Mix’d Musings

Sengen Golden Ale Beer Label Artwork

2022-08-24 | Design, Case Study, English, Illustration, Japan

Here is the first introduction to the ukiyo-e inspired new beer label designs for Aoi Brewing’s regular line-up:. First up, Sengen Golden Ale.

Label: Aoi Brewing Sengen Golden Ale

Aoi Brewing ( @aoibrewing) has always been best known for their easy drinking Golden Ale. The label features Sengen Shotengai, the shopping street with a huge red torii gate at the entrance and leads straight into Sengen Shrine. Retaining much of the classic Japanese shopping district vibe, Sengen shopping Street really comes to life during festivals.

About Sengen-dori Shopping Street


Sengen-dori Shopping Street (浅間通り商店街 Sengen-dori Shoutengai) is not far from the center of town and can’t be missed with a huge red torii gate for Sengen Shrine at it’s entrance. Historically rich as the gateway to Sengen Shrine, the 6 block 600 meter long main street is lined with a variety shops and restaurants both old and new. It also has a special place as the home of Aoi Brewing’s brewery which is located right behind the main shopping street. More about the shopping street here Japanese only): http://www.sengendori.com.

Artwork for Sengen Golden Ale

Sengen Golden by Pamela Jewell

For the label artwork we decided to go for a retro feel inspired by Ukiyo-e art. And of all the label artwork, this one was the most complicated and detailed. And at times frustrating since it was my try at this digital ukiyo-e style. But it was worth it.

Printing has always been a favorite of mine and I wanted to see if I could get the feel of ukiyo-e woodcut print using digital methods. Using Procreate, Photoshop and Illustrator as tools, the digital illustrations are based on Nishiki-e principles like using limited colors; blending layers of color and the use of “bokashi” style gradation. I even tried to give the feel of wood plates. Can you see the wood grain?

In a previous job I was fortunate to visit the amazing studio of Adachi Hanga Research Institute to see their printing process first hand and even try to my hand at printing a block of color. Not an easy task. If you are unfamiliar with the ukiyo-e woodcut process, do check out the process shown on their site: https://www.adachi-hanga.com/ukiyo-e-en/quality/index_en.html.

A closeup of Sengen-dori Shopping Street in the artwork.

Sengen Golden Artwork closeup of people

The Sengen Shrine & shopping area holds a special place in the heart of the people. I wanted to put as much as I could in the canvas, despite that it will only print out to the size of less than 8cm in height. A pretty close to impossible task so you may need a magnifying glass to find some of the people, places & objects in it. Some businesses included in the illustration:

  • どらやきの河内屋 Dorayaki Kawauchi-ya
  • 静岡おでんのおがわ Shizuoka Oden Ogawa
  • やぶ福 蕎麦 Yabufuku Soba
  • 落花生の店 豆豊商店 Nuts Shop Mametoyo
  • 安本酒店 Yasumoto Sake Shop
  • すごせる酒屋 MUGI Casual Sake Shop MUGI


Sengen Golden Ale label artwork features many people – shopkeepers, shoppers, people enjoying beer and food. You can even find Aoi’s unofficial running club members. Like Sengen Street’s draw of people during festivals, Aoi Beer aims to be a beer for all people and I tried to show that mixed culture in the label.

Also one must not forget one of Sengen Street’s most famous people, the 17th century adventurer Yamada Nagamasa. There is a statue at his birthplace along Sengen Street and every autumn a Thai festival is held celebrating his efforts in connecting the Kingdom of Siam and Tokugawa’s Japan and the friendly relations still valued today. Can you find him in the artwork?

Ukiyo-e References & Inspiration

The artwork for Sengen Golden Ale was the first one I tackled. After a few attempts that just didn’t feel right, Aoi Brewing’s owner found an example of the “genki” feel he wanted for Sengen Golden Ale. The general composition of the artwork was based on this nishiki-e piece of the kabuki theater district from Utagawa Hiroshige’s Famous Places in Edo series.

Famous Places in Edo: Prospering Theatre District) 「東都名所 芝居町繁盛之図」

「東都名所 芝居町繁盛之図」歌川広重, 1842
Toutou Meisho Shibai-machi Han-ei no Zu (Famous Places in Edo: Prospering Theatre District), Utagawa Hiroshige; 1842
(Image: Ukiyo-e.org (source: Ritsumeikan https://ukiyo-e.org/image/ritsumei/arcUP2734 )

Character inspiration from historical artworks

Sengen Golden dog inspiration
And the cute not so little pup in the label is also based on a classic folding screen piece,Hakuzou Kokugyu-zu Byoubu by Rosetsu Nagasawa.

This character appears in every label. Who do you think he is? After discovering this Ukiyo-e artwork by Utagawa Toyokuni I just had to do my version. The ukiyo-e is depiction of a famous rakugo* story called Hanami Sake.  *Rakugo is a traditional form of comedic storytelling.

Hanami Sake Ukiyo-e by Toyokuni

Reference Source: https://www.ndl.go.jp/kaleido/entry/9/3.html (Japanese only)

Ichi-Fuji, Ni-taka, San-nasubi

Sengen Golden Ale Label Art

Last but not least, each of the regular lineup labels has one of the objects from a famous saying attributed to Tokugawa Ieyasu about the first dream of the new year (Hatsuyume),ichi-Fuji, ni-taka, san-nasubi”. It is said that if the first dream of the new year includes Mt. Fuji, a falcon/hawk and eggplant (nasubi), the person will have good luck. Can you find which one is included in the Sengen Golden Ale label?

Pick up a bottle of Aoi Brewing’s Sengen Golden Ale and let me know what else you can find!

More beer label art:

Blog post: Shizuhata IPA
Blog post: Sunpu Alt
Blog post: Hirono Momo Ale 
You can see all the labels in my portfolio page also.