Iroshizuku Price Hike and Finding Affordable Substitutes

2 Jun
[tweetmeme source=”dizzypen” only_single=false

Now that JetPens has been forced to join the Pilot US price hike ( :glare: ) I thought it might be useful to make a post about ink colors that are similar to Iroshizuku.

If you are blissfully unaware of the recent price hike let me give you a quick run down. It used to be that you could only get Iroshi from JetPens, on Ebay or direct from Japan. In the US most were getting their Iroshizuku from JetPens for the high price of $22.50. But, this was doable because of the free shipping you got once you reached the $25 requirement. So, you ordered a bottle of Iroshi and a cheap pen and you got the free shipping.

Around the end of last year, Pilot US announced that they would start importing Iroshizuku, thus making it widely available on the US market. We all thought that was great until we found out that they set the MSRP at $35 a bottle! The ink was already expensive at $22.50, but $35 is ridiculous. Apparently, Pilot US will allow the ink to be priced as low as $28. That is still a lot of money for a bottle of ink.

At any rate, JetPens had assured us that they would continue to sell Iroshi at $22.50 because they had found a way to work around the Pilot US distribution network. Wel,l a couple weeks ago JetPens announced that they were essentially being forced to raise their price by Pilot US. They apologized, but notified us that the price would increase to $28 starting June 1. There was a mad dash to get Iroshi at the cheaper price; as of yesterday the price increase is now in effect.

Now, I know  many of us were price out of the ink at $22.50, so $35 or even $28 is just way beyond the amount many of us are willing to pay.  Many of us have decided that iroshizuku is not for us, so we are looking for alternatives (enter this post).

What follows is a list of inks that are in some ways similar to Iroshizuku inks. This list is complied from experiences expressed on FPN and from my own experience sampling inks.

NB: I’m only saying these inks are similar. They are not exact. Some of these inks are more similar to the Iroshi than others. These are the brakes. If you want the exact color you’ll have to buy the Iroshizuku. There are properties of that ink that simply don’t exist with any other ink on the market. This particularly applies to their green-blues and blue-greens. If you are in doubt I suggest that you order samples from Pear Tree Pens, Goulet Pens, or participate in the FPN Ink Sample Exchange so that you can “try before you buy.”


If you like x, then you’ll probably like y

If Ajisai, then ???
If Asa gao, then Visconti Blue or PR Lake Placid Blue or Diamine Sapphire or Herbin Eclat de Saphir
If Fuyu-syogun, then ??? [maybe Dia Prussian Blue in a dry writer. In the wet writer Prussian Blue is more blue than gray]
If Kiri-Same, then ??? [maybe J. Herbin Gris Nuage?]
If Kon-Peki, then Diamine Mediterranean Blue or Diamine Asa Blue or Noodler’s Eel Blue or Diamine Kensington Blue (in a wet writer)
If Ku-Jaku, then ??? [maybe ND turquoise (standard line mixed with Noodler’s Eel Blue?]
If Momiji, then Mont Blanc Love Letter
If Fuyu-gaki, then ND Dragon’s Napalm or Diamine Coral or Diamine Vermillion
If Tsukushi, then De Atramentis Sepiabraun or Mont Blanc Toffee Brown
If Yama-Guri, then R&K Sepia or CdA Grand Canyon
If Shin-Ryoku, then???
If Syo-Ro, then Dia Teal or Noodler’s Coral Sea, Australian Exclusive
If Tsuki-Yo, then PR Ebony Blue or Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris or Diamine Blue Black or Noodler’s Legal Lapis
If Tsutsuji, then ???
If Tsuyu-kusa, then ???
If Yama-Budo, then ND Saguaro Wine or PR Plum or JH Rose Cyclamen or Diamine Claret or Rohrer & Klingner Magenta or Caran d’Ache Storm
If Yu-Yake, then CdA Saffron or Noodler’s Apache Sunset

This list is incomplete. There are several inks I or FPN haven’t found a substitute for yet. As more information becomes available I’ll let you know. If you have any ideas please leave a comment below or send me a Tweet and I will add them to the list!


