. Japan as a country is made up of islands and is considered an archipelago. Evidently it is surrounded by sea, which has greatly the culture and lifestyle of the Japanese. The sea is often a key element in Japanese stories and poetry, and seafood is also prevalent in Japan.

Ink Characteristics

Shin-kai is a little like the colour of dark denim. To depict the dark colour of the deep sea, Pilot has made this a greyish-blue, not so dull that it becomes a grey, but not too cheerful to overlap into the sky blue regions. It is quite a saturated ink. You can see from the dip pen marking that its colour can vary depending on how wet or how dry your nib will be, so it’s something to take note of. Water resistance is medium, not great, as the blue tends to move away from the original spot, even though it leaves quite a lot of blue behind as well.


The wonderful Shin-kai exhibits a striking sheen that is red in colour! I love this sheen. It can also be observe slightly under lower light conditions.

Single Drop Chromatography

Shin-kai does not separate very distinctly, though I can see a little bit of bright blue, purple (?), and some yellow at the edge.

And this is the end of my Iroshizuku ink reviews. Yes, all 24 of them! Whew! That was a long process. I hope you enjoyed them and learnt something new from them. To read the other parts, click below:

Iroshizuku Inks And Their Meanings, Part 1: Asa-gao, Kon-peki, Tsuyu-kusa, Aji-sai, Momiji, and Tsutsuji

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

So after seeing all the Iroshizuku inks, which do you think is your favourite?

9 Responses

  1. Philip 19 January 2017 / 5:24 AM

    Absolutely wonderful series of commentaries on these wonderful inks. Iroshizuku inks are certainly my favourite inks- I only wish one could get the limited editions Pilot sometimes produces (such as Edo-Murasaki) easily online or through a specialist shop in Europe. Thank you for posting these interesting reviews!

  2. Erik 10 February 2016 / 5:38 PM

    wonderful review of all the iroshizuku inks! Much appreciated!!! thank you so much for all your efforts. 🙂

  3. Shubhranshu Das 10 October 2015 / 6:21 PM

    A very absorbing series. Thank you

  4. andreakirkby 9 October 2015 / 3:11 PM

    I’m actually quite sad that this series is over. It has been such fun to read.

    I have Murasaki Shikibu and Yama-Budo inks at the moment, but you’ve made it likely a couple of others will go on my Christmas present list – Ama-Iro and Fuyu-Gaki.

    • Maybelline T. 9 October 2015 / 3:16 PM

      Aww! I enjoyed making this series too. I’ll be looking for more inks to write about though, so do stay tuned!

  5. miatagrrl 8 October 2015 / 12:21 PM

    This is my all-time favorite line of inks, and your posts have been very thorough and enjoyable. I appreciate the consistent format you use for all your reviews. Thanks!


  6. Michael Simon 8 October 2015 / 11:05 AM

    Maybelline–I had expected to read through the Iroshizuku articles quickly out of curiosity. However, you made them so interesting I looked forward to each of the sections and read them with great interest. Thank you, Michael

    • Maybelline T. 8 October 2015 / 11:37 AM

      Hi Michael, that’s nice! I’m glad you enjoyed them!

I would love to hear your thoughts!