Makinohara is a Japanese tea company, focused on production of good-quality tea. Their new products included 3 variations of powdered tea - Sencha, Hojicha and Genmaicha. The brief was to redesign the labels for the tins so that they would attract more attention (especially of the younger audience).
For the new designs I have created illustrations inspired by the Japanese folklore and yokai - supernatural beings. I have selected three different legends and adapted the colour palettes of each illustration to the kind of tea it was supposed to represent. Thus, Sencha green tea has received a lot of bright green, whereas the Hojicha tea illustration is dominated by rusty red accents.

Take a look at the illustrations for the project here.


For Sencha tea label illustration, a traditional Japanese folktale, “Bunbuku

Chagama”, was chosen. “Bunbuku Chagama” roughly translates

to “happiness bubbling over like a tea pot”.

The story tells of a poor man who finds a tanuki, or Japanese raccoon

dog, caught in a trap. Feeling sorry for the animal, he sets it free. That

night, the tanuki comes to the poor man’s house to thank him for his

kindness. The tanuki transforms itself into a chagama (tea kettle) and

tells the man to sell him for money.

The man sells the tanuki-teapot to a monk, who takes it home and,

after scrubbing it harshly, sets it over the fire to boil water. Unable to

stand the heat, the tanuki teapot sprouts legs and, in its half-transformed

state, makes a run for it.


A white Kitsune was a yokai of choice for the Hojicha tea label. Kitsune

is the Japanese word for fox.

Kitsune are associated with Inari, the Shinto deity of of foxes, of fertility,

rice, tea and sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity

and worldly success.

Inari’s kitsune are white, a color of good omen. They possess the power

to ward off evil, and they sometimes serve as guardian spirits.

A kitsune may take on human form, an ability learned when it reaches

a certain age—usually 100 years. As a common prerequisite for the

transformation, the fox must place reeds, a broad leaf, or a skull over

its head.


A less popular Japanese yokai, Jinmenju, was selected for the Genmaicha

tea illustration.

Jinmenju is translated to a “human-faced tree”. According to a legend,

the tree grows in remote mountains and its fruits resemble human

faces. The faces are said to be always smiling and laughing.

If the fruit laughs too much, it might fall from a tree.

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