Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu, Japan’s national treasure-graded canvas bag brand, was founded in 1905 by Shinzaburo Ichizawa’s great-grandfather, Kihee Ichizawa, in Higashiyama, Kyoto.
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For more than 115 years, the brand has adhered to its tradition: to deliver products
with great craftsmanship that are made of natural cotton and linen canvas, sold locally in Kyoto; making it Kyoto legend in and of itself.
Adhering to its business philosophy of “Made in Kyoto, Sell in Kyoto”, the brand operates its only physical shop in Kyoto and its products have always been the must-buy items in Kyoto—sought after by tourists from all over the world.
Ever since the outbreak of the global pandemic last year, the brand has been receiving inquiries from all around the world, hoping to purchase its product from overseas. With the passionate support of a group of enthusiasts, Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu finally decided to launch its global official online shop.
In Japanese, the word “shokunin” means “artisan”, representing the craftspeople who have exquisite craftsmanship and devotion to pursuit perfection. As the legendary brand of Kyoto and successor of Ichizawa Hanpu, Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu’s design is full of simplicity and artistry, exhibiting the spirit of Kyoto’s shokunin. Being a century-old brand does not stop the love from younger generations of enthusiasts; the sturdy yet dry and smooth texture of the canvas, along with the unique fragrance on the fabric, with vibrant colours and patterns, have gained its reputation from all over the world.
In 1905, the founder, Kihee Ichizawa, purchased a sewing machine to make dress shirts and tool bags. Sewing machines were costly yet uncommon in that time, but it became the starting point of the century-old brand. After Kihee’s son, the second-generation Tsunejiro Ichizawa, took up the business, the brand started to focus on the production of canvas bag and laid the foundation of the business.
He decided to bring in the latest model of Singer® industrial sewing machine to Japan from USA hence thick material could be sewn at that time. Alongside with the rise of Japanese bicycle culture, the bags were favoured immediately by professionals such as carpenters, plasterers, gardeners, pharmacists and milk deliverers. Since the brand’s canvas tool bags are strong enough to be hung off by the bicycle handle bars, it allows these professionals to travel freely between workplaces through the streets.
Local Kyoto companies started to order from the brand directly to customise original bags with their business contact details on it. Ichizawa Hanpu tool bags became a free and walking advertisement not only for those companies but also for the brand itself as the bags move around Kyoto.
As the mountaineering hype began in Japan after the second World War, the third-generation Nobuo Ichizawa created mountaineering rucksacks and tents that captured the hearts of the younger demographics. Nevertheless, the Ichizawa family’s passion in canvas bags didn’t stop here. The brand is passed down to the fourth-generation Shinzaburo Ichizawa, the current president of the company, who has immersed himself in the sound of sewing machines and the smell of canvas since a young age.
After graduating from university, Shinzaburo had been working for 10 years at a news agency in Osaka. In 1980, he decided to go back to his family business. It is Shinzaburo’s belief that, to make the brand more popular, it is necessary to popularise canvas bags.
Under Shinzaburo’s leadership and management, the brand has been expanding until its family’s legal dispute, forcing Shinzaburo to change the brand’s name to Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu in 2006. In order to inject fresh and unique creative ideas into the brand, Ichizawa continues to make use of the skills craftspeople whom had started as apprentices in his grandfather’s and father’s time, in the hope of passing on the spirit of
canvas bag and craftsmanship.
When Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu was first open for business, there was no Japanese word to describe “cloth bag”. Since the products of Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu are not made of leather but canvas, the brand decided to combine “ cloth” with “wrapping” to invent its very own word “kaban” to show the true representation of the brand’s products. This invention, along with Ichizawa Kyoto, have become the brand’s well-loved distinctive feature.
Thick and flexible texture, along with a unique sweet fragrance can be found on each Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu’s canvas bag. The various colour schemes with patterns and styles have their flairs, but they do not deviate from brand’s design away from simplicity, making each bag an evergreen fashion item in the wardrobe. Each product will gain a more distinctive colour and charm caused by wear and tear. Encompassing the brand’s respect for nature, all canvas bags are made from natural fiber which allows customers to use for a long period of time yet suitable for daily use.
The brand is adamant on having all canvas bags of Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu handmade by artisans, providing each customer an experience of the essence of craftsmanship through its products. The bags are made from top quality of cotton and linen canvas. Alongside with the sound of sewing machines and mallet, interweaving the products that manifest the brand’s philosophy to “go to any expense”.
Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu also has its own unique dyes for cotton and linen canvas, and customised threads and metal fittings. Each product is trimmed and sewed by hand
with the help of the Singer® sewing machines that are more than 80 years of age. Also, to assure the quality of Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu’s products, every artisan possesses over 7-8 years of experience working as an apprentice (Shitashoku) at a start, who is in charge of marking canvas and attach metal fittings etc. A veteran craftsman who concentrates on sewing will pair up with one apprentice and become a two-person team to complete a variety of products.
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In order to enable customers to enjoy their bags for as long as possible, Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu makes a real effort to repair as many as they can. Whenever repair is required, the artisan will do his/her best not to destroy the unique “feel” of the canvas bag, so that when it is returned, it can still retain the personal memories in each customer’s heart.
All canvas bags of Ichizawa Shinzaburo Hanpu can be divided into three product lines with three distinct labels: Ichizawa Hanpu, Shinzaburo Hanpu, and Shinzaburo Kaban.