Koshu Inden | Splendidly makes the most of deerskin and lacquer


Traditional Japanese craft nurtured at the foot of Mt. Fuji

Today, we will introduce a traditional crafts in Yamanashi prefecture, the central part s of Japan, where Mt, Fuji stands with its magnificent figures. Yamanashi is very hot in summer and  cold in winter due to its geographic nature. In addition, clean water generated from the natural environment has contributed to the development of its traditional crafts. We have three traditional Japanese crafts in Yamanashi prefecture , and this article explains “Koshu Inden”.


What is Koshu Inden?

Koshu Inden is a craft developed mainly in Yamanashi Prefecture, using deerskin as raw material. Deerskin is tanned and processed, and patterns are applied using lacquer. Since this technique was developed in the Edo period (1603-1867), it has been used for a variety of tools because of its reputation for the lightness and softness unique to deerskin and the elegance of the lacquer. Today, deerskin is used as a material for wallets, business card holders, backpacks, Boston bags, and other items that many people carry in their hands.


A major characteristic of Koshu Inden is the elegant texture unique to deerskin. The soft and light leather has a beautiful luster, which increases as it is used over time. The colors also become brighter and deeper, making it a favorite of many people for a long time.

Because the lacquer in the pattern is highly adhesive and waterproof, Koshu Inden is known as a durable leather product. It does not easily deteriorate even after long use. The excellent durability of lacquer makes the beautiful colors and luster over time even more attractive.

There are various kinds of Koshu Inden patterns, but the basic theme is the beauty of the four seasons. Traditional patterns such as small cherry blossoms, irises, and dragonflies are still depicted on many products today. Other popular products incorporate exotic elements such as paisley and American blue. These products have a different appeal from regular Koshu Inden and are gaining new fans.

The origin of the name comes from India

Around the 17th century, when the Nanban trade was prosperous, decorative leather from India was brought to Japan by the East India Company. When it was presented to the Shogunate, it was called “Inden” from “Indo-denrai” meaning that it came from India, and became widely known as “Inden” today.

Three techniques unique to Inden: “Urushi-oki”, “Smoked”, and “Sarasa”.

Koshu Inden is supported by three traditional techniques: “fusube”, “urushi”, and “sara-sa”.

  • Smoking: Deerskin is smoked and dyed yellowish brown.

  • Lacquer application: Lacquer is applied on top of the paper pattern to create a pattern. This gives Inden a unique three-dimensional appearance.

  • Chintz: A pattern is created with pigments using stencils. It is said that the name “Sarasa” comes from the similarity of the pattern to the Indian cloth “Sarasa”.
koshu inden

History of Koshu Inden

The history of Japanese leather crafts dates back to the Nara period (710-794).

The history of leather crafts in Japan dates back to the Nara period (710-794). Various techniques were invented, such as dyeing leather using roots of plants and trees, and applying patterns to leather. Evidence of the prosperity of leather crafts in the Nara period can be seen even today. The Shosoin Repository in Nara still has in its collection, 1,300 years later, products made of Japanese deer hide in their original form.

Deerskin loved by warriors as armor during the Warring States period (1467-1568)

Deerskin has been used for armors and other weapons because of its lightness and durability, and has been loved by warriors. The use of deerskin in armors has led to the introduction of new patterns and a variety of types of deerskin, and the decorative techniques of deerskin have developed in a spectacular manner.

The Beginning of Koshu Inden

Koshu Inden is said to have started around 1710, when the lacquer-working of patterns began in Koshu. At that time, there were three Inden craftsmen in the area, and one of them is the Inden-ya, which is still in business today.

I bring out the Inden kinchaku (purse) that I carry around my waist and show it to you.”

Inden was so widely loved by the people of the Edo period (1603-1868) that it even appeared in the text of Jippensha Ikku’s comic book “Tokaido chu hizakurige” (published between 1802 and 1809). It is believed that there were other areas that produced inden at that time, but only Koshu Inden has been handed down to the present day.

Becoming a specialty of Yamanashi

Koshu Inden has established an unshakeable position as a specialty product of Yamanashi Prefecture since Shingenbukuro and Kinchaku were awarded at the National Industrial Exhibition held in the Meiji period (1868-1912). In the Taisho period (1912-1926), Koshu Inden was used for bags and other products, and its products became more diversified. During the Second World War, the production of Koshu Inden became difficult due to regulations on deerskin, and the company experienced some headwinds. However, Koshu Inden overcame this headwind and in 1975, the Kofu Inden Merchant Cooperative Association was established, and in 1987, Koshu Inden was recognized as a traditional handicraft by the Japanese government.

Koshu inden

Manufacturing Method (from inden-yamamoto)

(1) Leather Selection

One of the characteristics of Koshu Inden is its colorful fabrics, which are available in more than 20 different colors based on traditional Japanese colors that are comfortable to the matte and soft touch of deerskin leather. They also research and develop new colors in response to customer requests.

(2) Selection of pattern paper

We have about 200 types of Isekatagami. Ise-katagami, a traditional craft, is made of layered Japanese paper, processed with persimmon tannin, and carved out with an engraving knife. Although the paper becomes more and more damaged with each successive urushi-oki, it is important to always maintain the best possible storage conditions so that the valuable katagami can be used as long as possible. In recent years, they have been actively developing new katagami designs and original patterns through collaboration and other means.

(3) Rough Cutting

Before cutting each product into its individual shape, a tool is used to cut it into rectangles so that there is no waste.

(4) Lacquering

Lacquering is done by placing a paper pattern on a piece of deerskin that has been roughly cut to the size of the product and applying lacquer with a spatula. After drawing straight without too much force, a beautiful glossy lacquer is heaped up.

(5) Room

The finished deerskin is placed in a room with controlled temperature and humidity to harden the lacquer for several days.

(6) Paper pattern cleaning

The paper stencils used for lacquering are quickly cleaned and wiped before the lacquer dries. Maintenance of the valuable paper stencils is another important part of the process.

(7) Cutting

After the lacquer has finished hardening, the fabric is cut using a product die.

(8) Leather Stitching

The leather is thinned at the seam allowance and made uniform in thickness.

(9) Sewing Process

The perfection of a product is determined by the quality of the sewing technique. To ensure that our customers can use our products for a long time, they finish each product with more beautiful and sturdy sewing without losing the softness of deerskin. The lining is also carefully finished using their original design fabric.

(10) Completion

Inden-no-Yamamoto’s products are characterized by the brightly colored and soft deerskin leather and many traditional komon patterns and original patterns. They can be used casually by customers of all ages.


Today, Koshu Inden has more variations than in the past and is used for a wider range of purposes. In addition to wallets and pouches, products such as smartphone cases and passcases have been introduced to meet the needs of modern life.

Many products have been created through new challenges, such as the development of original designs for famous brands and collaborations with popular characters. While preserving tradition, the company continues to produce leather products suited to the times and has earned a high reputation overseas as well.


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