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Sailor Jentle “Oku-Yama” (red): Ink Review

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Lefties, Ink, and Fountain Pens

Why is there a need for an explanation of the format of an ink-review, you might ask?! Well, because the ink reviews on Scrively are not like all the other ink reviews that you will find out there. This, again, is because Scrively is written by a lefty. Hence, I have walked that extra mile and made the effort to come up with a slightly twisted own format for ink reviewing that aims at catering my needs – and hopefully the needs of many more southpaws out there. It is my sincere hope that I will be able to serve the lefty-fountain pen community with ink-reviews that are meaningful – in the hope for ever more lefties to start daring to pick up a fountain pen and also experience the joy of writing with fountain pens, which really is a pleasure indeed. Of course, I do also hope that the reviews are enjoyable to the ‘right’-handed fellows out there, too 🙂 . So what is special about the ink reviews here on Scrively? Well, lefties sometimes (think they) have a fountain pen issue, because the writing from left to right causes the writing hand to slide over what has just been written (the “writing line”), thus smudging and smearing the fresh, wet ink all over the place. This writing style is called side-writing and is the way most lefties, unless they’ve retrained themselves, tend to write. This includes myself as well. Now there are a lot many well-meant tips out there on the internet on how, as a lefty, you might succeed in retraining your writing style so as to be able to write as if you basically were right-handed. Underwriting, for instance, is one of those “strategies” which are considered to be very effective, because this technique will keep your writing-hand below the writing line. With that, you will most likely have next to zero restrictions when it comes to fountain pen writing, i.e. you will be able to use all the nibs (flex, broad…anything that puts a lot of ink on the paper and, in turn, will take an eternity to dry), inks (no need for caring about drying times), and paper (so called fountain pen-friendly paper which is quite “ink resistant” and causes the ink to dry slowly – that helps the ink to develop more…let’s just call it “character” here) that right handed people can use, too. Sounds great, doesn’t it? No, it doesn’t. At least not to me. Why? Personally, I tried to practice underwriting for a little while. Not more than some days, though. So yeah, technically, I can absolutely see this working. No doubt. However, I just refuse to strain and twist my wrist and joints into the most uncomfortable of positions for weeks or months, just to become sort of something I am not – a wannabe righty. To me, a writing-tool has to accommodate my needs, not the other way around. On top of that, all this effort and stress of retraining your writing habits, at least in my own experience, is absolutely not necessary. That is, if you just consider a few things, that really ain’t a big deal: you just combine the right nib-sizes, paper-choice and ink. That might sound complicated, but really isn’t at all. In short, with nibs you stick with EF to M. With paper, you just refrain from the super-duper fountain pen-paper, that will have that ink laying on it’s surface for ages to show all that shading. Taking that into consideration, you are all set to become a very happy fountain pen user. Disclaimer: Provided you have an approach that is similar to mine, i.e. you are more of a functional writer with a great appreciation for the aesthetics of writing (paper, pen & ink) while not being overambitious with artistic writing or calligraphy or a longing for thick strokes, a lot of line variation (i.e. flex nibs), very wet nibs/inks or paper that brings the best details out of an ink. Then you might really have to become an underwriter. Personally, I am more than good with a regular line and seeing at least most of the nice characteristics of the ink I use. Having that said as a rather long prelude, let’s now turn to the format that I came up with and that I do employ for all of my ink reviews.

