Rumiko Sasakawa / Craftsperson at Tsuchiya Kaban

Tsuchiya Kaban currently employs 200 craftspeople in the Tokyo Atelier. These are the people responsible for bringing designs to life, each one with special skills and a variety of experience to bring to the table. Some of our leather crafters have decades of experience, and in our culture we believe that it’s important to teach each other and carry on traditions, so they also mentor the next generation of makers.

Each bag passes through the hands of these people, our family. We’d like for you to meet some of the special people in our Tsuchiya-Kaban Family.

Rumiko Sasakawa, one of the leather technicians of Tsuchiya-Kaban, is known for the positive energy and cheerfulness she brings to the leather atelier for the past 12 years. 

Curiosity is the first step to becoming a craftsperson 

Rumiko’s interest in manufacturing started in her 20’s, when she was backpacking around Sri Lanka."I was traveling to Southeast Asia and to Africa- Kenya and Tanzania and further to the West. When I was traveling, I was exposed to so many new things and people, I discovered architecture and design, explored new cultures. My mind opened to the world.”

"In Africa, I remember, there was an open-air market that sells groceries and daily necessities. I observed a local person in one of the market stalls weaving straw into baskets, when I saw them turn ordinary straw into an actual shape, by hand, I just said, "I want you to teach me how to weave!” It was out of character for me to ask a perfect stranger to teach me, but I was so compelled in that moment, I just had to take action.”

Rumiko started her training doing the “glue” work on randoseru. The glue must be applied to parts before they are sewn, which might sound simple but actually requires both accuracy and speed. Very effective training grounds, there is no room to make mistakes with glue, so you have to be focused and measured with your skills. Rumiko says she misses those hours of focused attention, they were meditative times. After 3 years working in this department she advanced to sewing randoseru and other bags.

These days Rumiko is now a leader and is in charge of the final step of the bag making process, called the “summary”.  It’s the very last step at the sewing machine, you combine all the made parts and you must be very exact.  Many people have teamed up to make those parts, hours of work go into the bag before it lands in Rumiko’s hands.  After she assembles the parts and performs the “summary” each bag is gently put on the shelf to be packaged.  When she looks at her completed bag, she sees all the love and care her team put into it, which she says is a much greater feeling than making something by yourself. 

When I am making a bag, I imagine the customer's reaction to it

As a mother I had the great honor of choosing a randoseru with my son. We chose his bag together at the shop, placed an order and waited patiently for delivery. When it arrived it was such an event for us! Opening the beautiful packaging and seeing my son in his randoseru for the first time, the magic of that moment motivates me to do my best for our customers. I am honored when they choose a bag that we made, it gives us pride in our work.