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Hand made Smoke Ink 『Suzuka-sumi』

Hand made Smoke Ink 『Suzuka-sumi』

What is ‘Suzuka-sumi (Suzuka Ink)’? …A tool used in ‘Shodo (Japanese calligraphy)’, one of the historical Japanese Cultures along with the tea ceremony and flower arrangement, it is a solid ink used to make ink by dripping a small amount of water on an inkstone and rubbing.

The origin of Suzuka-sumi is said to be in the Enryaku Period in Japanese history (782~806), and it is said that the soot taken from burned Koe-matsu (old pine tree), grown in the mountains of Suzuka in Mie Prefecture, was used to make the ink.
Suzuka-sumi is very good for creating works, is elegant and thick, and its baseline and bleeding work in perfect harmony.
In addition, the current Suzuka-sumi is very smooth and is widely used by Calligraphy lovers. Suzuka-sumi can also be used as a dye for dyeing or as a paint.
‘Ryuno (borneol)’ is kneaded into Suzuka-sumi. The scent from the ink that makes you feel refreshingly elegant is due to this borneol.

Suzuka-sumi has a history of about 1,200 years and is the only legendary craft designated by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry in Japan. Since ancient times, all processes have been hand-made by skilled traditional craftsmen without changing raw materials or manufacturing methods.

Manufacturing Process
The production period is from October to April when the temperature is low. Pine or vegetable oil is burned to remove the soot, which is then mixed with glue that has been boiled in hot water and made into starch syrup. Whilst still hot it is carefully kneaded by hand and put into a wooden mold, shaped with a plane and dried in ashes over several weeks. It is then hung by woven straw to dry for more than half a year. Once dry, a glaze is applied and it is finally complete. During the ash drying period, the ash must be replaced daily. In addition, ‘rough kneading’ is a process of stretching and kneading by hand repeatedly, which needs all one’s strength and entire body weight to do, making it a harsh task.

It is with this much time, effort and labor, 1,200 years of history, and the craftsman’s desire to ‘make good sumi (ink)’ that Suzuka-sumi is created.

Solid ink is divided into pine smoke ink (shoen-boku) and oil smoke ink (yuen-boku) depending on the difference in soot, which is the main raw material.

Pine Smoke Ink (Blue Ink)
As the name implies, pine smoke ink is made from the soot made by burning pine wood pieces. Due to the uneven combustion temperature and uneven particle size, it emits a wide range of blackish colors from heavy black to blue-gray. Those with a bluish color are called blue ink (sei-boku).

Oil Smoke Ink
Oil smoke ink is mainly made from soot made by burning vegetable oil. The manufacturing method is to put the oil in an earthenware pot, light the wick, and collect the soot from the lid of the pot. Seed oil is the most suitable raw material, but sesame oil, soybean oil, camellia oil, etc. are also used. The soot particles are fine and uniform, giving off a lustrous, deep brownish black color.

Company, Craftsman Description

Shinsei-do dedicated to Suzuka-sumi          Suzuka-sumi Craftsman: Ink Master Mr. Kido Ito

Currently, he is the only traditional craftsman to inherit Suzuka-sumi.
Whilst inheriting the 1,200-year history of Suzuka-sumi, he is also an innovator who is creating new ink and value that has never been seen before.
He has had a brilliant career such as receiving the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Award, and the Modern Master Craftsman Award.

Brief career summary
2008        Mie Prefecture Governor’s Award recipient
          Chubu Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry Award recipient
2010        Published a book entitled ‘Umeboshi and Eel’
2012 (December) Suzuka City Government Achievement Award recipient
2013 (November) Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Award recipient
2014 (November) Outstanding Technician Commendation Award for Modern Master Craftsmanship recipient

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