The Lefty-Ink Review Format

As a lefty, I will do most ink reviews using EF- to M- nibs. These do not lay down too much ink on the paper. The ink will then, of course, dry much faster than with a broader nib, which is what the typical lefty might want in everyday pen usage. Hence, I am mostly interested in how the ink performs and what the ink looks like (ink characteristics) using any of those nib-sizes. This also means that I am not using any flex- or whatever-nibs in my reviews, since I do (for now) simply not care how an ink behaves or looks with those ones. Since I am, of course, nevertheless interested in what the color (and some shading) really looks like on paper, each ink review will contain an ink swab. On top of that, I will place special emphasis on the wetness and the drying times of the ink which, again, is of special interest to lefties. Besides the drying time, I came up with something that – besides the “Regular Smear Test – I call the “Left-Page Smear Test”. First of all, I do write with all the inks that I test for about one week, using them as my everyday ink for this period of time. This is the amount of time where I can really see how the ink performs in various conditions and where I will also fill a couple of pages in my notebooks. The “Regular Smear Test” then just comments on the “smeariness” (is that a word even?) of the ink that one would experience when actually writing “regularly”. The “Left-Page Smear Test” responds to the fact that, as a lefty, when writing on the right page of a notebook, your writing hand will rest (for longer periods of time) on the left page of the notebook. The ink on that left page is already dry, but the extended resting of the palm on that dry ink will occasionally cause smudging. And this is what the “Left-Page Smear Test” is all about: Will the dry ink on the left page smudge? When it comes to the “testing ground”, which is the paper on which I test, I will always test on two types of paper: Leuchtturm 1917 and a regular standard spiral bound notepad. Why? For the Leuchtturm 1917, this is one of my (and many other people’s) preferred notebook. First of all, Leuchtturm is for many reasons among the favorite notebook options for many Bullet Journalists, which I am one of. Second, the paper is quite fountain pen friendly and lefty friendly. This means that it is just ink resistant enough to show you some of the nicer ink characteristics such as shading, while it is also just absorbent enough to make it the perfect choice for lefties. On top of that, the paper is slightly off-white or ivory, as are many notebooks out there, so you will be able to see what the ink looks like on such a paper. For the standard spiral bound notepad: this is still the default paper in many peoples daily lives around the world. Not everybody will want to spend a premium on high quality notebooks, or use such notebooks for all kinds of writing. The spiral bound notepad (“Collegeblock”) is widely available in any stationery store or even supermarket, and often the go-to notepad for studies or work, since one can tear out and easily file the pages. Most of those spiral bound notepads are rather okay to write on with fountain pens. They are better than standard copy paper (i.e. the one used in printers, which is not really meant to write on with fountain pens), but not as good as the rather premium notebooks. Sometimes, notepad paper is a more absorbent than the better notebooks, which makes it a good option for many lefties, because the ink basically dries – or rather: gets absorbed – a bit faster. On top of that, I use this paper as a reference so as to see what the ink looks like on white paper. Having that said, I do not test ink on e.g. Tomoe River or Clairefontaine paper, because I and many other lefties do not write on such a kind of paper. For the interested reader, ink reviews on such paper are widely available in other corners of the web, where my ‘right’-handed fellows do an excellent job in reviewing ink. So, in short, the ink reviews on Scrively follow the scheme below: Review criteria

  • Testing time is always 1 week (or more)
  • Unit capacity (ml) and price (€)
  • Price per milliliter (€ / ml)
  • Color and saturation
  • Shading
  • Feathering
  • Bleed-through
  • Appeared wetness
  • Drying time
  • Smudging/Smear when dry: deliberately smearing with a finger across dry ink
  • Smudging-/Smear-Test
    • “Regular Smear Test“: Smeariness when writing “regularly”
    • “Left-Page Smear Test”: Tendency to smudge once being dry for an extended period of time – i.e. the fact that, as a lefty, when writing on the right page of a notebook, the writing hand will rest (for longer periods of time) on the left page of the notebook. The ink on that left page is already dry, but the extended resting of the palm on that dry ink will occasionally cause smudging. This test checks, if the ink smudges under those circumstances, or not.
  • Reviews will always encompass an ink-swab and a writing sample with anything from EF- to M-nibs

Testing ground

  • Standard Spiral Bound Notepad, white paper, 80 gsm
  • Leuchtturm 1917-notebook, off-white/ivory paper, 80 gsm


Any ink that, after testing, can be recommended for lefty-use under the circumstances outlined above will then, at the end of the review, get a stamp for being “Lefty Approved” 🙂 . 







For providing accuracy and consistency when it comes to the representation of the ink’s color, all scans of my ink reviews are produced with a Doxie Flip mobile scanner @600 dpi. I sincerely hope that this section will be helpful to you and that you enjoy reading it!

Sailor Jentle “Oku-Yama”: an elegant bordeaux-red with spectacular sheen

Sailor Jentle "Oku-Yama" Ink name: Sailor Jentle “Oku-Yama”
Unit capacity: 50 ml (glas bottle with ink reservoir)
Price: ca. 15 €
Price per ml: ca. 0,30 €

  Leuchtturm 1917 Spiral-bound Notepad
Color   Dark-red, bordeaux  Dark-red, bordeaux
Saturation  Quite high  Quite high
Shading  Muted, but exposes golden sheen under direct light and at the right angling  Muted, but exposes golden sheen under direct light and at the right angling
Feathering  None  None
Bleed-through  Might happen on the 2nd pass  On the 2nd pass
Wetness  Rather wet  Very well lubricated
Drying time  8-10  sec.  5 sec.
Smudging when dry  No  No
Regular smear test  OK   OK
Left-page smear test  OK  –

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

Sailor Jentle "Oku-Yama"

Handwritten review on a Standard Spiral-Bound Notepad (scanned @600 dpi with Doxie Flip – click image to enlarge on Flickr)

Sailor Jentle "Oku-Yama" Sailor does have a good range of ink. Beside their regular “Jentle Ink” in blue, black, and blue-black, they do also make more colorful ink in a series that they call “(Jentle Ink -) Colors of Four Seasons”. There are 8 colors available in total, whereas each season of the year is represented by 2 colors.
[At the moment it looks like there are a couple more colors coming, since the Japanese-web shop of Sailor has already listed 8 additional colors].

