16 August 2012


The following video clip carries the signature of NHK, the national TV and radio broadcaster in Japan. However, it is far from being merely informative and, in fact, it is an instrument of advertisement and marketing for Pilot’s Iroshizuku line of inks.

It is an unlisted video, and it could disappear anytime. This is a summary of its contents:

The developer of Iroshizuku inks is a woman named Kiyomi Hasegawa, who spent 15 years behind the counter of a stationery shop. Customers, apparently, were looking for a broader variety of ink colors for their fountain pens. That drove her to create these inks as “this kind of product was not available from any other manufacturer”.

Iroshizuku, the speaker says, grabs the essence of Japan, and the beauty of the Japanese language. The ink names are inspired by “visual scenes in Kyoto and in the rest of Japan”. The unique bottle design is hand blown by professional glass blowers. The package is based on perfume products.

To enjoy these ink colors, Pilot developed a demonstrator pen [Pilot Custom 74 demonstrator]. The documentary ends with words about the ritual of inking a pen and about how the pen conforms to the owner with its continued use.

Couldn’t Pilot do better? Other than the empty rhetoric on the beauty of Japan, and on the beauty of the Japanese language, all we have is a collection of inaccuracies, wishful thoughts, and marketing justifications:

These four Iroshizuku inks were released in August 2011. So far, they are the last ones. Currently, there are 21 different colors.

-- Small selection of ink colors? No other company offered fancy-colored inks?
Does that mean Pilot did not know about J. Herbin or Private Reserve, both present in the Japanese market before Iroshizuku inks came to exist in December 2007? The Iroshizuku line started with five bluish hues, and even the Japanese company Sailor, in 2007, had five colors in its catalog, other than the black, blue and blue-black trio. If we spoke of the foreign market, the offer was a lot wider: Rohrer & Klingner, Diamine, De Atramentis, Noodler’s…

-- Hand-crafted inkwells blown by professional glass blowers?
Does this really add any virtue to the ink? Is Pilot only trying to justify the whopping EUR 33 these inks cost in Europe? Maybe Japanese customers do not deserve those hand-crafted bottles, as the domestic price of those inks is JPY 1575.

-- Packaged like perfume?
I guess that is the business model for inks nowadays. Perfumes, after all, generate a lot of profit—make them cheap, sell them expensive—and many a company would be happy with that source of benefits. Needless to say, Pilot can declare its intentions openly, but some of us might find this business model unsettling.

The conclusion is that this might be the future of inks--inks as luxury products. This is really a market driven by cravings instead of by need, and that does not benefit customers at all.

Sailor Profit Realo – Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown

Bruno Taut
August 15th, 2012
etiquetas: Pilot, tinta, J. Herbin, Diamine, Private Reserve, Noodler’s, De Atramentis, Sailor

Post scriptum (August 17th, 2012): I wanted to add a link to a blog entry by fellow stylophile Carlos Javier Contreras ( http://misplumasfuente.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/comparacion-de-precios-de-tintas-para-plumas-fuente/ ). On this text, the author analyzes the ink cost of several brands and compares them to the price of a very nice single malt whisky, a product that took 21 years to be produced under very strict conditions. Although the text is written in Spanish, I think there is not any problem to understand the graphs and the tables included on it. Those prices, in USD, correspond to the online shop Pen Gallery (as on April 11th, 2012) and do not take transport fees into account.


Bana Sıkça Yaz said...

I liked Iroshizuku even though I don't have a bottle yet. But it is quite expensive. For two or three bottles ink price, you can have a nice fountain pen. (It is about 35 Euro) So I am a bit reluctant.

By the way I am pissed off when I realized that it is only 16 Euros in Japan.


Shangching said...

I have been debating whether to get a bottle of Iroshizuku for a long time. The latest strategy that I developed was to look for a color that is exclusively Iroshizuku and no others. I have to say, it works quite well. Granted the bottles are pretty, but I am willing to buy the ink sans bottles to deflate the price a bit.
Thank you for an interesting piece!

Bruno Taut said...

Thanks for passing by and commenting. That is always welcome and appreciated.

The Iroshizuku price in Europe and in the US does not make any sense other than positioning these inks as a luxury product. There are many other choices of inks, and many a company have a wider selection of colors.

