What Is This 268-Year Old Shop Selling

Ueba Eso

The brochure of Ueba Eso says it was founded in 1751 as a retailer of paints.  Claiming the oldest of its kind in Japan, Ueba Eso has been providing its wealth of colors to almost all the Japanese artists.  At its peak, it was selling over 700 different items.

After the bubble has burst in 1989, however, the demand for Japanese paintings has plummeted.  How could they survive in the severe economic downturn?  The 10th generation president had to act.

Today, when you visit Ueba Eso’s main shop in the center of Kyoto, in addition to their original paints for artists of Japanese paintings, you find small bottles with so many different colors.  Yes, they have developed nail polish from the same ingredients that have been used for Japanese paintings.

The main ingredient is Gofun, finely ground shell of Japanese scallops.  Gofun is white, and Ueba Eso adds pigments to create variety colors, just like paints.  Their nail polish doesn’t use any volatile organic solvent but distilled water.  No wonder it doesn’t have that strong smell a normal nail polish would have.

I don’t wear nail polish, but Ueba Eso’s Gofun Nail is something I can take home as nice souvenirs for my friends in the US!

When in Kyoto, how about visiting Gofun Nail to encounter something old and new?

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