A gift horse: A short review of Pilot Iroshizuku ‘Tsuki-Yo’ Ink

A work of art
A work of art

I’m almost afraid to write this review… There are two reasons for this. First, this ink was a gift from my local pen shop owner (thanks to Malcolm from Iridium Kendal) who asked me to do a review on one of the inks in this series. Second  is the fear of the ink being something of an anti-climax after I’ve read so many, almost reverential, write-ups about Iroshizuku inks – in a sense I’m instantly transported back to being 11 years old and stealing that first highly anticipated kiss from Amanda my first official girlfriend… It was nice don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t quite match my level of anticipation and I’ve had way better since (my fault I’m sure not hers).

Beautiful packaging
Beautiful packaging

Presentation: What is in no way disappoints about these inks is the way that they are presented. The brushed silver effect packaging with contrasting ink coloured inlay is classy and inviting and the inner support mechanism for the bottle that has to be dismantled in the process of getting the bottle out of the box is reassuring. The bottles themselves are pure works of art.   The inks are encased in slim, rounded glass bottles with a wide neck that are perfect combinations of style and function, even down to the dimple in the bottom of the bottle which should allow the user to get to the last few precious drops of elixir before having to mortgage the house to buy some more.

Here it is...
Here it is…

On Test: I opened the bottle almost hesitantly, expecting something of an angelic chorus as the ink was opened to the air. Sadly nothing happened leaving me to quickly ink up my chosen pen for this text. I must record a note here: If you are one of those ink buyers and reviewers that thinks that ink tests should be done in a totally unchanging and controlled environment even down to the pen, time of day etc, I have something to say to you… Get a life! Being an ex-analytical chemist I’m not interested in providing a lab report on a particular water based dye (that’s ink to the uninitiated). I am more about telling you roughly how it performs, which is as much about how I feel about the writing experience that the ink helps to give as it is about anything else. So I choose to match the particular ink with the pen I think will bring out its character in the best way possible and that’s that. Enough of the rant, back to business… During the test the ink could not be faulted, although I did experience the feared feeling of a slight anti-climax. But on reflection this was not the ink’s fault, after all it is just that, ink. This is a very good bottle of blue ink , not dragon’s blood, it is no more and no less than that – sometimes I forget this and elevate these things to a higher realm than is justified.

On the paper
On the paper

That being said this is a delightfully intense ink that delivers a colour that is both sophisticated and subtle. Pleasing to the eye it exhibits great flow which allows the pen to literally glide over the paper. I think the colour is not only lovely but also restful to the eye and would fit into a formal setting well. It has a truly classic sensibility to the point where I almost want to put a tie on and retire into the drawing-room for tea after using it. The dry time was excellent even with my usual test companion Rhodia paper and there was a nice variety of shade  across the piece.

Top class inks
Top class inks

Summary: Iroshizuku inks, in my mind, occupy the top end of the mainline ink spectrum, certainly in terms of price. If I compare this ink with my staple Diamine brand it icomes in at over four times more expensive. So in delivering a writing experience is it four times as good? The answer is no. It just isn’t. Don’t misunderstand me… it’s a good ink, perhaps even a great ink, certainly a premium ink that does everything a premium ink should and does it really well. But, in my view, at this price point it has to do more just to be the same if you know what I mean. Then again maybe I’m just looking a gift horse in the mouth. I’ll keep you posted on my relationship with it anyway!



14 thoughts on “A gift horse: A short review of Pilot Iroshizuku ‘Tsuki-Yo’ Ink

  1. I just bought this ink! I love it but then I’m very much a dark blue kind of person, as you may be able to tell. You’re right that it’s not worth four times a Diamine ink but it is quite special in how it flows and shades and it makes me feel very posh when I use it. Great write up. Absolutely loving your site.

