History | Imayo & Co., Ltd. | 1861 KYOTO

An introduction to Imayo’s 150 years history, since its foundation in 1861.

Founder Yohei Imanishi (1835 – 1920) Founded the company in 1861, in Kyoto’s Gojo Sakai-machi.
The founder Yohei was born in 1835. He was an apprentice at a large fancy goods store called “Fujiya,” which had continued for 17 generations in the neighborhood of Kyoto’s Toji. His impressive way of working during his time there led him to be selected as the head clerk of Fujiya. Before long he was allowed to run a shop of his own, as the husband of Kinu, the daughter of his master, Seibei, and so in 1861, at age 26, he started to run a fancy goods wholesaler in Gojo Sakai-machi.
The town at the time was a wholesale district quite close to the business district of Kyoto, and it attracted many discriminating customers, who gathered from various places to procure goods. The founder Yohei’s shop sold many fancy goods including dyed cloth, ornaments to wear over kimono belt sashes, ornate hairpins and combs, which all beautifully decorated women in Japanese dress. He also sold rare and expensive items such as coral and tortoiseshell.
At the time, many merchants used secret code words called “fucho” instead of numbers in their business. The founder Yohei chose the code “o-mo-shi-ro-no-ha-na-za-ka-ri,” with the numerals 0 – 9 being replaced with each Japanese character. His choice of this code was motivated by his desire to offer “fun, elegant and interesting goods.” The “fucho” code was one of the basic tools of commerce, and the spirit that led founder Yohei to choose this kind of expression for his code, is the spirit that has been passed on as the basic principle of Imayo, from its founding to the present day.
Second generation Yohei Imanishi (1867 - 1929) Developed as a fancy goods store and began handling jade.
The second Yohei, Ikusaburo, was born in 1867. Ikusaburo was also very impressive during his apprenticeship, and as the husband of Sumi, the daughter of his master, the founder Yohei, he took over the business and the name, as the second Yohei.
In this way, the business was stabilized by welcoming excellent merchants as sons-in-law over two generations. As the circulation of Westernized and imported goods expanded rapidly, the second-generation Yohei began handling jade, etc., from China. He introduced many new products, such as beautiful ornaments which were not constrained by being either Western or Japanese in style, and new products at the height of fashion at the time, and the “o-mo-shi-ro-no-ha-na” (“interesting flower”) of the “fucho” code definitely bloomed.
Third Generation Yohei Imanishi (1888 – 1976) Expanded the business and began handling diamonds.
The third generation Yohei was Gisaburo, the eldest son of the second generation Yohei, and he began to take part in the Imayo business when he was 16 years old. He was very methodical and precise, but also loved challenges, and he started the handling of diamonds in addition to the jade, coral and pearls. With a very typical Kyoto style and his aesthetic sense and judgment, his goods, which were mostly jewelry, were novel and highly regarded, and the shops expanded to many other locations, including Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. His unrestrained efforts supported Imayo through the good times from the Taisho Era (1912-26) to the early period of the Showa Era (1926 - 1989).
However, the war was gradually intensifying. The Gojo road where the shop had been was expanded into a military road, so all the shops in the area, including Imayo, were demolished and forced to move to Narutaki. This was a difficult period, when business did not go well, but he still taught the precious stone business to his eldest son, Shinichi.
After the war, he passed the business on to Shinichi and spent an elegant retirement enjoying his hobbies of tea and Noh chanting, etc.
Fourth Generation Shinichi Imanishi (1912 – 2002) Overcame the confusion of wartime and achieved “manufacturing.”
The fourth generation, Shinichi, was trained in pearls in Kobe, then joined Imayo and learned the precious stone business from his father, the third generation Yohei. He was called to war twice, but managed to survive and return to Kyoto.
After the war, beginning with the wholesaling of pearls, he also restarted the wholesaling of diamonds and colored stones. He also began manufacturing in a handicraft studio, and a reliable quality gained him the trust of clients. When dealings increased during the period of high economic growth after the war, he introduced “casts,” so that several types of jewelry could be molded at the same time. He developed the business into a manufacturing and processing factory that combined the high quality of hand-made items with the productivity of casts.
In 1966 the company became incorporated with the participation of his eldest son, Nobuhiro, who would become the fifth generation. After the establishment of “Imayo & Co., Ltd.,” the operation of the business was left to Nobuhiro, and after requests by Isetan, with whom he had connections, Shinichi worked at building up overseas bases.
Fifth Generation Nobuhiro Imanishi (1940 - ) Revitalization and stabilization of the organization. A great leap forward in the period of high economic growth.
The fifth generation, Nobuhiro, first worked for an automobile manufacturer before he joined the family business.
He was appointed as the fifth generation president in 1981. He completed the head office building, in Takeya-machi, Karasuma, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City, near to the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and moved the business base from Narutaki. He put full effort into the direct procurement of diamonds and emeralds from overseas, and improved Imayo’s business results as a “craftsman of business.”
As we entered the 21st century, after first participating in the millennium scheme of the De Beers Group, he expanded sales outlets by participating in many of the plans of that Group. He gradually started handing over the business after his eldest son Nobutaka joined the company, but he continues to be ever-active, as he concentrates his efforts into contributions to society.
In 2011, Nobutaka, his eldest son, became the sixth-generation president, and the curtains opened on a new era for Imayo. He will work at more and more new challenges, whilst always respecting the history of the company, which has been passed on over the generations.