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Pilot Iroshizuku “Yama-Guri” (brown): Ink Review

On Scrively's Ink Reviews - Background Information (click to expand)

Pilot Iroshizuku “Yama-Guri”: a convincing dark brown ink

Iroshizuku Yama-Guri ink swab

Ink name: Pilot Iroshizuku “Yama-Guri”
Unit capacity: 50 ml (glas flacon)
Price: ca. 20 €
Price per ml: ca. 0,40 €

  Leuchtturm 1917 Standard copy paper
Color  Chocolate-ish dark brown  quite pure dark brown
Saturation  high  high
Shading  a little  some
Feathering  no  no
Bleed-through  no  a little at times
Wetness  rather wet  rather wet
Drying time  max. 15 sec. (with a broad nib, that is very good – but it was a Japanese broad nib, so you might wanna compare it to a medium nib)  max. 5 sec. (see on the left for nib-remarks)
Smudging when dry  no  no
Regular smear test  okay  ok
Left-page smear test  okay  ok

Handwritten review on Leuchtturm 1917 paper
(scanned @600 dpi with Doxie Flip – click image to enlarge on Flickr)

Iroshizuku Yama-Guri on Leuchtturm paper

Handwritten review on standard photocopying paper
(scanned @600 dpi with Doxie Flip – click image to enlarge on Flickr)

Iroshizuku Yama-Guri on standard copy paper


Iroshizuku Yama-Guri is an ink that I have wanted to try for quite some time now, since I am quite a fan of brown inks. Color-wise, Yama-Guri is said to be a “chestnut-brown”, which might be true – depending on the chestnut you are looking at 🙂 . Personally, I found the color to be more of a darker chocolate. But that is just me. In any case, it is a quite pure and clean dark brown.

As with many rather dark inks, there is not too much shading going on there. One can notice some, but not too much shading. Yama-Guri is definitely highly saturated and one of the darkest brown inks that I have tried so far. What I really like about the ink, as said above, is its trueness to brown – i.e. no red, gold, or whatever hints in it. The ink is premium, very well behaved, great flow from the nib, nothing to complain at all.

Pricewise, the Iroshizuku inks are premium inks and range – per milliliter – in about the same level as J. Herbin inks in Europe do. Though the latter are cheaper outside of Europe. Lately, I have also seen that it is possible to get the Iroshizuku inks rather cheap through eBay (around 15-17 €/bottle, no shipping cost), coming straight from Japan then.

Iroshizuku Yama-Guri is a rather wet ink, which might cause an occasional bleed-through on cheaper paper. For it being such a rather wet ink, it has remarkable drying times, though. In my test, it dried considerably faster than Kon-Peki (blue Iroshizuku ink), for instance. And please note: the test is written with a Japanese broad nib, which compares to at least a western medium nib. So as for the ‘leftyness-factor’, this is not too shabby at all! A pretty good ink for southpaws – and anyone else, of course.

Lefty approved? Certainly!


I hope this was helpful – feel free to check out my other ink reviews as well.


  1. Julie Paradise Julie Paradise

    Great review and a very (very!) informative note of yours above the actual review with your explanation of how and why you do a special lefty-test to the inks!

    Might I add a recap of some conversation I had last week:

    I happened to meet some right-handed people from the Near East recently who write their languages/script from right to left (Arabic, Mandaean, Syriac Aramaic, Hebrew), thus having some, if not the same, issues a lefty Westerner has.

    We got to talk about writing and calligraphy and I briefly mentioned how I wished for my left-handed daughter to be writing their script rather than our German because the way we write, the letter forms themselves simply do not fit the natural movement of a lefty, whereas Semitic scripts do, as curves there go clockwise mostly, the flow is perfect for a lefty and, of course, there is no smearing.

    One of them was a lefty and agreed, she said she always enjoyed writing because it just felt good. The right-handed people thus said that they something get cramped hands and do feel that their script “somehow works against” them.

    Hmm, maybe you lefties should learn a Semitic/right-to-left language 😉 to “feel the joy of a script that is made for you” (the lefty from Syria I mentioned above) or, as my daughter sometimes does, start writing your personal notes in mirror script.

    My daughter (8 yo) started to write in mirror script after a DaVinci documentary some days ago. DaVinci obviously wrote like that and she was intrigued by that idea, especially after we had talked about her cramped hands.

    She had become an overwriter a while ago, but noticed how uncomfortable it felt herself, so I showed her some options, like turning the paper for underwriting, and taking care of her hand position. I also provided her with new pens suitable for sidewriting should she find herself more comfortable with that. Note: I do not want to “correct” her but show her options to make it easier, she obviousl has not settled into a certain style or position for writing. We also watch youtube videos with lefty calligraphers (fountain pens/brush script).

    I explained to her how the letter forms are really easy for a righty but counterintuitive for a lefty, and her simple, but genius (ahem) conclusion was to just turn or mirror them.

    Writing various scripts including Cyrillic and Semitic languages myself I do not fear she mixes normal and mirror script up, and for a child this is more of “secret-language” fun, though it does seem to help her a lot.

    (Sorry for this rather long comment, somehow they just get longer and longer … 😉

    • Scrively Scrively

      Hi Julie,

      Wow, thank you a looooot for this very thorough and informative comment.

      The story ‘from the field’ of the Arab-language people actually is super interesting. I had never thought of the fact that they (and this most be most people in this linguistic world, since more people are right-handed in general) face the exactly same issues that westerner lefties. Really food for thought here. I wonder if there are no fountain pen/ink-innovations to be found in the arab world, then. Because I can imagine that this must be a ‘problem’ for very many people there and some genius might might have thought about a solution there. Not sure, though.
      Anyway, this story really made my morning! Thank you – wonderful.

      I have to say that with the considerations that I have pinned down in my ‘ink review format explanation’, I really have no major issues with fountain pens anymore. However, I have tried to practice underwriting a little more in April – because this obviously would be better than my current side-writing. It feels more and more comfortable and I get better at it. I feel most comfortable (with underwriting) when not tilting the paper, but putting it just ‘normal’ in front of my, placing my forearm and hand parallel to the long side of the paper. Tilting the paper a little is more relaxing for my wrist, but it is strange for me to form the letters like this. Letter-formation comes more natural when my hand is exactly under the writing line, like with the paper not tilted. But let’s see where the underwriting-journey takes me. For now, side writing still is a lot more comfortable, but I sort of shift writing styles a little according to needs and my mood. Times of transition, I’d say :-).
      Thanks a lot for your comment again, Julie!

  2. Julie Paradise Julie Paradise

    Oh, I followed your links and found that on the page #5 enables you to even use flex nibs as you are able to push lightly on the upstrokes and pull down the nib on the downstrokes, without smudging, the whole arm being able to move easily. Many righties write like that, just mirrored, and this seems to be the most comfortable position.

    (As I understand it the problem is not the fountain pen or the script itself [well, see above .. but this is out of your influence] but the lack of education, the force some teachers use to make lefties write with their right hand, the lack of showing options, so lefties make do and try until they find a position. Once you get used to it it is very hard to change the style and way you write which is why I am so active in helping my daughter with her learning to writie and develop her own style.)

    • Scrively Scrively

      Yeah, the #5 style is the one that I currently try, too. It is most comfortable for my wrist, but strange to from the letters with the papers tilted like that. It works somehow (a matter of practice, surely), but my letters tend to tilt, too, when I let go of concentration. The style that I also try and that is more comfortable for me to form letters with is #1. However, I find this to be more exhausting for my wrist when writing longer texts (which I do not often do by hand).

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