Deer, in Japan, are not a widely used source of food or leather, so it often surprises a visitor, — and even many Japanese — to come across Inden-ya, which specializes in beautifully crafted leather goods made of lacquered deerskin.
Although cows have long replaced deer as the favored source of leather, it is believed that deerskin was used in Japan for protective clothing as far back as the 4th century B.C.
In the heyday of the samurai, deerskin was prized for its softness, lightness, flexibility and strength, making it ideal for connecting different parts of the samurai’s armor.
Inden, which means “originating in India,” dates back to the 16th century when Yushichi Uehara developed a technique to apply lacquer to deerskin.
All of Inden-ya’s products are made at its main shop in Kofu, Yamanashi prefecture, which also houses a museum about inden’s long history. (The current exhibition, which runs to December 4th, 2016, features kimono jackets made of deerskin.)
In its chic but simple two-level store in Tokyo’s Aoyama district, Inden-ya offers a vast array of exquisite products ranging from meishi – or calling card – holders to top-of-the-range handbags. Accordingly, prices range from just over Y1,200 for small coin purses to as much as Y200,000 or more for painstakingly crafted handbags and carrybags.
Our favorite products include the meishi holders and wallets, which come in a variety of sizes and designs, from traditional Japanese dragonfly and wave patterns to a contemporary, almost Prada-esque style of shiny black on matte black and elaborate evening bags that are as much an art work as a bag.
The experienced and courteous staff in the store are clearly proud of the extraordinary traditions and history of the business. The manager ushered us over to a display in a glass case in the corner that showed the process of making a particularly special type of inden using smoked deerskin.
A big plus at Inden-ya is the meticulous wrapping and gift-boxing of even the smallest and most inexpensive item. You leave with the feeling that you have bought a really special item embodied with Japanese tradition and skill.
Address : 2-12-15 Minamiaoyama,
Phone : 03-3479-3200
Website : http://www.inden-ya.co.jp
Open from 10:00 to 18:00 everyday except the year-end and New Year’s holidays.