Maruzen is a large bookstore based in Tokyo, Japan. In addition to their large selection of books, they store have a small line of inks that have become extremely sought after in the past couple of years. The ink line-up includes a variety of browns, reds, blues and yellows, and a grey. The reddish brown “Owl” in particular, is held in very high regard. I have seen a few of the Maruzen inks pop up on ebay now and then, which is where I managed to pick up this bottle of Athena Sepia. I was tempted by the Eternal Blue but constantly got out bid. There was a lemon colour hanging around for while, but I already have a bright yellow in Bungubox Sweet Potato Yellow, so gave it a miss.
Here is the ink pictured with its unusual box. Maruzen inks are believed to be made by Sailor, but do not come in the standard Sailor boxes.
The design of the bottle is very good for filling with big piston-fillers. I still prefer the Sailor diamond shaped bottles as they are much deeper, but this is also quite ergonomic. Aesthetically, I think I prefer it to the Sailor Diamond bottles, as I like the roundness of it, and it looks a bit old school. Close up of the bottle. Shot with Leica X TYP 113.
Here is a quick writing sample shot in bad light on Hobonichi Weeks TR Paper. I love to to use this ink in my Omas Arco 360 with Fine stub. It somehow complements the arco brown celluloid. I know some people call it arco bronze but I call it arco brown…
The fine stub of the 360 is quite wet so the ink looks almost black. It is a very dark ink. I haven’t tried it with a drier nib yet, but that may bring out more of the brown colour. I am yet to do some coffee filter chromatography, but that would reveal the true make up of this ink.
Here I attempt a few ink tests on Rhodia paper. These ink reviews are very much a work in progress…
It was a very cloudy day when I shot this. But sunny days are as rare as hens teeth in the UK, so it will have to do.
Verdict: I really love this ink. has an old world charm about it, that is very classic, and I think it goes particularly well with cream paper. It has a similar feel to the Pen & Message inks, Sanyasou in particular. As far as brown inks go, this is the one. I’m not so keen on very reddish browns such as Iroshizuku’s Tsukushi or even Montblanc Toffee Brown. I don’t hate those colours, as I tend to like brown inks, but I somehow just prefer this particular shade of brown. It has a lovely velvety texture to it that makes it feel…expensive, for want of a better word. I know that is not the best word to describe ink, or anything else for that matter, but it somehow applies.
Speaking of expensive, these Maruzen inks can only be purchased in person at the physical store. There are people who go to Japan with the specific intention of hitting all the stationary stores and picking up all the cool, rare Sailor inks. I am sure that those people would probably pay around $15-$20 for this Maruzen ink. However, for the rest of us…there is eBay. Which is how I purchased my bottle. I’ll be honest, I probably paid too much. I paid $40 for this bottle of ink. In the UK that works out about £35, but there is no additional customs or other fees at that price level. It is roughly the same price as the new 50ml Montblanc inks, of which I have a couple- UNICEF Blue and Antoine de Saint Exupery. Is £35 a lot to pay for a bottle of ink? Yes. Do I think it is worth as much as these Monthblanc inks? Yes. Am I glad I purchased this ink? Absolutely. When I think how much I spend on fountain pens, buying a nice, safe decent ink for them does not seem excessive. Also, when I think what else you can buy in this country for £35, the list is neither long nor impressive. It will also last a long time as I do not get through ink quickly. Despite all this, I think I am going to lay off the Sailor store-exclusive inks with cute concepts, labels and bottles in future, as tempting as they are, and will probably always be.