--What is a "Monsho-uwaeshi"?
Shoryu Hatoba (S)：A Monsho-uwaeshi inscribes Kamon family crests onto kimonos by hand. I am now the third generation owner, and the founder Mr. Genji first came to Tokyo in 1910 from Mamada in Tochigi Prefecture. He started as a craftsman in Kyobashi who applied starch glue to kimonos in the shape of Kamon crests. His shop's name combined the "Kyo" of Kyobashi with the "Gen" of his name to form "Kyo-gen". In World War Two, however, his shop was burned down in the aerial bombing, ending the history of the "Kyo-gen" shop for a time.
Yoji Hatoba（Y）：The 2nd generation and 3rd generation (my father) became independent as Kamon Monsho-uwaeshi craftsmen, but a variety of events led to my father establishing a general Kimono processing company. About ten years ago, my father wanted to find a place where he could "leave behind a product of his own" in addition to processing kimonos, and thus found Ueno in Taito City. That was seven years ago now. We had no connection to the area at the time, though. When we moved here, we revived our old "Kyogen" name with the determination to "return to our origins as a business specialized in kamon". That led to the creation of our workshop "Studio Kyogen".
--As the 3rd generation, why did you start designing new products?
S： In 1964, a new design product exhibition was held at Mitsukoshi Department Store, and my father (the second generation) presented Kamon inscribed on an autograph board. That led to framed Kamon spreading throughout all of Japan. When I reached 50 years of age, I wanted to create some product I could leave behind, and thus started designing products that combing Edo Komon patterns with Kamon crests.
Y： Once, I was asked to design a logo. I had to turn in the design in the form of digital data, and at the time I didn't know anybody who could help with this, so I bought myself a book on Illustrator, and was able to somehow produce the design during the one month trial period. After that, I felt the software would be useful in our work going forward, so I purchased it, and also used another software product to build our website myself. At first, "kamon design" was a hard business for people to understand, but we were blessed with people who supported our activities, and received many introductions to different individuals, and started getting inquiries through our website. After being involved in many different kinds of projects, the idea of "so this is what kamon design is" started to spread, and our range of activities grew even further.
--What is interesting about designing Kamon?
S： The history of kamon goes back over a thousand years, and as the patterns have already been set, it is difficult to create new designs. I find it interesting, however, to create designs that harmonize with modern life while preserving the essential qualities of the kamon. We do personal kamon design, corporate logos, and package designs, and orders from overseas have even been increasing recently.
--Has anything particular changed in the area since you've come here?
Y：This neighborhood really preserves the atmosphere of the good old "shitamachi" downtown. We joined the Youth League of the Chamber of Commerce when we first arrived, which helped us establish connections in the area, and I found just how fun it is to do something together with people gathered from a range of ages and professional backgrounds. I felt very comfortable and happy through that experience. The bonds I've made by coming to this neighborhood have allowed me to create so many different things. I feel like my path has truly opened up since coming here. The people are very warm and welcoming.
Kyo-gen Studio opened 2010 inside a renovated old residential home situated in Inari-cho. While preserving the traditional techniques of "Monsho-uwaeshi", craftsmen who inscribe kamon (family crests) by hand onto kimono, Kyo-gen devotes itself to creating new kamon designs for corporations & individuals based on the concept of "kamon in the context of modern design". They propose new forms of combining kamon with products, collaborating with designers of various genres.