Kobaien inksticks

It is said that inkstick making began in Japan around 610 A.D. from mainland China. After that, inksticks were made in various dynasties and temples.

Kobaien was founded in 1577. For more than 400 years since then, Kobaien has pursued the production of high quality inksticks. Their inksticks were exhibited and awarded as one of the representative products of Japan at the 1888 Barcelona and 1889 Paris World Expositions.

An inkstick, a solid ink traditionally used in East Asian calligraphy, becomes liquid ink when mixed with water and rubbed on a container called an inkstone. It is a very unique painting material that allows the artist to freely control the color and texture of the ink.

While chemically synthesized ink can be mass-produced in a short time with uniform color, it lacks the depth and richness of handmade inksticks. Handmade inksticks with finer soot particles have a unique deep black color that cannot be reproduced by chemically synthesized ink. This is because the process by which paper absorbs ink is different.

When an inkstick is rubbed by hand on an inkstone, the ink color changes slightly according to the way of each individual calligrapher. Therefore, it is possible to create artistic expressions that cannot be achieved with modern synthetic inks. The process of rubbing an inkstick on an inkstone is also a meditative experience that cannot be had with modern inks.

Sumi-e ( ink wash painting in Japanese ), a monochrome art form using ink and handmade paper, has greatly influenced many Western artists. The aesthetics and philosophy of Sumi-e, with its focus on minimalism, abstraction, and the essence of the subject, have been integral to many movements in Western art, including Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, and Minimalism.

溌墨山水図 杉浦俊香, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some Western artists have also contributed to the global recognition and continuity of this art form by incorporating Sumi-e techniques and materials to create their own unique works of art while exploring the possibilities of Sumi-e. One ink wash painter says that when he paints with inksticks made the old-fashioned way, he is able to express the air between the mountains in the distance and the place where the viewer is now standing in a monochrome world of black and white.

inksticks in Japan are special because of their form, composition and manufacturing process. It is made of soot, natural glue and natural fragrances and has a unique aroma. The ingredients are mixed together, kneaded into sticks and dried for more than four years. This process uses knowledge and techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation.

 The artisans who make inksticks in Kobaien change the mixture of glue, soot and water to the optimum amount each morning according to the temperature and humidity. Even in this ever-changing natural environment, the artisan's experience allows him to consistently produce the highest quality inkstick.

Kobaien's ink production is based on traditional methods and natural materials that do not prioritize efficiency. It is a very inefficient method, completely different from modern industrial methods that prioritize efficiency. However, it is precisely because of this that the natural color of soot, which is infinite, can be brought out to the maximum.

How does Kobaien manufacture sumi ink sticks?

Are you a little surprised by the title of this video below?, haha. The title is a bit surprising, but this is an up-to-date and must-watch video introducing Kobaien's inkstick production.

After watching this short 12-minute video, you will understand why this rather unusual title was chosen.

How to use sumi inksticks?

Ms. Junko Azukawa, a contemporary calligrapher and ink painter in Australia, explains how to use stickinks.

Junko Azukawa's website,