No affil.


19 Responses to “Iroshizuku Price Hike and Finding Affordable Substitutes”

  1. Anonymous June 3, 2010 at 12:28 AM #

    Iroshizuku Substitutes
    Glad you found my latest suggestions posted in the thread at FPN. Shin-Ryoku and Momiji still elude me but every line of ink has at least a few unique ones.
    Will continue to search for more substitutes though only for color. Other properties are unlikely to be duplicated elsewhere. That’s what really makes Iroshizuku unique.

  2. Anonymous June 3, 2010 at 12:31 AM #

    Iroshizuku Kiri-same & Ku-Jaku
    I’ve not found an equivalent yet that shares that almost brown, almost lavender tint in any greys I’ve tried, including Montblanc Oyster Grey, Sailor Jentle Grey, & Omas Grey, in case anyone was hoping these would be similar. I’ll keep buying it as well as Ku-Jaku, which is an all-time favorite and totally unique.

  3. dsmoen June 3, 2010 at 12:42 AM #

    My guess is that Pilot, like many other brands, only permits their products to be advertised at a certain percentage below MSRP. Looks like it’s 20%.

    • dizzypen June 3, 2010 at 1:40 AM #

      I’m sure you are right. I’m still very peeved off at Pilot USA. I’ll probably get over it, but the two bottles of Iroshi I’ve purchased are my two last…

      • dsmoen June 3, 2010 at 1:43 AM #

        I keep missing the ones I traded with other Pen Posse members and yet I wasn’t using them. How crazy is that?

  4. Anonymous June 3, 2010 at 1:26 AM #

    kind of off topic
    While I have never used the Iroshizuku inks. I have used the Diamine Vermillion. While I love the color, I really dislike writing with it. Due to the fact that it’s a very dry ink. Are the other Fuyu-gaki color look a likes smoother to write with?

    • dizzypen June 3, 2010 at 1:38 AM #

      Re: kind of off topic
      I have Noodler’s Dragon’s Napalm in a pen right now (Pilot Prera Fine nib) it is truly fantastic. I’m on my second fill of it and I have yet to have any issue. It’s very smooth writing even with that very very fine nib.
      I’ve only dip tested the Diamine Coral. So far it seems wonderful as well. It seems very well behaved and very smooth. It will be the next ink to go into my Prera.
      I haven’t tried the Vermillion. Perhaps Inkophile can comment on any similarities or differences.

      • Anonymous June 3, 2010 at 1:58 AM #

        Re: kind of off topic
        Thank you very much! I will definitely look into the the Noodler’s Dragon’s Napalm and the Diamine Coral.

      • Anonymous June 3, 2010 at 8:31 AM #

        Re: kind of off topic
        My experience with Diamine Vermillion is limited to a very wide nib that writes dry with most inks and unfortunately I have no experience with Dragon’s Napalm. So I won’t be much help except to say that Fuyu-gaki writes very well just like all of the Iroshizuku inks. That’s why I’ll only compare colors. For other properties Iroshizuku is very hard to beat.

  5. Anonymous June 3, 2010 at 2:15 AM #

    Great idea
    You had a super good idea to come up with similar inks that cost less. Thanks for the effort!

  6. Anonymous June 3, 2010 at 2:29 AM #

    I’m not familiar with Dia Prussian Blue but fuyu-syogun is gray – prussian blue a gray?

    • dizzypen June 3, 2010 at 3:25 AM #

      It’s a blue gray. In a dry writer it looks more gray than blue. In a wet writer it is definitely more blue than gray. It definitely reminds me of Fuyu-Syogun, but it is bluer.
      Think of it like Cacao du Bresil: the wetter the nib the browner ink, but the drier the nib the grayer the ink.

