December 13, 2009
by Yuki Iwata ; Shoma HOrikawa
The History of Iemon/Fukujyuen
Iemon was established as a business in 1790. At first, it exported tea from the port of Kobe and sold tea wholesale in Japan. In 1952 it opened its first retail shop in Kyoto Station and later opened other tea shops around the country. Iemon decided not to open any branches in Japan’s department stores.
Iemon produces and sells teas from Uji, an area near Kyoto that is famous for its tea. The company uses only containers made in Kyoto to store its teas. It is also particular about the water it uses, choosing pure water from Yamazaki, an area between Kyoto and Osaka, which is considered to be among the 100 best water sources in Japan. The company’s factories have facilities to dry, pack, and refrigerate the tea it produces.
Iemon manages its tea production with a state-of-the-art computer system and with cost-efficient and laborsaving measures, while, at the same time, preserving its reputation for producing the highest quality tea. As a result, the company has been able to expand its business into overseas markets. In 2001 it established a store in Singapore and later, another one in Taiwan. In 2004 Iemon changed its company name to Fukujyuen. It has acquired an international reputation for its tea. The main store is still located in Kyoto.
A Visit to the Iemon/Fukujyuen Main Shop
We visited the main shop of Iemon/Fukujyuen in Kyoto near the intersection of Shijyo and Tomokoji Streets. The building has six stories and a basement. We will tell you what is on each floor:
• In the basement, customers can produce their own original mixture of green tea with the help of a tea professional.
• On the first floor is where teas and related products are sold.
• A restaurant and café are found on the second floor.
• On the third floor is a French restaurant where Japanese green tea is used as an ingredient in French dishes. The chef is Tetsuya Nakano who was chef at Maxim’s de Paris in Ginza. His philosophy for cooking includes the principles of food being “more delicious, more cheerful, more healthy, and more beautiful.”
• A tearoom is located on the fourth floor where customers can experience being served green tea in the traditional way.
• You can buy Kyoto pottery on the fifth floor of the Iemon/Fukujyuen building. The pottery is very beautiful but expensive.
• On the sixth floor is a conference room. The floor of the room was built using beautiful stones brought in from many local areas in Japan. It’s very impressive.
During our visit to Iemon/Fukujyuen we asked a helpful salesperson, “Where do most of your foreign customers come from?” He said many Europeans stop in at the shop during their trips to Kyoto, with especially a large number of Germans visiting. It seems Japan is very popular in Europe. We came to realize that the Iemon/Fukujyuen tea shop offers a comprehensive survey of Japanese culture. Not only foreigners but also Japanese should visit.
Iemon/Fukujyuen is located on the southwest corner of the Shijyo/Tomokoji intersection. It is about halfway between the Karasuma and Kawaramachi stations of the Hankyu Rail line. The phone number is 075-221-2920 .