Colors of Japan Woven by the Five Senses
Ueba Eso, Japan's Oldest Pigment Shop
Since its establishment in 1751, Ueba Eso, Japan's oldest pigment shop, has been situated in Kyoto's Tōrō-cho area for approximately 270 years. Our skilled artisans continue to pursue the handcrafted, delicate and beautiful colors of Japan.
Edo Period,the first year of the Hōreki era (1751)
First Generation Founder
The first-generation founder, Enoguya Sobei, established the pigment business in Tōrō-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City. During that time, popular painters like Ito Jakuchu and Maruyama Okyo were active in Kyoto. It was an era when Japanese painting blossomed, enjoyed by people from all walks of life. It was amongst this artistic flourishing that Ueba Eso began its journey.
Fifth Generation Head
During the fifth-generation head's era, solid pigments known as gansai were devised.
Taisho Period,the first year of the Taisho era (1912)
Sixth Generation Head
Under the leadership of the sixth-generation head, Ueba Shotaro established a factory in the southern part of Kyoto, Rakunan. This factory produced almost all the pigments used in Japan for Japanese painting, design, and crafts. During the Taisho era, the spirit of "Taisho Roman" bloomed, and art pieces were influenced by the art nouveau and art deco styles. The current trademark of Ueba Eso, the design of the "White Fox" ("Byakko"), is said to have been conceived by the sixth-generation head.
Early Showa Period
Seventh Generation Head
During the wartime, the supply of raw materials from overseas was cut off. The seventh-generation head, Ueba Shozaemon, devised a new type of rock pigment (artificial rock pigment) to replace the unavailable natural minerals with domestically produced artificial stones.
Heisei Period, the first year of the Heisei era (1989)
Tenth Generation Head
Along with the general shrinking of the art market, the environment surrounding Japanese painting became increasingly more challenging, and the number of artists decreased. In order to preserve the traditional techniques and colors, we ventured into new industries separate from traditional pigments. In 2010, we developed a water-soluble nail polish called "Gofun Nail" using gofun, a natural material used as a raw material for pigments. Since then, we have continued to develop a diverse range of "Gofun Cosmetics," such as "Gofun Soap," "Medical Hand Moisture Gel MIZUMIZU," and "Kyohanamai," all made with gofun, and delivering products to everyone.
The Beginning: "Gofun Industry"
In 1751, the first generation, Enoguya Sobei, started the "Gofun Industry" and has been engaged in the manufacturing and wholesale of traditional Japanese pigments for over 270 years. Gofun is an essential white pigment used in Japanese paintings, meticulously created through a long and intricate process. It is not only used in paintings but also for the base of wood carvings, protecting wooden materials in construction, as an undercoat for vibrant colors, and in signboard lettering. It serves various purposes, such as protecting paper, silk, and wood from weathering, mold, preventing cracks, and enhancing the surface for a smooth finish.
Artisan Sensibility and Handcrafted Excellence
Over the ages renowned craftsmen have utilized the pure water of Kyoto, well-known for its artistic and craft tradition, in the traditional water-flying method used for creating gofun, mineral pigments (iwa-enogu) and powdered paint (suihi-enogu). Instead of relying on machines, our highly skilled artisans employ their keen senses and artistic sensibility in manual labor to produce top-quality, uniform pigments. Professional artists often praise Ueba Eso's pigments, noting how much of a difference they make in brushwork.
Traditional Colors of Japan
Defying the trends of modern simplicity and mechanization, we have kept the art of handcrafting, upholding history, tradition, and maintaining our reputation for meticulous work that never compromises quality. By continuing to create delicate Japanese colors through dedicated craftsmanship, we safeguard the beautiful traditional colors and techniques of Japan, even in an age of digitalization in the art world. Offering a selection of 1200 colors and 700 art materials, we deliver the traditional and refined colors of Japan, from the historic location of Kyoto's Tōrō-cho in the Shimogyo-ku, to future generations.
Trademark: "Byakko Mark" (White Fox Mark)
The trademark of Ueba Eso is the "Byakko" (white fox), a design believed to have been created by the sixth generation head during the Taisho period which has a somewhat modern atmosphere influenced by the art nouveau trend of its time. This elegant "White Fox" design adorns the packaging of the signature "Gofun" and "Gofun Nail" products and has been cherished by everyone for over 100 years.