Day 2 | Osaka - Nagahama

Gofun powder factory shelves

Little sleep last night. There was a lot of noise on the road, which made it difficult to sleep. But it was also the first night without my sweetheart, it felt strange to sleep alone.

Our suitcases are packed and we are ready to go to the GOFUN factory somewhere between Osaka and Kyoto.

I stop for a coffee and a slice of cake at the Starbucks around the corner while Vladimir goes to deliver his design to the risoprinters.

Then we put our luggage in a locker for the rest of the day and board the train to Kyoto. Two trains later we arrive at the Gofun factory. It is one of the things I was really looking forward to. Vladimir is interested in joining me, although it’s not really at the top of his list of excursions. We are at the gate of the factory a good twenty minutes early (where do I put this!). We are ushered into a small room. It is filled from top to bottom with glass bottles of pigment. Amazing degradations and very intense hues. I could enjoy this for a whole day. My companion is getting more and more enthusiastic as well.

We wait a little for the other group. Four young Swiss come in. Everyone takes off their shoes and the factory manager translates the half-hour Japanese video. The company was taken over by his family 130 years ago. He shows a picture of piles of oyster shells collected by his ancestors and their predecessors.

Gofun powder factory oysters stock

The shells have to ‘mature’ for about 20 years before they can be ground into gofun. As with many things in Japan - everything is prepared with care and a lot of patience. It takes about 18 months to turn a shell into gofun. So far, nothing has been changed in the process of making gofun. Only the grindstones are now driven by electricity.

In a series of stages, the oysters are ground into increasingly fine pieces. In order to separate the finest grains from the coarser dregs, they are mixed with water. The real natural oysters used for the finest gofun (say ‘golden pelican’) are at least 10cm thick (a half!) and three times the size of what we call a large oyster. There must have been food in that …

Gofun powder factory bottles of coloured pigments

In short. Afther the video and guided tour, we are all very excited, GOFUN and pigment are purchased.

We get the email address of the only authentic bar maker in Japan, living in Tokyo, and off we go. My suitcase is half a kilo heavier than it was in the morning.


Japan’s last gofun factory is quite remote, so it will be an evening of trains and buses to get to Nagahama.

We eat our bento boxes in peace and quiet on the platform in Nagahama. All of a sudden we notice that the last bus to our hotel is due to leave at any moment.

After a brisk sprint around the station in the rain, we see a bus in the parking lot of the bus terminal. The driver tells us to go to platform 2 for the bus to our hotel.

At platform 2, five minutes later, the same bus approaches. It stops. We are allowed to get on board. Right is right. And a stop is a stop. That’s how it works :joy: