Isao Tamagawa / 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.

From Aspiring Fashion Designer to Leather Enthusiast

Tamagawa Isao, with over two decades of experience in his career, currently serves as the Production Leader, responsible for the core of bag-making at Tsuchiya. He is the most skillful artisan in the company and has contributed significantly to various new product developments. Despite being one of the most trusted and experienced craftsmen among his peers, he had little to no prior experience working with leather before joining the company.

"In my youth, I aspired to become a fashion designer, and I always had a deep passion for creating beautiful things. However, over time, my interest gradually shifted towards leather bags that age gracefully with their owners, allowing their individuality to flourish over a lifetime, rather than being consumed by fleeting trends."

"Artisans come in two types," says Tamagawa. Those who can quickly repeat the same task and those who delve deeply into perfecting one thing. "I am self-aware as belonging to the latter category. Even in my earlier days aspiring to be in fashion, I had a strong interest in refining one-of-a-kind pieces and artistic works. But what we aim for at Tsuchiya is high-quality and durable bags for everyday use. Over these 20 years, I have learned a great deal from Tsuchiya's teamwork, where the hands of multiple artisans come together, considering efficiency and productivity."

Respect for Tools: A Cherished Tradition

One of the cherished habits passed down from the founder, Kunio Tsuchiya, and previous senior craftsmen is the daily maintenance of tools.

"Especially on days when I use the leather knife, sharpening it first thing in the morning is essential. Proper preparation not only streamlines my workflow but is also a small but crucial act of respect towards the tools I handle and lightens the load on fellow artisans. Treating the team you work with and the tools you handle every day with the utmost respect. It's a commitment that I've embraced as a gift learned from being a Tsuchiya artisan."

Furthermore, Tamagawa pays meticulous attention to the less visible aspects of the craft, such as the processing of adhesive on the underside of leather, in addition to surface finishing details like stitching. The subtle artistry in these manual processes, discernible only to the human senses, is a skill acquired through countless trials and errors. "It's the impeccable preparation in the unseen aspects that truly brings out Tsuchiya's 'dignity' in the finished products."

The Artistry and Precision Behind: OTONA Randoseru

After mastering the basics through the production of Tsuchiya's signature Randoseru, Tamagawa moved through various departments, including repair and maintenance, as well as creating samples based on designer bag illustrations. His extensive knowledge and skills have culminated in the "OTONA Randoseru," a bag that reflects his expertise.

"Quality items start with selecting the right materials. This is the essence of Tsuchiya's craftsmanship. That's why we scrutinize the leather selection with great care and chose to use 'Nume Leather' cowhide. This cowhide, tanned with plant extracts and left with a simple finish, retains the natural character of leather while also having an elegant texture. The more you use it, the richer the color becomes, aging into a unique shade. This is a feature unique to bags designed for lifelong use."

Tamagawa, a thorough craftsman, blends productivity and durability with an artistic refinement in everyday tools and bags. He adds texture to the leather with subtle grooves and sharpens the edges for a crisp finish. The attention to detail is poured into each of the 150 parts and 300 steps involved in the making of the backpack.

"At Tsuchiya, we have a diverse team of craftsmen, from product planning to designers and leather procurement specialists. I could talk endlessly about my contributions, deep affection, and meticulous work on the 50th-anniversary model, the 'OTONA Randoseru.' However, this was by no means a one-person effort. It's a collaborative effort where specialists in each field work beyond their roles to create something new. I take pride in being the leader of the craftsmen, while also being a crucial link in this collective effort."