Created from rapeseed oil soot, Koukaboku is the pride of Kobaien. This ink stick was developed by Izumino Jougen'i, the seventh-generation president of the company. Koukaboku is a superb ink stick has been much loved by many people over the 270 years since it came into being.
Kinshoukaku is a top-grade ink stick made from the soot of rapeseed oil. It is well suited to ganpi-shi paper, torinoko-shi paper, and to paintings. This ink stick is created according to a secret recipe that was developed through repeated experimentation over the course of more than 60 years. The dark parts of the Kinshoukaku ink stick are close to a pure black in color, while the lighter parts of the stick produce a brownish black. This ink stick is suited to calligraphic works in Chinese characters and Japanese kana characters, to the hand-copying of sutras, and so forth.
Hiraraden Haienkyo is modeled on a particularly famous mirror included in the historical relics stored in the Shoso-in national treasure house in Nara, Japan. It is an expression of the beauty of mother-of-pearl work using ink. This ink is mainly used for artistic appreciation.
Founded in 1577, Kobaien is Japan’s oldest manufacturer of ink sticks. Japan is considered to have learned the art of ink stick making from Donchou, a monk from Gogurye. Ink sticks came to be manufactured in Nara when the first ink stick was created in Koufukuji Temple in Nara around the year 1400.
In 1739, the sixth-generation head of Kobaien, Matsui Motoyasu, had the opportunity to interact with ink stick manufacturers from the Qing dynasty in Nagasaki concerning ink stick production methods. He learned a great deal from the manufacturers and came to produce a fine ink of an even higher quality.
For over the 400 years since then, Kobaien has devoted itself untiringly to the making of ink sticks. We at Ichi Inc., are pleased to be able to assist in introducing ink sticks by Kobaien—which are an example of this wonderful Japanese traditional cultural artefact—to people all around the world.
Pure vegetable oil is placed in earthenware containers which are closed with a lid after a fire is lit. The soot that gathers on the lids is collected. To ensure that the soot gathers on the lids evenly, all the container lids are moved every 20 minutes.
2) Wooden molds
Wooden molds made from the wood of Japanese pear trees are carved with the characters and designs that will appear on the ink stick. While the weight of a piece of ink stick is 15 grams, approximately 25 grams of ink must be poured into the wooden mold, due to shrinkage when the ink stick dries.
3) Placing the ink
Soot, glue, and perfume are mixed together and then kneaded by hand until the mixture develops a beautiful luster. It is then carefully placed into the wooden molds.
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4) Drying using ash
On the first day after the ink sticks are removed from their wooden molds, they are covered in wood ash that has a high moisture content. From the second day onward, they are gradually transferred to wood ash with a lower moisture content. This method of drying using ash is continued for one week for small ink sticks and 30–40 days for large-sized ink sticks.
5) Air drying
Ink sticks that have completed the ash drying process (with approximately 70% of the moisture content removed) are then dried indoors, tied together with straw and hung from the ceiling. Indoor drying usually continues for approximately two weeks to three months.
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The following items are samples. Please kindly contact us at Ichi Inc., if you are interested in Kobaien’s ink stick products. We accept different types of orders, from orders for personal use to those for wholesale purposes. We trade both within in Japan and internationally.