I already reflected on this issue some time ago: http://estilofilos.blogspot.jp/2011/09/local-produce.html

Inks are expensive already. Let's not be silly to make them even more expensive.

Thanks for passing by.



Shangching said...

I think the most "expensive" ink I have purchased was Pelikan Edelstein. My general belief is that fountain pens are writing instruments and they should be popularized. They are not supposed to be on the pedestal for people to worship and left unused. It seems like my belief is in the minority, since some people around me sneered when they heard that I attended a fountain pen show.
I agree, there are many more economical and excellent choices out there (R&K, regular Pelikan, to name a few).

Bruno Taut said...

There is a pen for every season, and a pen for every purpose. But inks are consumables.

Thanks again.


Yazmak Keyiftir said...

First of all I am writing following lines as a boutique manufacturer of fountain pen ink.
1- Dye or pigment kg. prices in chemical industry are very very expensive. For your info 100 gr. of dye 17 Us$ for high end product. 1 Kg. of pigment is 120-170 US$. There is a ratio for 60ml. of ink 10gr of pigment. That means 1.7 Us$ pigment value per bottle.
2- Bottle: Its most expensive item in ink production. I cant imagine the real values of investment for special hand blown glass bottles. Standard and aesthetic ink bottle has a value around 5 Euro. And minimum order quantity is 10000 pcs. Please imagine an investment 50,000 Euro only for glass bottle item.
Here is another production sub item under the glass bottle item called cap. Those are the special plastic injection products. Which are asking a special mold.
3- Box: The second expensive item in the ink production. This is a complementary of glass bottle. And should be in a compatible design and quality with bottle. Very detailed production item. Stock card paper quality must permit high offset printing and etc. And cutting molds for boxes, folding molds and etc. One box is around 2 Us$
4- Filtration of Ink: %25 loss of pigment in ink filtration process for prufication which will prevent ink feed chanels blockage
5- All chemicals materials should be in pharmacological standarts, not industrial. Industrial glycerin 20 Lt.versus is around 40 US$ but pharmacological one is about 260 US$. I dont want the count the rest of the pharma materials of ink production.
6- Taxes and custom tarif position in ink import is very high. Because those are the chemical materials.
6- Risks of glass breaking.
7- Production Volume. If you sell on a huge quantity all costs goes down. We know very well how many bottles we are using in one year. For that reason, rare demand objects are luxury.
I am producing 4 liter of 4 different color ink for producing only 55ml. of fountain pen ink, If I must give an example by my production for verification.
Here also there is a people who criticize hardly my ink bottles. Because its not a special production. People ask much more luxury.
This is a very long and painful story...
Warm Hugs From Turkey

Bruno Taut said...


You missed the most important point in your argument: what is the price per ml for the customer?

I buy ink, not bottles or boxes. Now, I might not be your target customer.

Please, refer to this text: http://estilofilos.blogspot.jp/2011/09/local-produce.html



Robert M. said...

The dishonesty and superficiality in the video really changed my opinions of Pilot. I still like my Ku-jaku and Kon-peki inks, but I do not know if I'll be buying any more. Thanks for posting it here as well, and I'm glad I'm not the only one to react negatively to it.

Yazmak Keyiftir said...

Yeap ! As you sait I didnt give here the price of my product. Because my goal is not a marketing here. But as an info;
ANIKI has a bottle of 55ml. and the price per ml. is 0,25Euro.


richard said...

Actually, you are buying the bottle since you must have a vessel for the ink.

The lady might have said quite a few wrong things, but in the end the consumer CHOOSES based on his/her own unique preferences to buy the product. You may not view $30 per bottle of ink as a beneficial transaction to yourself but that judgement will not hold true for everyone else.

That being said, I'll go ahead and say I actually like the Iroshizuku inks as I've had little to no cleaning problems, feathering, bleed through issues, etc and the colors are nice. I agree though that the inks are pricey and that you're paying for lots of unnecessary luxuries.

Bruno Taut said...


Thanks for passing by and commenting.

Iroshizuku bottles could be a lot cheaper, if they were the reason for their price. But in any event, those expensive bottles seem to be a lot cheaper in Japan, for some unknown reason.

Of course, the consumer chooses... and the consumer can complain, and the consumer can speak out. And the consumer could and should deconstruct all the marketing mumbo-jumbo.

Thanks for your comment.


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