The business acumen of Ibasen, who started a Uchiwa shop which was uncivilized in Edo
“Ibasen" deals in Japanese washi paper products such as Uchiwa, Sensu(folding fans), letter paper, and Goshuin stamp books. The store was established in 1590, the year of the founder's birth, and has been in business for about 400 years. Yoshida Nobuo, is the 14th generation owner. “The first generation was from Iba-cho, Hamamatsu City, and the official name of the shop is ‘Iba-ya’. People from Owari would possibly call it ‘Owariya’, and people from Mikawa would probably call it ‘Mikawaya’. Also, the name "Senzaburo" has been passed down from generation to generation, and customers started calling him "Iba-sen" for short.”
The first generation came to Edo around 1600 in the service of Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu. “At first, he was in the civil engineering industry to develop the city of Edo. When the development of Edo was finished in the Keicho era (1603-1867), all the people who came with Ieyasu went back to Mikawa, but our founder stayed here and bought paper and bamboo from all over Japan and sold them all over Edo.”
However, it was not easily profitable to only sell paper and bamboo materials. “The competition was getting severe, so we decided to start making fans since we had paper and Bamboo nearby. That's what we call the 'Edo Uchiwa’.”
“A plain white Uchiwa did not attract buyers so we printed something. So, I used the same woodblock printing technique as used in the Ukiyoe to print patterns. It worked out well, and famous painters such as Toyokuni Utagawa and Hiroshige joined us, and our business expanded to include not only uchiwa printing but also the publication of Ukiyoe.” The founder seems to have had exceptional merchant instincts as he succeeded in starting a new business in Edo, which was still an undeveloped area at that time.