ICHIZAWA HANPU CANVAS BAGS
A bit about the this great shop ….
I don’t know about you, but I always find the best way to feel the daily life of somewhere is by walking. The area of Higashiyama, Kyoto is a fantastic area to get out and about from, and the 10 minute walk to Ichizawa this morning was a great way to start the day.
This dear little shop had bags everywhere. Big and small, urban in style, functional and beautifully tactile.
Except for the basics to get me around, I don’t speak Japanese. Fortunately though the common ground was the product, and that was all the conversation we seem to need.
Ok, what did I buy?
I decided on buying two. A navy blue everyday tote bag which I was drawn to immediately just by the way it felt in my hand. The use of a simple fabric flap could either hide what was inside the bag or could be tucked away neatly if I was on the go and needed quick access to things. These bags really are tactile and you can’t stop touching or playing with them. Purchase number one, done.
The second one which I used as soon as I left the shop was a small brown backpack – well it would have been wrong to buy just one.
The backpack can be worn whichever way you want. On one shoulder, at the back, across your body or like I did at the front of my body so my hands were free. It’s light, big enough for a small umbrella or notebook and freedom to pull out a small camera or train pass quickly. I love, love, loved it.
Although I knew before I visited that I wouldn’t be able to meet the actual craftsmen or visit the atelier, to be there in the actual store which is the only one in the world, was really very special. They make no apologies that although they have a website, their products can only be brought here at the store or by mail order in Japan itself. They want you, as I did, to experience their bags in person and choose one that is the right fit. Bags for you, bags for your bicycle, there were hats, aprons and pencil cases. It was way too much fun.
Everything is made by hand by skilled craftsmen in a workshop nearby, making each bag unique and individual. Here the apprentices work alongside the experienced craftsmen using tools that are made by other local artisans. This company does not mass produce, and I can honestly say that from the first time you touch these bags they somehow seem familiar.
History of Ichizawa Hanpu Bags
These bags have spanned four generations since around 1905 and started out as a tool bag. By the 1920s they were made with canvas and coveted by working men ranging from tradesmen to milkmen. By the 3rd generation and the end of World War 2, canvas was in short supply and synthetic fibre was used for a short time. However, it wasn’t long until canvas returned and the canvas bag began to become a fashion piece. Today, the company is run by 4th generation, Shinzaburo Ichizawa.
After his fathers passing in 2001 the will was contested by another brother. The lawsuit was lost and Shinzaburo set up another company. However after several years, in 2009 the ruling was reversed and Shinzaburo moved back to the original shop. That story made me want to see this shop in person and I’m glad I did. Looking forward to my next visit.