Suzuka inksticks Suzuka sumi
The Timeless and Stunning Beauty of Sumi Color
Following the Tradition of Superfine Japanese Sumi
What is Suzuka inksticks ?
Suzuka Sumi is made in the Shiroko District of Suzuka City, Mie Prefecture, and is the only sumi (inkstick) brand designated as one of the Traditional Crafts in Japan; today only one family, Shinseido, still preserves the tradition. Suzuka Sumi is generally made from pine trees growing in the local mountains and the climate of the region being ideal for sumi production helps ensure very high quality products. To meet the demand of the times, production techniques have been improved and today Suzuka Sumi is much appreciated by people practicing calligraphy or painting; it is also known as a quality dye and an artistic handicraft product useful for coloring and carving.
Since Suzuka Sumi upholds the traditional making process using a natural gelatinous glue called nikawa, it has an exquisite beauty seen in long-lasting and blurred colors, sharp lines, and great feeling brush strokes. Suzuka Sumi is also known to gain a deeper sumi color when left for some time to mature in a storeroom; this is a characteristic of using natural glues. Among the many sumi brands, Shinseido was the first to succeed in making colored sumi, and today a wide range of colorful variations of Suzuka Sumi are produced.
Scholars believe that the history of Suzuka Sumi began in the early Heian period when resin harvested from the pines of the Suzuka Mountains was burnt and the resulting soot mixed with nikawa and shaped into sumi sticks. Suzuka is blessed with good pine trees and weak alkaline water, both essential to make quality sumi. In the Edo period, every ruling feudal family had their own family crest, which would be drawn in sumi on formal dress; kamishimo for men and komon for women. This naturally gave rise to the demand for quality sumi. From around this time, the nationwide spread of private elementary schools in temples also increased the demand for sumi.
To satisfy the demand, production methods were improved and coupled with the protection of the Tokugawa family and the Kishu domain the industry flourished; the traditional manufacturing techniques are still practiced today. A variety of different sumi are produced such as yuenboku made from lampblack known for its glossy deep and pure black, while shouenboku made from pine soot has a range of ink colors from dense black to bluish gray; there are also special sumi such as irozumi, color inksticks.
General Production Process
Where to Buy & More Information
Igayaki Dento Sangyo Kaikan
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