floating world: taccia sabimidori
As the day dawns outside, I try to catch that elusive moments where the streetlights go out. Today, I have already missed it. Usually it catches me off-guard, only to catch a glimpse of the last ones turning off or suddenly realizing that they’ve turned off when I pull my nose out of my coffee mug. Once, when I was a kid, I managed to catch all of them blinking out in pairs, one on one side and the other across the street. Our street began over a hill, on the other side and our house was towards the end, where it would flatten out. The sun rose over the hill, in between old trees and tall apartments. I was standing on the corner down from my building, waiting for the school bus, watching the dawn. Then, like a wave, the streetlights started plunging into the darkness, chased by the dawn down the hill. I was left in the cobalt blue of new dawn, still waiting for my school bus.
I wrote and rewrote the first couple sentences of this post, struggling to find the place to start unravelling the story. There are multiple things I want to talk about that that cathartic moment of pulling a thread does not present itself easily. There are many threads. I don’t know where to start without feeling like one of those recipe websites where the backstory of the recipe is so long that you get to know three generations of the family of the writer before you get to the recipe itself.
Without further Edo (I promise this is the only pun in the post), let’s get into the packaging of this ink, it is one of the most striking ones I have.
Taccia Hokusai Sabimidori belongs to the ukiyo-e line of inks, inspired by the art period of the same name. My knowledge of Japanese art is severely lacking, so I welcomed a rabbit hole to dive into.
Ukiyo-e is an Edo art period (roughly 17th – 19th century), which mostly started with handmade woodblock prints that enabled the artist to mix colours and create striking effects. Later, paintings also came into play. There are many famous artworks from the period, but the best known to me is “Great Wave of Kanagawa” by Hokusai, who is also the artist of the print depicted on the box of Sabimidori ink (both of these prints belong to the collection called Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji). It is on display at MoMA, whereas “The Village of Sekiya on the Sumida River” seems to be in the archives of the same museum. I understand that museums struggle with displaying all of their archives, but it is still a shame that this painting is also not on display. During my deep dive, I also read that The Great Wave also inspired Debussy’s La Mer.
The softer tones of the print on the ink box give it a dream-like quality, whereas the running horses create a sense of urgency contrasting it. On the box, the painting is cropped to the panoramic landscape in the background, focusing on the river and Mount Fuji itself. I think this fits with the ink, as the blue-green water is close to the ink’s colour and the rust red of Fuji resembles the sheen.
Apparently, Hokusai is known as the “Old man who loves to paint” and I think that’s an endearing ode to a painter/print maker. May we all be remembered by the things we love.
I love a good ink packaging to dive deep into.
When you open the box, the ink comes in a heavier squat bottle with a square shape. I like textured caps to give a good grip to open the bottle, and this one is no exception. The glasswork is thick and clear, giving fun images with the plays of refraction and reflections.
At last, you get to the ink inside. It’s a vibrant blue in the bottle, it does remind me of a flowing river that belongs to an idyllic landscape. Somewhat also reminiscent of a more vibrant Diamine Eau de Nil. There’s usually a soft ring of red sheen around the opening of the bottle, accompanying the ink. It’s a striking presentation when you open the bottle.
The dried ink colour is hard to put into words, it’s neither completely green nor completely blue, and instead of being in the middle of those colours, it feels like it’s more on a tangent, brushing past both. Even though it’s not an unsaturated ink, it shades with clean lines. On the lighter parts, you can see a hint of blue, a nod to the ink when it’s still wet. The darker parts are a haloing green, ringed with sheen on most papers. I know that the sheen’s colour is red, but my brain insists that there’s some gold in there. An elusive red-gold sheen? It must be the effect of all those murky colours together. This ink is a complete experience from the first moment you set your eyes on the bottle to the final moment where it dries completely on the page.
I rarely ink up two pens with the same ink, simply because there are many inks to enjoy. Currently, I have two pens inked with this ink, one with a 1.1 stub (TWSBI Diamond Mini) and a dry fine (Pilot Heritage 92), and both have larger ink capacities to boot. The Pilot 92 seems to show the sharing of the ink more, quite striking in such a narrow line, whereas sheen starts to become a little less prominent. With the TWSBI, the nib puts so much ink on the page that the letters are more saturated and ringed with sheen. At first, I thought that the dry times might become a problem, but I was worried for nothing. As long as you give an extra moment for it to dry, there were no smudges.
Taccia Sabimidori is definitely one of my favourite inks, though I seem to ink it up rarely in fear that it will run out before I have time to enjoy it. Well, that’s a terrible excuse and I will probably ink it up more often in the future. I also translated some of the Japanese text on the box and it says that it was made by the “stationery sommelier Dai Ishizu.” That’s a dream job if I ever heard one.
I try to usually end my posts on a positive note, but I wanted to say that my heart goes out to all those who are affected by the earthquake in Japan. I come from a country plagued by earthquakes as well, and grew up admiring Japanese resilience to them, whereas we lived in fear due to multitude of shortcomings. There’s nothing I can do from this far away to help, but to wish well and hope for easier days on the horizon.
Thank you for reading! Lately I find myself enjoying different inks a lot more than different pens or nibs. I tend to go through waves of pen-ink-paper love periodically, where my focus shifts every now and then. There’s so much to explore that there’s always something to be excited about.