When Kakimori brought high-end artisanal pens and customized notebooks to a quiet Shitamachi neighborhood south of Asakusa, there was no guarantee it would be a success. The quiet area north of Kuramae Station, an under-trafficked junction on the Toei Asakusa and Toei Oedo Lines, is now home to Kakimori’s sister store “inkstand by kakimori” with a new concept: “Make your color, Meet your color” - custom ink colors, designed by customers.
Although fountain pens and high-quality ink have had something of a revival among Western cognoscenti, Tokyo has always been home to dozens of shops stocking the traditional implements. There is no shortage of shops around Tokyo to pick up a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku or Waterman ink, and digging deeper, it’s not hard to find unusual or limited-edition shades. Ink Stand’s sister shop, Kakimori, has its own run of custom shades. But the idea at Ink Stand is different: “Everyone should have a color that truly represents them.” Customers sit down at a bar and, with a bit of guidance, begin mixing and matching colors to develop a truly unique ink.
Customers use a note sheet to annotate their creations as they go, jotting down ratios and colors mixed, with a space for test writing. Bottles of ink, droppers, test pens and sheets of paper are arrayed on the workstation. The whole process takes about an hour and a half, with the first 45 minutes set aside for you to test potential creations and go back to the drawing board as many times as you need. Once the recipe is set, the ink is bottled with the bottling process taking around 40 minutes.
The shop offers five slots a day, the first at 11am and the last at 5pm, with spaces limited by the number of seats at the bar. One of the benefits of the shop’s Kuramae location is that it remains somewhat unknown. Making a reservation at Ink Stand’s website is painless and will guarantee you a spot. The price for mixing a single bottle runs a modest 2,700 yen. The shop sells a basic roller ball pen (1,728 yen) to get you started, although because you’ll be in the neighborhood, it’s not a bad idea to take the walk to nearby sister shop Kakimori to pick up a prettier and sturdier implement.
The gift box with pen and ink laid side by side makes a unique and personal present. If, on the other hand, you are mixing ink for yourself and want to pick up another bottle later, make sure to hold on to the recipe card and send a mail on the serial number to the shop —which can formulate your unique color and ship out another bottle to you up to two years after your visit.
The neighborhood of Kuramae that Ink Stand calls home is not on the itinerary of most visitors to the city, and even those who live in East Tokyo may have never wandered through this particular quarter. But the location makes sense, nestled in Tokyo’s Shitamachi, once home to the city’s craftsmen, and easy to get to from Kuramae Station or perhaps on a stroll through Kotobuki, following the Sumida down from Asakusa, or a slight detour walking from Akihabara or Ryogoku to Asakusa.