    1. Ian, thanks so much for taking the trouble to comment. Don’t get me wrong this is a great ink, no doubt about it. As I say I’m sure that my relation with it will mature over time. It’ll be interesting to see…
      Kind Regards

  2. Love your writing style Gary – keep it up!

    I recently purchased a bottle of Tsuki-yo myself and can’t quite figure it out. I think I like the color, but at the same time it doesn’t grab me like some others. We will see over time. Review pending …

    1. Hi Brad, thanks so much for the comment, much appreciated. I’m a long time admirer of your blog and podcast. Regarding the ink I think I know what you mean, it is something of a slow burner isnt it. I happen to like the colour, smooth and sophisticated, but still think that for the price it should at least be delivered on the back of a miniature unicorn or something of that ilk. I only have a couple of the colours in this series,Ive a review of the tsukushi chestnut brown in the pipeline…
      Kind Regards

  3. Complex and controversial… love it or hate it… iroshizuku is the sexiest ink in the world.
    Yes, it’s a £15 bottle of premium ink with a £32 price tag, but it’s traveled 5713 miles from Japan (70 times further than Diamine from Liverpool), through Customs and Post Depots on its own… with no help whatsoever from Pilot.
    And that’s where the additional costs lie. Both Pilot (UK) and Pilot (France) seem oblivious to the home market for fine writing, preferring to concentrate on £4.99 disposable fountain pens.
    Gary, you will grow to LOVE this ink… it will taunt and tease until you submit and accept it’s grace.
    Cannot wait for iroshizuku ‘dragons blood’.

    Really enjoy your writing.

    1. Thanks for the comment Malcolm. I think you’re right about many things here. Particularly insightful in regard to the lack of support for fine writing in the UK by manufacturers who should perhaps know better… I’m currently mulling over this ink as I use it and thinking about a post on the way ones relationship with a pen and ink combination matures with time and continued use.

      Dragon’s blood would be a great name for an ink wouldn’t it, what colour do you think that should be?

      Kepp up the good work, see you soon!

  4. I have found the Diamine to be my favourite ink brand. I think I need to look at the swatches and see if they have a similar shade of ink. Great review!

    1. Thanks for the comment. Diamine is my most used ink too. I would give ‘Eau de Nil’ a try if were you. I think it is an excellent shade that is similar to the ‘Tsuki-Yo’perhaps a touch lighter but excellent nontheless. That’s taking nothing away from the Pilot ink which is beautiful.

  5. I’ve tried three or four Iroshizuku inks and generally have the same reaction, good but probably not worth three times the price of Noodlers or Private Reserve (my two favorites). The one exception so far has been Shin-Ryoku which claims to be forest green but goes on more turquoise, which I really like, and dries to a light green. It’s the only one I’ve bought a bottle of so far.

    1. Hi brandon, thanks for taking the time to comment o the blog, much appreciated! I only have two the brown Tsukushi (horsetail) which I love ad the Tsuki-Yo (Moonlight) I thought about the Shin-Ryoku as I have a well developed appetite for green inks, I’ll probably get that one in time. I do like the Iroshizuku inks, they certainly travel well all the way from Japan! I’m testing out some Rohrer & Klingner inks at present they are certainly value for money, watch out for the reviews…

      1. That’s interesting, I liked Tsukushi but it didn’t wow me (although I really like the description in your new review). It was definitely better than Yama-guri for me, which I felt was too flat, but the color just didn’t feel warm enough for what I was looking for. After spending some time looking for my favorite brown I’m still trying to decide if I like the redder Diamine Ancient Copper or Noodler’s Beaver more.

        I’ve only tried two R&K inks, but I agree that they’re pretty good value. I love Alt-Goldgrun but it is almost an objectively strange color. I’ll look forward to your reviews!

      2. Hello again Brandon, thanks for taking the time to comment. I love the Diamine ancient copper, one of my all time favourite inks, somehow to me I don’t class it as a true brown, but it is fantastic! As for the Tsukushi, I think as I said it just works with the pen I’ve used it in so well that I’m well hooked on it. I think it has a wide scope of use particularly in quasi-formal settings.

        I know what you mean about the R&K Alt Goldgrun, its really quirky; I love the iron gall Scabiosa (even though it sounds more like a spell from a Harry Potter novel than a name for an ink) and the Verdigris in particular which is strangely akin to the Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo but for some reason that is perhaps not logical it grabs me more, it may be just the super price of that ink over here, though I would like a classier bottle though :/
        Kind Regards

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