Saiundo – A Japanese art supplies store with over 800 highly transparent pigments
Saiundo has been specializing in the production and sale of Japanese art supplies since the 1870s.
Facing Aneyakoji-dori, a street known even in Kyoto for its traditional machiya townhouses, Saiundo has an intimidatingly old-fashioned air to it that makes it hard for even locals to take the first step inside.
The reason for this lies in the store’s attitude toward “change.”
Not only has Saiundo’s building remained the same, but so has its methods of production and sales.
Stepping inside the store, you’re greeted by a wall of iwa-eunogu and suihi-enogu pigments.
Iwa-enogu is a type of pigment made from ground natural minerals, while suihi-enogu is made from seashells colored with dye.
While prices vary between colors, you can purchase exact amounts of each, with iwa-enogu pigments starting at ¥120 for 15 grams and the finer, more spreadable suihi-enogu pigments starting at ¥200 per 15 grams.
Also, while a lot of stores have moved to plastic containers to save weight, Saiundo sells all their paints in ceramic containers.
Another aspect of Saiundo that has remained unchanged and become rather uncommon nowadays is the mise-no-ma style of retail space. In the olden days, Kyoto townhouses would have a room located right next to the entrance specifically for welcoming guests or customers. As stores were also often people’s homes, they would be run out of these one-room mise-no-ma spaces – meaning that they only fit around two or three people.
Although possibly quite cramped for some, this traditional shop layout lets you experience shopping in what feels like the entranceway of someone’s home.
One of the original pioneers of gansai and suihi-enogu pigments, Saiundo’s paints offer gentle, faint colors, which mix distinctively well with ink.
At first glance, the paints may look very strong, but as they need to be diluted in water before use, their actual colors are a lot lighter.
Saiundo is an incredible store for not only paint supplies but calligraphy and other lettering tools too.
Kaku-Gansai Paints – 16 Colors
/ ¥4,100 (excl. tax) *other sizes: ¥2,000/6 colors, ¥2,400/8 colors, and ¥3,200/12 colors
Gansai are a type of Japanese paint.
While some paints require pigments, such as iwa-enogu, or gelatin to be mixed in before use to help bring out their colors or to make them stick, these gansai paints can be used simply by wetting them with a brush.
The paints can be purchased from sets of six, but we recommend the larger sets as the more colors, the less they’ll be ruined through mixing.
/ ¥950 – ¥2,000 (excl. tax)
These are Saiundo’s delicate artisian thin brushes made locally in Kyoto.
As a great deal of Japanese painting requires incredibly subtle lines, these kinds of thin brushes are a must for expressing hair, fur, branches and stalks.
The different combinations of bristles (which animal fur, etc.) and thickness of the bamboo handle mean that there is an abundance of variations.
Like in that one wizard movie, Saiundo’s shelves are simply bursting with brushes, so take your time to search for the one that calls to you.
Brushes can also be tested.
3Check it out!
Teppachi – Single Color Pots
/ ¥500 – ¥1,800 (excl. tax)
Saiundo’s Teppachi are single color pots versions of the saigan paints we introduced above.
As the pots are made of ceramic, you can use them as is and adjust the thickness of the paint by dabbing them with a moistened paintbrush and mixing them with your finger.
Each of the pots has the characters “彩雲堂” (saiundo) hand-painted on them, so after you’re finished with the paint, you can keep the pots as a souvenir.