Kyo No Oto inks are small batch fountain pen inks made by the Kyoto-based Takeda Jimuki stationery store in cooperation with the Kyoto Kusaki Research Institute which studies ancient techniques for dyeing using plants. These inks aim to reproduce the colours created using these techniques in the Heian period (around the 9th to 12th centuries), Heian being the ancient name for Kyoto.

This particular colour- urahairo – is described as the colour of the back of a leaf, specifically a willow leaf. Many green inks are too vivid for my taste, tending towards lime green. Others are too yellowish. This ink is perfect. Google translate renders the description on the accompanying leaflet as “astringent and dull” which isn’t exactly a strong selling point. I would say it is “austere and subdued”.

It is also a very dry writer, a problem exacerbated by my extra fine nibs, and I believe from reviews I’ve read this is common to the entire line. Since all my nibs are either fine or extra fine I got round this by adding tiny quantities of washing up liquid which helps the flow, though there is still a certain chalk on chalkboard feel at times, particularly when writing fast. The extra effort is worth it for the result which lightens to that beautiful back of the leaf colour as it dries. Bonus point as well for the great packaging – a box made from high quality textured card with an embossed name and log, and a nicely designed label unique to this particular ink.

At $28 for a 40ml bottle this is not a cheap ink, but given this is a high quality, small batch ink, and well packaged and presented I think it is worth it. At least some of the Kyo No Oto line are limited edition inks including this one and there is already a new ‘No. 08’ – Moegiiro – which is one of those vivid greens I’m not so fond of. I did think of buying extra bottles of urahairo but decided instead to appreciate it as a one off pleasure. Currently I am using this ink in my dark violet Lamy Scala where I find the combination of these two colours very pleasing.

If you are curious, the text is from Lawrence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.