さんち 〜工芸と探訪〜

SUNCHI ~ Explore japan through regional crafts ~

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
このページの先頭へ

Tips on how to look after leather when you bought Haruzaifu (wallet purchased in spring)

Published : January 10, 2018
Production area : Himeji
  • LINE

Hi, this is Kanako from the SUNCHI editorial desk.

Purchasing a wallet in the new spring is lucky because it is Haruzaifu (haru means ‘spring’, but it can also mean ‘to bulge’. If you buy a wallet (zaifu or saifu) in the spring, it will be packed with money). Have you heard of such a superstition? You might say “I have just bought one” since it is common that department stores, etc. tend to have a counter featuring “Haruzaifu” during the period of first business conducted by retailers in the New Year. I assume that many people who got a new wallet or those who habitually use one have leather wallets. You have a wallet, so it would be good to look after it and keep it clean, so it endures. I asked a professional specializing in leather for some tips. If the container is clean, the money inside would be happy to bulge in the wallet, perhaps?

Haruzaifu means good luck.  This ever popular one is made from leather.

Haruzaifu means good luck. This ever popular one is made from leather.

The place I visited was Maruhira Co., Ltd. in Tatsuno city, Hyogo Prefecture. The business of Maruhira is “Tanner” which is an important role in the changing of animal skins into leather.

The area, including Himeji city, is a district with a history of producing leather since the Heian period. A number of rivers flowing out into the Seto Inland Sea gather in this area, located on the ocean side in Hyogo Prefecture this makes it suitable for making leather, which requires a lot of water. Even today the river banks are lined with many tanners.

Maruhira, whom I came to interview is also located by the river side. Mr Muku, sales manager and Mr Fujise, manager in charge of the finishing process welcomed me.

“The basic care is the same as for leather shoes and other leather articles. We recommend you use a care cream, but the best thing to do is use it a lot.”

This was an unexpected answer. Among daily goods leather articles are not cheap. We often hear that leather looks better as it gets older, but what of the wallet or bag you use for specific occasions and wish to carefully keep. I had “Leather is natural material, so it should be delicately handled” in mind but why is it better to use it a lot?

Having a question mark in my head, I visited the leather production area and saw a scene which overturned my image of leather. The appearance of the leather in front of me looks unlike natural material at all.

The leather Maruhira is handling is mainly bovine leather tanned with chromium. As the kanji for tanning comprises of two kanji radicals, ‘leather’ and ‘smooth’, tanning is imbuing into leather durability and heat resistance, after removing unnecessary components of the animal skins. Chemicals are essential for tanning. There are broadly two kinds, one of these is ‘tannin’ extracted from plants or the chemical compound, ‘chromium’. Tanning with plant-derived tannin has been conducted since ancient days and, actually the job name, ‘tanner’ originated from this.

I was shown leather tanned with chromium which was, surprisingly, blue!

At a glance, you may not notice that this leather tanned with chromium is dyed to a light blue.

At a glance, you may not notice that this leather tanned with chromium is dyed to a light blue.

I was told that leather tanned with chromium will be uniformly dyed blue, due to chemical reaction. This status is called wet blue and when I touched the leather it felt moist and saturated with liquid.

At this point Maruhira selects and purchases the leathers and then conducts a process of dyeing and polishing, he adjusts the thickness of the hide and the amount of water used. The result is a conversion of the materials into ‘leather’ goods for consumption.

When I held it firmly, liquid gradually leaked out.  Literally, wet blue.

When I held it firmly, liquid gradually leaked out. Literally, wet blue.

The process to adjust to an appropriate amount of liquid inside the leather.

The process to adjust to an appropriate amount of liquid inside the leather.

A huge machine called Taiko (rolling drum).  Put leather together with dye and chemicals which stabilize it then roll them and apply dyes for the first step.

A huge machine called Taiko (rolling drum). Put leather together with dye and chemicals which stabilize it then roll them and apply dyes for the first step.

Drying process.  Rapid drying will damage leather, so it is dried slowly by setting dozens of fans hung from the ceiling.

Drying process. Rapid drying will damage leather, so it is dried slowly by setting dozens of fans hung from the ceiling.

The second step of dyeing.  Spraying colors onto the leather with a rotating shower.

The second step of dyeing. Spraying colors onto the leather with a rotating shower.

Coloring each product.  Spray a blending dye by sucking it from a container.

Coloring each product. Spray a blending dye by sucking it from a container.

The process of staining to convey a texture onto leather.  Staining it by tapping with a cloth which contains wax.

The process of staining to convey a texture onto leather. Staining it by tapping with a cloth which contains wax.

After making a round of the site, I saw a lot of leather samples which had completely different colors and effects lining the wall of the reception room.

Remembering that all of them were made from the same blue and moist cowhide, my outlook on leather is changing.

There are various colors and effects.

There are various colors and effects.

During my visit learning how to look after leather items, what I could observe was the world of making leather – both natural and man-made leathers. The hides pass through many people’s hands in the change natural materials go through to become leather articles that are sufficient for daily use.

“It is advised that water spillage on leather should be avoided as when water on leather is evaporating, oil will be lost along with it. Exposing it to direct sunlight or storing it for long periods of time will also cause deterioration of leather. The reason why leather lasts long if it is used frequently is because leather will maintain an appropriate amount of moisture from the air and oil from hands.”

To continue using it is the best care. Leather which was devotedly changed by the hands of man seems to be able to maintain its condition by continued use by the hands of man. When you have found your favorite wallet, please remember a few points of caution and frequently take it out without hesitation.

<The goods displayed on this article>
Bovine leather long wallet(Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten Co., Ltd.)


Writer and photographer: Kanako Ojima

  • LINE

Follow us

Discover the regional crafts and production areas of Japan with new articles added daily.

We are on social media! Follow our accounts to get the latest information hot off the press.