Embrace the Darkness: Pilot Iroshizuku take-sumi

Many thanks to the fine folks at JetPens for sending along this bottle of Iroshizuku ink. I was not otherwise compensated, and this review reflects my experiences and observations with the ink in my pen and on my paper. Your results and opinions may, of course, differ.

When a bottle of Iroshizuku take-sami (Bamboo Charcoal) showed up in my mailbox, courtesy of JetPens, I immediately knew which pen I’d fill. I recently outfitted my Matte Black Pilot Vanishing Point with a black-plated 18K nib/converter unit, so I all I needed to complete the stealthy trifecta was a superb black ink, and here it was.

Iroshizuku take-sumi

In my previous job of 14 years, I was required to write in black ink (ballpoint, but still) all day, every day. So you’d think that I’d run screaming for the hills now that I’m free of that SOP-dictated requirement. Funny thing is, I still like and use black ink, and am always on the lookout for a particularly good one.

Iroshizuku writing sample

I already have a few Iroshizuku inks (kon-peki and fuyu-gaki…both luscious colors) so I was pretty sure take-sumi would get high marks for good behavior. And it does. In this Vanishing Point with its fine nib (Japanese fine, so it’s like a western EF), take-sumi goes on wet, but dries quickly— easily within ten seconds, even on Rhodia paper. It’s smooth and consistent— a very solid black. Solid in performance AND in looks. It’s not a grey black, not a watered down black. Is it the blackest black ever? Probably not, though I haven’t jumped too far into the black ink pool. I’d consider it to be an excellent black— surely the best I own. (How many times can I say “black”? A lot, apparently.)

Smudge test

I don’t regularly expose my hand-written pages to liquid so waterproofness isn’t something I really care about, but in the name of science, I “spritzed” my page.

Spritzed Rhodia page

So, yeah, don’t do that.

"Get to work!"

I don’t have a big collection of inks (though the pull to acquire more is strong), and I’m admittedly drawn to colors that look like the a glass of fine wine or the sea or a freshly sliced persimmon, especially when I’m writing letters and have time to appreciate an ink’s shading and depth and freshness. But there are plenty of times when I just need need to get stuff done, and black ink has always been just the thing for flipping on the “get to work” switch in my brain.

Pilot Vanishing Point Black Matte

It’s easy to love ink colors that pop off the page, but loving a black ink takes a little more work. Packaged in that gorgeously iconic Iroshizuku bottle, take-sumi impresses with its lovely darkness. It’s like the night sky. Usually you take it for granted, but every now and then you look up and think “wow.”

Back of the bottle

I’m smitten.

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9 thoughts on “Embrace the Darkness: Pilot Iroshizuku take-sumi

  1. Beautiful, descriptive review of a lovely ink. I’m actually one of those people who avoid black fountain pen ink—mostly because it’s the color I use in my “back-up” pens (*cough* ballpoints and rollerballs *cough*). I do hold a soft spot for Sailor Kobe’s Kaigan Stone Gray–a smooth-flowing, well performing black ink that shades to light gray hues while being waterproof. Just throwing out a name in case you ever feel the need to add to your black ink collection. I certainly do to my blue inks!

    Hearing your ink preferences (“…glass of fine wine or the sea or a freshly sliced persimmon…”) makes me think of more Iroshizuku. Might I hazard to guess that some of those colors would be Yama-budo or Shin-kai? (I can already see Fuyu-gaki in a writing sample). Rich colors are delicious, both for the eye and the soul.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • I haven’t tried yama-budo or shin-kai yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time! I’m craving something in a good pink (which is unlike me) and am looking for something to match the blue-green Lamy Al-Star that’s headed my way. The Sailor black you mention sounds intriguing!

  2. Great review, especially since a black ink is hard to get real descriptive on. I love the bottle, the packaging and the name but when I see it land on paper I just can’t bring myself to get into a black ink.

  3. I enjoyed your review! I have a sample of Take-Sumi, but haven’t tried it yet. It sure looks great with that Vanishing Point. I have been contemplating the gunmetal one myself, and also planning on the black nib. :)

  4. I don’t care for black ink myself, but I do plan to buy a sample of this ink in order to mix it with other Irohizuku inks when I want darker colors. A bottle would last me five lifetimes

    • Black ink appears to solicit “love it” and “hate it” opinions. Not much middle ground. Good plan to have it for a “mixer”!

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