      • Anonymous June 3, 2010 at 5:43 PM #

        I’ve got Prussian Blue and it’s an OK color but I don’t find myself loving it much. I see nothing wrong with it so I’d suggest giving it a try.

  7. Anonymous June 3, 2010 at 1:18 PM #

    Yea, yum
    I don’t drink, but I have friends who will think nothing of buying a $28 bottle of wine. Any why shouldn’t they? We all have hobbies, right? I have a couple of bottles of Iroshizuku ink, and the Yama-guri is one that I won’t live without, I’ve tried a couple of other browns that are similar (Diamine Chocolate and Noodlers Brown #4), but they don’t hold a candle to Yama-guri.
    Like I said, any hobby or interest, you have to decide what is important to you — what you can live with and what things are essential. Another of my interests is surfing, you know, on the ocean (not online). So surfboard wax is a big deal for me. Some people are fine with Sticky Bumps wax; it is inexpensive. But it just doesn’t work well for me, and I would rather pay the extra for Mrs. Palmers. Sometimes that things that you love more in life cost more, and for me, Iroshizuku is one of those.

    • dizzypen June 3, 2010 at 3:42 PM #

      Re: Yea, yum
      Thats great! It sounds like you have made the decision that is best for you. Iroshizuku is not important enough to me to justify spending $28. This is even more true considering Pilot USA’s apparent price fixing and/or gouging.
      As I understand it, this ink goes for about $16 in Japan, yet they have set an MSRP of $35 in the US. There is something wrong with that so far as I’m concerned, but if folks are will to buy it at this mark up that is entirely their perogative. For me, I’ll enjoy the two bottles I have and look elsewhere for any new inks.
      Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  8. ethernautrix June 5, 2010 at 10:51 PM #

    Tsuki-yo… Noodler’s Legal Lapis
    I have three Iroshizuku inks: Tsuki-yo and the two grays. I don’t have much experience with other brands of gray, but maybe J. Herbin’s gray could substitute for kiri-same.
    A couple of years ago, I had a sample of Legal Lapis. At the time, I thought it was hard to tell the difference between that and Tsuki-yo, strictly color-wise. There *was* a difference, but it was subtle.

  9. Dizzy Pen July 2, 2010 at 11:15 AM #

    Brain Goulet left this rather interesting reply over at my old site, so I thought I’d list it over here:

    Jun. 16th, 2010 12:13 pm (local)
    Thanks for the shoutout

    Thanks Dizzy for the shoutout. I actually contacted Pilot 3 times about carrying the Iroshi inks, and never got a response. This was about 2 weeks before I heard about the price hike. I’ve heard Pilot USA doesn’t really give the time of day to ‘small time’ vendors, they only go after the big boys. This, along with the price hike leads me to believe they aren’t so much concerned with provide good value to customers, but rather they’re after the money. It’s a shame, because if they focused on distributing their inks through boutique retailers like me, they’ll have more chance for success in the future. Monolithic stationery B&M’s aren’t exactly on the rise, y’know? The future will be in small, more nimble retailers like me who are active in the writing community, not large stores in NY and LA that turns their noses up to people who would like to pay under list price! This $35 ink seems to be creating a rift in the writing community. I haven’t heard anyone saying ‘$35 a bottle is well worth it, I’m happy to pay it!’, rather, there are blogs like this one guiding people to spend their money elsewhere! That can’t be good long-term for Pilot….

    Brian Goulet (GouletPens)”

  10. sri April 12, 2014 at 4:53 AM #

    Is ordering from Japan (engeika) not an option or is shipping too prohibitive.I am told if you order more than three bottles, it is not a bad deal.


  1. pretty in pink II – roses, lamy safari, pilot pluminix, iroshizuku & diamine | lady dandelion - June 29, 2010

    […] price increase on the Iroshizuku inks. (see discussions at Fountain Pen network here and Dizzy Pen here for […]

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