Ishida Bungu is a stationary store based in Hakodate, Hokkaido (Northern Japan).  I came to learn of their inks only very recently via discussions of Hakodate Twighlight ad Gagome on the pen forums.  You can buy Ishida Bunga inks at the White Rabbit Express service.  They do not ship outside of Japan.

Gagome is often cited as the pick of the Ishida Bungu ink offering.  There complete line up of inks goes as follows;

  1. Hakodate Twighlight (blue)
  2. Hakodate Curry (yellow/brown)
  3. School Brown (brown)
  4. Gagome (Brown Algae)
  5. Astringent Black? (Thats what Google translate said…)
  6. Hakodateyama (green)
  7. Yawatazaka Blue (blue)
  8. Hockey Rouge (red)

*Picture below taken from Ishida Bungu website.


Hakodate Curry is a curious ink and curious theme for an ink.  After some Googling I discover the ink was named after a famous dish served in the city’s most famous restaurant- namely Gotokuen restaurant built in 1879.  Apparently Hakodate curry, often referred to as “English curry” is traditionally served from a silver gravy dish.  I have noticed a definite colonial theme going on with these Ishida Bungu inks.  After further investigations I discover Hakodate curry is in fact a Beef curry.  Beef?  Yes I think this must be an “English curry” if it has beef in it.  For a Hindu this curry is looking worse and worse by the second!  Only the English would think of making a curry out of our most sacred and holy animal- the cow!  Interestingly the colour does not resemble the famous Hakodate curry  after which it is named, which is more red in colour- perhaps it has tomato in it?  I know this as there is a picture of the curry on the bottle’s label (see above).  Perhaps I will write down the recipe for Hakodate curry if I can find it in this ink and post it up next to a picture of the curry for comparison.  I notice they did not use the same label for the outer box. Perhaps they fear it would scare off innocent Japanese browsers in their stationary store!  I say this in jest of course.

*Please note Hakodate curry was not created by the English but by the second owner of the 120- year old Gotoken restaurant, who trained at the Imperial Hotel.  The proper name for the curry is in fact Gotoken curry, and though it was not devised by the English, it was definitely “inspired” by them, perhaps with some heavy irony.  In which case some of my humorous comments above about the beef ingredients still stand!

Here is the ink bottle and box.  Note the different labels, with the box featuring a picture of the famous Gotoken restaurant and the bottle featuring the curry itself.


As with all the Ishida Bungu inks, the cap has a bespoke label- here again denoting to the Gotoken restaurant and the date of its establishment.


Here is a a writing sample on Hobonichi TR paper.  It is a fairly wet ink that takes quite a while to dry.


Looking at it here I can see some similarities to KWZ Honey…


hmmmm, kind of but not really…

Given the unusual colour range of Yellow-Brown that Hakodate Curry occupies I don’t have many similar inks for comparisons.  I have just 5 yellows in total in my ink collection, Hakodate Curry, Kingdom Note’s Chrysaora Helvola, KWZ Honey and Montblanc Golden Yellow and BunguBox Sweet Potato Yellow.  We can safely discount the last two given they are bright sunshine hues.  But how does Chrysaora Helvola compare...


No Chrysaora Helvola is much brighter is more orangey like KWZ Honey, so not very comparable either.  There is a Kobe ink Taisanji yellow which I think would be a better approximation, but alas I have neither a bottle or sample of it.


It’s all about the shading…

Hakodate curry is a yellow-brown ink which shades clearly from yellow to brown with a dark brown outline.

Here is a sample of Hakodate Curry on Hobonichi TR paper.  Note the dark brown outline where the ink pools around the edges…


And again here…


The texture and shading of Hakodate Currey remind me a lot of BunguBox 88 and Shosaikan’s Shin Zan.  Not in terms of colour, as those are both clearly greens, but just in terms of the way they shade from yellow to green with a strong green outline.  Here are some examples;

Shosaikan Shin-zan


BunguBox Green Tea 88…IMG_0076.jpg

Neither Shin-zan nor Green Tea 88 have any sheening properties, as far as I’m aware.  They are really all about the shading, just like Hakodate Curry.


In conclusion I am not so keen on this ink.  I love the concept of this ink i.e. the quirky labels, it’s ties to the Hakodate history and culture etc.  In this sense it is very well thought through and executed, like the entire Ishida Bungu ink line, in fact.  However, the ink itself just does nothing for me.  As far as yellows go I much prefer KN’s yellow jellyfish Chrysaora Helvola.  Colour-wise it DOES look like a curry.  Though when I looked up the Hakodate Curry itself, it’s more of an orangey colour.  I wish this ink resembled the actual Hakodate Curry more.

On the plus side, I do appreciate its shading properties.  As stated earlier, it shades in exactly the same way as BunguBox 88 and Shin-zan.  Strangely, all three inks share another characteristic- their unpleasant texture.  I’m not sure how to describe it, but the texture of this ink is not nice.  It doesn’t feel smooth or velvety at all, unlike Gagome or School Brown.  I would be loath to use it an any of my piston fill pens- well except for maybe my TWSBI’s.  But then they were built for experimenting with dangerous ink.  In conclusion then, I couldn’t really recommend this ink.

Perhaps Hakodate Curry will grow on me, like “English curry” will grow on the Japanese…I wouldn’t count on it.