Monday, December 21, 2009

From the Hearth

At this cold time of year, I often remember countryside visits with good friends in their 200 year old farmhouse situated among fields and mountains in a little village two hours west of Tokyo. One of my first visits to tiny Hakushu in Yamanashi Prefecture was at year end, a season that can be bitter cold, with both snow and ice. I remember the snow dusted rice paddies and icy streams of crystal clean water trickling past frozen banks, the snow-topped mountains near enough to reach in thirty minutes of walking. Remember too the rosy cheeks of children playing in front of a neighbor's house, and at the mountain shrine, the milky white warmth of amazake, a sweet drink made from fermented rice.

I have passed many enjoyable hours and days in all seasons with those friends, but the times I remember best are the cold, cold winter days, when we sat for long hours in the toasty warmth of the irori, the sunken hearth with its heap of glowing embers under a wire grill beneath our feet. Those were the days before centralized heating was heard of, especially in the old farmhouses, and those areas away from the hearth were freezing cold despite being indoors. For that reason, the irori was always the focal point of home life.

Many times in those days, I either watched or helped when a fresh shovel load of hot coals was brought to replenish the dwindling heat in the hearth. There remains a snapshot in my mind of those glowing embers, the hot red of burning wood blocks.

Sailor Jentle Ink has recently come out with a new shade of red they call IRORI. And in fact, the color bears some resemblance to the hot coals described above in the sunken hearth of that old farmhouse. Though it is a red ink, there is definitely some orange in it, and when I first used the ink, my initial thought was of that old methiolate or Mercurochrome that we used to put on scrapes when I was a kid. It has that orangish hint, though I would never call it a red-orange ink. A note on the photo above—The fault is with my poor photography, and the actual ink is not so orange as it appears in the photo. I would have to say that Sailor chose a fitting name for this ink. Be poetic and call it “Hearth Glow Red.”

I’m impressed by how consistently smooth this ink is on different kinds of paper. No Moleskine, Clairefontaine or Rhodia, but two kinds of high quality Japanese paper, a page in a cheap Muji notebook, and a trial on ordinary white copy paper; the Irori ink wrote evenly and smoothly on all four. Saturation is very good with this red, and shading to any degree is pretty much absent. I used a Sailor Professional Gear fountain pen with a 14 carat M nib. This is a wet nib with almost all inks, so the flow onto the page was smooth and generous, but without any feathering or bleed through. Drying time is not especially slow, but then neither is it very fast. You can pretty much count on dry ink after fifteen seconds. One thing you can say about this ink is, it’s bold and eye-catching and will definitely be noticed, maybe even with a compliment on your choice of ink.

1 comment:

  1. Even though we visited Yamanashi when it was not as cold as you described, it was cold enough to sit and keep warm at the irori. The way you described the village is just as I remembered it, too and I loved the old ways the Japanese family still did things, preserving some of the Japanese heritage.


About Me

My photo
Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America