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Sustainable Beauty from Kyoto – A Dialogue between NEMOHAMO and SARASA YOSHIOKA

Sustainable Beauty from Kyoto – A Dialogue between NEMOHAMO and SARASA YOSHIOKA

Socio de contenido

TSUMUGINO KYOTO is a website and magazine dedicated to the millennium-old city of Kyoto embarking on the next 1000 years of sustainable development.

Socio de contenido

TSUMUGINO KYOTO is a website and magazine dedicated to the millennium-old city of Kyoto embarking on the next 1000 years of sustainable development.

Kinue Ichimiya, manager of NEMOHAMO BEAUTY’s operations department (left) and Sarasa Yoshioka, dyer and sixth-generation head of Somenotsukasa Yoshioka (right)
NEMOHAMO is a Kyoto-based brand of organic cosmetic products using extracts of carefully grown organic plants from the roots and leaves to the stalks, flowers, and fruits. Their key material is otane-ninjin or “ginseng,” a staple of Wakan, a fusion of Japanese and Chinese medicine, and they have been rolling out products since December 2019.

Sarasa Yoshioka
Sarasa Yoshioka is a textile dyer and the sixth-generation head of Somenotsukasa Yoshioka (or Textiles Yoshioka) in Kyoto. After working as a sales representative at a clothing store, she spent about two years learning dyeing, weaving, sericulture, silk reeling, and silk throwing at the Silk Museum in Seiyo City, Ehime Prefecture. She returned to Kyoto in 2008 and began working in natural dyeing with her father Sachio Yoshioka. She is engaged in a wide range of work, including creating artwork for hotels and airports as well as annual events held at old shrines and temples.

Put on the timeless beauty with gratitude for the blessings of plants

Kinue Ichimiya is in charge of communicating the mission of NEMOHAMO, a brand of organic cosmetics using whole plants to bring out the natural beauty in everyone’s skin. Sarasa Yoshioka is a dyeing artist who creates a wide range of colors just from natural materials. We asked these two about their thoughts on plants, which are indispensable gifts of nature for both of their jobs and products.

Learning from time-tested wisdom to benefit from the power of plants

— So, Kinue, how was your visit to Somenotsukasa Yoshioka Kyoto Shop in Gion the other day?

Kinue (hereafter “K”): As soon as I went into the shop, I saw these beautiful colors. I had been having such a busy day that I couldn’t even take a lunch break, but when I entered, it was like I could breathe deeply all of a sudden, and my mind was in the present. In short, I felt revived. Could it have been the power of nature?

Sarasa (hereafter “S”): Our dyes use mostly plants and natural materials that are tied to the energy of plants. There are many different types of natural dyes including plant dyes, but at our studio, we use only dye materials that old records show have been tested and chosen by people for ages. We only want to use materials that have been proven to be therapeutic to the heart and harmonious with human life for at least a thousand years.

Products that deliver beautiful stories to our daily life

— I see. So, you use plants as dye materials, and as for NEMOHAMO, they are the ingredients for the organic cosmetic products. How do each of you collect plants?

S: I collect some with my own hands, some from dyestuff stores. There are also some that are imported as Chinese medicine, and I often procure these through drug companies. In addition, some plants are from farms with which we have contracts. For example, a farm in Oita Prefecture grows purple gromwell for us. This is nearly extinct in Japan and difficult to collect in the wild. The farm once stopped its cultivation for a while, but resumed it about twenty years ago, and we’ve been partnering ever since. Old records show that purple gromwell has been cultivated in Oita prefecture since the eighth century during the Nara period. It’s rich in coloring matter, and it creates a purple that is more beautiful than imported ones.
Dried purple gromwell roots. They had a faintly tangy aroma.
K: NEMOHAMO, as the name suggests, makes products using the roots, leaves, stocks, flowers, and fruits—in short, the whole plant. (In its literal sense, “nemohamo” roughly means “roots and leaves and all” in English.) Many of the plants we use are grown at our company farm and satoyama (hills/mountains near towns/villages in Japan where agriculture, forestry, etc. are practiced in traditional styles without excessive land development) in Fukuoka Prefecture, and we get fresh extracts at a factory right next to the farm. Our brand’s key plant is otane-ninjin, which has been used in Wakan medicine for a long time. We have a contract with a farm in Tsushima, Nagasaki, and they grow organic otane-ninjin for us. We are very grateful because, without these producers, we wouldn’t be able to stably deliver our one hundred-percent natural cosmetics. Of course, we are also very thankful that more and more people are using our products.

Connecting with nature, materials, and producers brings value with coherence

K: It’s a joy to be able to confidently explain to the customers how the producers grow the plants and what extraction methods are used to make the products. The Booster Oil that you, Sarasa, tried was made using our original refinement method that involves multiple stages of processing camellia, rice bran, and ginseng. The resulting oil consists of small molecules, and it conditions the skin to make it easy for the lotion or toner to permeate. It’s an oil to plow the skin, so to speak. How was it?

S: Just after using it a few times, my impression was that it was great! I was told it was crucial to keep using it regularly like Wakan medicines, but I noticed it’s good pretty quickly. I also used the Aging Care Lotion with it, and I thought it was nice that it came in a refillable container.
Camellia growing at NEMOHAMO’s company farm. It is cool-pressed to make the booster oil.
K: Yes, we use refill pouches to reduce plastic waste, and we use environmentally friendly paper for the boxes. By visiting the satoyama in Fukuoka prefecture, where our factory is located, you can really get the feeling that organic cosmetics are a gift of nature. You can see that the beautiful wilderness that has nurtured plants since time immemorial is the factory of all blessings including our cosmetic products. However, unfavorable weather due to climate change in the recent years is making the promise of stable production precarious. We must work closely with the producers to protect the plants.
S: I agree; it is very important to connect with the producers. I try to disseminate the power of color and the history and background of textile dying, including information I gathered from the producers by visiting the sites of production. Customers who come into our shop sometimes ask the names of the dye matters and the production methods in detail, and I try to satisfy their interest in natural dyes as much as possible. I think it is my task to inform people of the wonderful feature of textile dying that delivers beautiful colors produced by nature.

NEMOHAMO company store
Phone: 075-352-3712
GOOD NATURE STATION 3F, 318-6 Inari-cho, kawaramachi-dori shijokudaru2, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
Open 11:00 - 19:30 (irregular holidays)
*This information is subject to change in accordance with safety measures including those for COVID-19. Kindly check the website for the latest information.

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TSUMUGINO KYOTO is a website and magazine dedicated to the millennium-old city of Kyoto embarking on the next 1000 years of sustainable development.