Kaname CorporationLtd. offers a unique leather called "Kaname Brand". Beautifully dyed cowhide leather, which is handmade, becomes more lustrous the more it is used. The aging process of the carefully selected cowhide leather is so attractive that even leather enthusiasts are captivated by it. As one of the last tanneries in Tokyo, Kaname aims to produce the best vegetable-tanned leather in Japan. We asked Kaname about their passion and commitment to leather.
An important baton received in my 20s
Ltd. has been producing tanning of cowhide leather since its predecessor "Kaname Leather" was established in 1970. Isamu Sakuma, the second generation of the company, went to England to study for the future of the company after graduating from university. He studied practical skills and chemistry related to leather at "Nene College," which has its roots in the University of Northampton, and returned to Japan with his sights set on overseas markets. His predecessor only handled leather for belts, so he considered getting a job to learn about the industry from scratch, but he was kicked out because he was in the same industry as his predecessor, saying he was not thinking straight. One of the company presidents even told him, "If you do this, if you don't become the best noodle shop in Japan, you will go out of business! I was in trouble, and I was able to get help from a long-established leather wholesaler "Kuboyanagi Shoten" in Asakusa. Kuboyanagi Shoten was a leather wholesaler that handled a lot of chrome leather, which I had never seen or touched before. I wanted to be useful, so I did my best to do whatever I could, even if it was just chores. It was a time like a ritual for me to inherit important things, such as the connections between people and what I should do."
Tannin-tanning is all about the raw hides and the time and effort required.
When Mr. Sakuma, who was born and raised in Sumida-ku, Tokyo, was a child, there were nearly 50 tanneries and other leather-related businesses in his neighborhood. Now there are only a few, and Kaname is the only one in Tokyo that produces vegetable-tanned cowhide, or "nume" leather. Kaname handles only Holsteins from Hokkaido, and only castrated male Holsteins. The leather of male Holsteins does not change much due to childbirth, etc., and the temperament of a neutered animal is more docile, so the skin is not damaged by fights, etc. We select high quality raw hides from the Himeji area. We select good quality raw hides and deliver them to a tannery in Himeji, and once tanned with tannin, we transport them to Tokyo. The hides are then tanned again at our dyeing factory before being dyed, and all the work is done by hand by our craftsmen.
We use cowhide from the colder regions of Europe, but bulls are used for meat, so their skins are especially beautiful. However, it takes a lot of time and effort to make good leather. Tanning, dyeing, washing, and drying. The way it dries and wrinkles changes depending on the season. The drying process after dehydration is very important because it is difficult to control the moisture content in tanned leather. If the leather is too dry, it will become wrinkled. The right amount of moisture improves the texture of the leather. It is said that aging gives the leather a glossy appearance, but this is because the dye is sprayed by hand to take advantage of the expression of good raw hides. If you use pigments or spray it with a machine to make it sticky, you won't be able to enjoy the aging process. We carefully finish each piece of leather by touching it with our hands and looking at it with our eyes. That is the leather making of the Kaname brand.
After all, good leather is good
The craftsmen working silently in the dyeing factory are also fascinating. They process raw hides, water, and chemicals in a large barrel-like machine called a "tyco," and the finished product differs slightly depending on the temperature and humidity. The process of cultivating experience and sharpening one's senses while taking detailed data on a daily basis is truly the work of a craftsman. The craftsman's skill is evident in the way he cultivates his senses while taking detailed data on a daily basis.
Toshiharu Morisugi is a shoemaker who originally worked on boots. I came to Kaname because I wanted to experience the fundamental aspects of leather. Now I am happy to be able to make leather that I myself would like to have," says Mr. Morisugi. He says that when he creates good leather, he feels like making something himself.
Motohiro Asami, a veteran of nearly 20 years, says he got into this business because he loves leather items, from leather jackets to accessories. I dye leather for a certain brand of boots, and when I see someone wearing them, I feel as if I were seeing my own child," he says happily.
Thinking of Italy
Mr. Sakuma is proud to produce high quality leather made in Japan, but when he looks overseas, he yearns for Italy. He says that Italy is "an environment where good leather can be made without hesitation. We asked him to elaborate on the reasons for this.
For us, a good leather is one that is thin and breathes. The charm of tanning is that you can enjoy the quality of the material over time. We make leather with the idea that our customers will cherish it forever. It is Italy that makes leather with the same idea. Naturally, they spend a lot of time and effort and are particular about the raw hides, so they are expensive. But the staff of manufacturers and brands know how to use leather very well. That's why they are able to work on each part of the product and deliver it properly according to its intended use. In Japan, however, the culture of handling large-sized pieces of leather (half-size pieces) means that good parts and not-so-good parts have to be handled in the same way for the same purpose. It is a burden for both sides. In terms of the expression of leather, Japanese people try to hide everything with make-up, but in Italy and Europe, they make the most of the leather's individuality. That is why good leather is made into good products. I am confident that Kaname can compete with them, but I envy that environment.
Still, we aim to be No. 1 in Japan.
Still looking forward, Mr. Sakuma says, "If the Japanese leather industry cooperates with each other and becomes a united force, it will be better. His focus is not limited to Japan, but seems to be directed toward Asia and the rest of the world.
Japanese craftsmanship is at a world-class level. Even I often look at leather made by other companies and think, 'They make good leather. I think that careful work and delicate sensibility can only be appreciated when they go out into the world. There are many good brands out there, so it would be good if we could create an environment where everyone can share their own opinions and bring out 100% of their appeal. On top of that, they should compete on quality and technology. You can proudly ask the world about your own sense of beauty and aesthetics. As a leather shop, I would like to do my best to be able to say such a righteous argument even 10 years from now. To do so, first of all, I have to become "the best numé shop in Japan" that everyone recognizes. The most gratifying thing for me is to have customers choose me and be happy with my work.
At TEEMA, we sell "kaname Leather," which is filled with the particularities of the Kaname brand. Please come and experience the charm of leather that aims to be the best in Japan.