Nobushina, Nagano, Japan


Nobushina is a small village in Nagano prefecture, about an hour’s drive from Nagano station.

Although the village used to flourish through charcoal making, forestry and hemp cultivation,

it has been deteriorating due to a dwindling population.

Most of the residents are over 60 and the current population is less than 130.

My client is a young farmer who moved to this village with his wife and young kids.

He invented brown rice coffee by combining the traditional techniques of charcoal making and rice farming.

The aims of this project are to tell story of the village

to customers through local branding and to attract visitors.

The main product of this local brand is brown rice coffee.

The product is made solely from resources within Nobushina village.

We wanted to communicate the beautiful story and village scenery through the brand,

as well as referencing the traditional local craftsmanship.

Brand logo mark

Amazingly, the oldest whale fossils in history were excavated in the village. I associated this fact with a new brand concept, which is as if the whale delivers our brand message to our customers, even those who live far away from Nobushina. The logo is therefore a combination of the whale and a coffee cup. The use of black and white refers to charcoal and rice.

Brand naming

Nobushina is a unique Japanese place name. As a brand name it reminds customers of the village when they have bought it. Brown rice coffee is still not a well-known drink in the beverage market, therefore: when this brand

becomes popular, it means that the name of the place, Nobushina, will be synonymous with name of the drink.

Package design

I wanted the package design to be simple so our logo stood out. The main copy on the packaging says: "The rice burned by a charcoal farmer," referencing how craftsmen produced the drink.

Benefit of local branding is capable of conveying a brand message with product to customers. Moreover, they can watch the view, hear the sound

and touch the product through the design. This brand might be able to generate new industry in the village of Nobushina, and its name will spread along with the product.

I had never experienced life outside of the city before, and had no idea of the production methods of the drink in the village. As such, I moved there to experienced the process of manufacture first hand. I planted rice, drank with elderly people, shared knowledge, and took part in traditional celebrations.

From these experiences, I realised that designers can directly influence their own lives and that a brand is not only a business tool, but a way of life.

The client is a charcoal farmer.

He invented a hybrid brown rice coffee by combining traditional charcoal making and rice farming.

There were no young people in the village except for him.

Branding design was complicated for him without design experts.

The member took part in this project from another local project, which had

happened in Chiba prefecture.

The team consisted of a producer, web director, and sales promotion and art director.

Every meeting was conducted by using online tools spanning London, Tokyo, Chiba and Nagano.

Applied for scholarship of

the public sector.

Renewed brand name, package design

and website.

Has been featured in the media

and sold in stores.


Suminouka Ueno

Project member

Takayuki Ishii, Kazuki Yabe, Takehiko Yanase, Nami Ogawa