On my third visit to Japan in December 2017, I made a very special stop on my last day in Tokyo before flying home. I had long heard about the amazing Bung Box ink colors and really wanted to go visit a Bung Box store myself. So with several hours left to go to the airport, I took myself over to Omotesando (left my luggage in a train station locker) where one of the two stores are located.
The Omotesando store is very cute and small, just one little main room and a small back room. When I walked in the owner, Kaoru, was the one in the store that day. At the till there is a display case where she had some Bung Box original fountain pens on display. My favorites were the mother-of-pearl adorned black TWSBI Ecos. They were insanely gorgeous and I really debated getting one, but I was there on a mission: ink.
On the wall to the right was a full display of all other manners of Bung Box items including their inks. As I browsed I chatted with Kaoru about getting into fountain pens and how I'd heard of her inks as well as learned from her about her inspiration for her ink colors and how she'd originally gotten into fountain pens. Then she showed me that I could actually try out all of her inks at a little desk that she had by the window!
All the inks were loaded up in order in mostly Jinhaos. Next to them she had a binder with examples of all inks in both normal scribbles and cute little drawings, labeled in English and Japanese. And on top of all that she had a Pilot branded paper pad that I could try them out on (didn't bring a pad of Borden & Riley with me).
I tried out a bunch of different colors, mostly ones that looked interesting and that I heard about on r/fountainpens, and then ones that I thought would fit for some colored drawings that I was planning (will post a separate review about them and the drawings I made) using a color palette inspired by Itaya Hazan's glazes.
I was a little surprised to find that a few of the inks that I was interested in were apparently out of stock for the time and possibly for several months. I'm conversationally fluent in Japanese, but wouldn't consider myself perfectly fluent, so from what I understood it just sometimes ended up being months between productions for Bung Box inks through Sailor and sometimes that means short term shortages of colors.
I really did have an interesting conversation spanning many different topics with Kaoru. One of the coolest pieces of information I found out was that she's considering opening a store in the US!! Seems she'd really love a shop in New York, but we'll see where she's able to end up. We also talked about the US fountain pen shows and I really hope that she'll make an appearance at one eventually.
Finally I picked out my favorite inks; Ebisu Gold (Yebis Gold), Bungubox 88, Omaezaki Sora (Sky), and Mother. So, so sadly, I found out that Ebisu Gold was one of the out of stock inks. Crushed, I returned to the samples to find something slightly similar that she did have in stock, and decided upon Soleil which works great as a bright accent addition to my other chosen inks, but it just wasn't the same. Ebisu Gold has a perfect, subdued golden color that works fantastic as an outlining color for my birds and as a fill color. It works perfectly with Omaezaki Sora, Mother, and Bungubox 88 to create a lovely gentle feel that really is similar to the palette of Itaya Hazan. To my extreme surprise, Kaoru very generously pulled out her last bottle that she was using for the testers, and poured me a little sample! I was and still am extremely grateful to have been provided the colors to create exactly the beautiful drawings I was envisioning!
The other inks that I loved but didn't want to buy at the moment included The Ink of the Witch, Kabayaki, and First Love Sapphire (although I have a sample of that at home). I think there were a few more too, but those are just the specific ones that I remember loving. Hopefully one day I'll have the budget for more!
I left Bung Box and Japan later that day, extremely satisfied with my trip there and excited for the pictures that I would soon get started drawing! Still not completely confident in using colors in my art, but I really felt that I could do some great work with these colors from Kaoru at Bung Box. If you've been following me on Instagram you'll have already seen these pictures, but I'll also make a post about them here soon.