History & Culture

What is Koshu INDEN?

Originating over four centuries ago in Koshu (Yamanashi Prefecture), Koshu INDEN is a traditional craft in which patterns are created on deerskin with lacquer. INDEN-YA was founded in 1582, and it was in the subsequent Edo period (1603-1868) that Uehara Yushichi, one of its early founding fathers, developed this unique technique. Ever since, the technique has been transmitted orally only to the heads of the family, who also inherited the Uehara Yushichi name. Even today, Japanese people's longstanding affinity for the power and beauty of nature still lives on. Fully embracing the sensitivities of cherished traditional crafts coupled with natural beauty, INDEN-YA continues to create products that speak to people's hearts.
- Traditional Craft Products Designated by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry -

History

A Name Originating in India

When Japan was actively trading with European merchants in the 17th century, one of the popular imports was a type of decorated leather item called “Indeya leather,” which was made in India. It is said that the name “INDEN” originated as an abbreviation of “Indo denrai,” meaning, “shipped from India.”

The Beginnings of Koshu INDEN

In the Edo period (1603-1868), founding father Uehara Yushichi developed a technique for creating lacquer patterns on deerskin (note that the current family head is the 13th in this line). This is said to have been the beginning of Koshu INDEN Drawstring pouches, tobacco holders and other items made using this technique quickly became favorites among the upper class and fashionable people of the day.
Left: Drawstring pouch
Right: Tobacco holder

Closely Guarded Family Secret

Of the various INDEN craft houses that existed in the late Edo period (1603-1868), INDEN-YA was the only one to survive the test of time. This was because its techniques were only transmitted through oral instruction to successive generations of family heads who inherited the Yushichi name. However, this family secret has now been disclosed to spread the INDEN technique far and wide.

Tradition and Innovation

In 1987, Koshu INDEN was designated a traditional craft product by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Through preservation of tradition and collaboration with various luxury brands and artists, INDEN-YA passionately continues to pursue innovative craftsmanship.

Techniques

Lacquering

One of the typical INDEN techniques involves the use of hand-cut stencils laid over dyed deerskin. This technique, which is key to producing INDEN's unique and alluring textures, is a family tradition that has been treasured for generations.

Fusube

In one of his books, Luís Fróis, a missionary who is said to have had an audience with warlord Oda Nobunaga, wrote in amazement, “The Japanese use only the smoke of straw to ingeniously imbue items with color.” Known as the Fusube technique, this is said to have been the foundation of INDEN. The technique involves setting deerskin on a cylindrical frame, which is then smoked over smoking straw and finished by being fumigated with pine resin to give it a natural color.

Sarasa

This name comes from how the pattern resembles “Sarasa” (Calico) patterns imported from India. A vivid harmony is created by applying various colors using a different stencil for each color. Exceptional skill and a great deal of work are required to apply the colors evenly.

Materials

Lacquer (Urushi)

True to the words said to have formed its origin, “Uruou” (richly moist) and “uruwashi” (graceful), Urushi lacquer is known for the unique sheen it develops with the passage of time. As one of the materials that symbolizes Japanese aesthetics, it is also referred to as “japan” in the west, and has been used in a diverse range of crafts since ancient times.

Deerskin

Light, tough, soft, and with a texture that is said to most resemble that of our own skin, this material becomes smoother to the touch the more it is used, and rewards the user with an enduring natural texture. The skins of wild deer are often blemished with antler scars, which are also cherished as natural patterns.

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