“Oku-Yama” is the Japanese name of the color that I review here. Since I do not speak any Japanese, I can not tell you what that means, but what I gauge from the Sailor-website is that Oku-Yama belongs to the autumn-seasons’ colors. Since it is a very dark red, I imagine that the color might be a representation of autumn leaves. Yet, when I google “Japan autumn”, the colors look quite a bit brighter than Oku-Yama. But then what do I know about Japanese fauna and flora. Since I am no Jack of all trades, let me turn to something that I actually can tell you something about – which is the ink itself.

Oku-Yama is a very lovely dark-red. I would describe it as bordeaux. What I do especially like about this color is that it looks very elegant, muted, and even a bit serious. To me this is a great advantage, since it makes the color very versatile in terms of usability. While red might not be an ‘official’ color to be used in business or so, the darkness of the ink in my opinion still makes it very usable as an everyday-ink for notes and writing in all kinds of contexts. Having that said, the ink also is not ‘bright’ enough to be used as a color for correcting exams or editing documents. I would just find it too dark for that.

When it comes to shading, Oku-Yama definitely does show some shading from dark red to an even darker one, but the shading is rather muted. This is simply because the ink is rather dark and saturated, which naturally narrows down the spectrum across which it could potentially shade. What is spectacular, however, is the sheen of Oku-Yama – a property for which the ink has been praised repeatedly all over the fountain pen community. Again, the good thing about that sheen, which truly is spectacular, is that you normally would not really notice it. To me that is good, because it makes the ink more versatile again. Inks that truly sparkle all the time, e.g. the J.Herbin 1670 inks, are rather limited in use – who wants all their notes to glitter and shine all the time? Oku-Yama, however, does only expose its sheen in direct light and when you look at the paper from a certain angle. So you gotta work a bit for it, but what you get when you are really after it, is really awesome. I have recently tried to capture that sheen on Instagram:

And here is another unfiltered shot from some writing that I have done, at an angle:
Sailor Jentle "Oku-Yama"

Otherwise, Oku-Yama generally is a very well behaved ink. It is a rather wet ink and lubricates very well, which makes for an effortless writing experience. The wetness of the ink can cause an occasional bleed through – especially on a 2nd pass. Not a huge issue, but be aware of it.

The ink comes in a nice-looking flat bottle, which makes for a good surface to stand on a desk. That is good, because the bottle won’t run a risk of tipping over as you fill a pen. Also, it does have an ink-reservoir for easier filling as the ink level sinks. I can’t tell you how well this really works, since I am just a couple of pen fills in yet, and the ink comes in a 50ml-bottle.

What also needs to be noted, is the smell of the ink. As with the KWZ-inks, who also do have a pretty pronounced scent (however also not being intentionally ‘scented’ inks), you’ll notice that smell right away from opening the bottle. The smell is quite different from the one of the KWZ-inks, but does also tend towards a warm-sweet note. I personally do even like it. Very possible that I am just weird, but I do not find it unpleasant or even disturbing. When smelling the ink again for the review here, it rang a bell – the scent reminded me of something. After a little pondering, I finally opened the little box of water-/aquarelle-color that I keep beside my desk. And: bingo! It is pretty much the same smell than those aquarelle colors.

Pricewise, the “Jentle Four Seasons”-inks range somewhere in the upper third of the ink-price range, I would say. They are certainly not as inexpensive as a Diamine ink, but also not exactly as expensive as a Pilot Iroshizuku. All in all, the Sailor is a really great ink, so for me personally and considering the total package of color, general properties, shading/sheen and bottling, it is doubtless worth the money.

As for its ‘leftyness’, “Oku-Yama” also is great. Even though the ink lubricates very well, it is dry in 5-10 seconds (depending on the paper type that I tested it with), which really is on the faster-drying side. There also is no smudging once the ink has dried.

Lefty approved? Totally.







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

If you would like to compare this color to any other ink color/brand, I would suggest to head over to GouletPen’s “Interactive SwabShop” – a tool that lets you compare over 500 different inks, while the swabs are done under similar conditions. This is a wonderful tool for “cross-color-brand-comparison” that I can highly recommend.


  1. Love the color and the great sheen. Sailor inks are proving quite intriguing to me, unfortunately, they are not available locally and getting them from the Internet is an expensive proposition. But sooner or later, I’ll get my inks!

    • Scrively Scrively

      Thank you! It’s a lovely ink, yes. You can normally get those pretty easily from eBay – straight from Japan at a good price, often even including the shipping.

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