- About Kinkoen
It was approximately 150 years ago when our ancestors opened their very own workshop, Kinkoen.
Still today, Kinkoen’s 6th generation artisan, Bokuen Nagano, continues the tradition of making Nara Sumi ink with soot, gelatin, and fragrant spices. It is said that traditionally made Nara Sumi ink can be used for up to 1,000 years. As we make each stick of ink individually by hand, it is both unique to this time and place, and possesses the longevity to reach countless generations of the future. In recent years, sharing our tradition of sumi has become a way to share the culture of Nara and Japan with many people, and for us to learn about our visitors as well. We hope this tradition can serve as a bridge to connect us with you as well.
Our workshop is located in historic Naramachi, in the middle of Nara City
This area is known for its narrow streets filled with traditional Machiya-style buildings, which house many traditional shops and workshops like our own. It is a great area to just casually walk around. We are conveniently located within walking distance of both JR Nara Station and Kintetsu Nara Station, as well as Nara Park (famous for its many deer), Todai-ji Temple, and Kofuku-ji Temple.
Our workshop is calm and quiet, and welcomes our visitors with the subtle aroma of our sumi. Whether you stop by for a Gripped Sumi Experience or for our sumi products, we are sure you will leave here with a new understanding and appreciation of Nara.
The Wonder of Japanese Culture That I Felt Once Again While Living Abroad
After graduating from my university, I didn’t immediately become an ink artisan, but worked in a company for a little while, and then spent a number of years abroad before finally taking over the family business when I was 30. In Japanese, there is an old phrase that says, “We grow up while looking at our parent’s back”, and after being born and raised in a household of generational artisan, it was only natural that I took over the family business.
The wonder I once again felt of Japanese culture while I was abroad, that I myself would take this over, came from the feeling that I rediscovered something.
In recent years, using the Gripped Sumi Experience as a way to speak with both Japanese and non-Japanese people about Japanese culture, especially calligraphy and sumi, is the one thing I enjoy more than anything else. From now and forever, I want to preserve Kinkoen as a place where everyone can casually gather and talk about these things.
Bokuen Nagano, 6th Generation Ink Artisan
I would like for younger generations to know about the existence of ink and how wonderful it is, and learn about traditional culture of Nara through ink.
The demand for solid ink sticks in Japan has been going down year by year.
Even in education at schools, there are hardly any chances for students to rub ink sticks.
At Kinkoen, we are working to help young people learn about the existence and wonder of sumistick, and about the traditional culture of Nara through sumistick.
Also, in recent years many people come to Japan to passionately study and experience Japanese culture.
Kinkoen feels a daily devotion to help spread this traditional culture of Nara, not just in Japan, but across borders and around the world.
Atsushi Nagano, 7th Generation Ink Artisan