♣- Showing amazing collection of bags and their diversity in the world
Bags are essential goods for travel and expedition for long. So people tried to device a variety of tools for their social necessity since ancient times. Many items are included in this purpose, such as holding bags and sacks, box-shaped carrying equipment, handing purses, shoulder basket, large-scale woven containers, beside many other backpacks, suitcases, carrying goods. In this sense, the museum is quite knowledgeable for learning about history of carrying tools and their diversity because it is showing many exhibits classified by time and region in the world. I had a nice chance to visit this museum the other day and could learn much about bags. Such as, old Japanese bringing tools, European traveling equipment in 18th and 9th century, contemporary brand bags, etc. The museum also introduces the company history of Japan’s suitcase maker “ACE”. It was an enjoyable experience for me too.
The following is a short report of my visit with some comments.
(Access point to the Museum)
“World Bag and Luggage Museum” of “ACE”
Komagata1-8-10, Taito Ward, Tokyo 111-0043
♣ Characteristics of Exhibition of bags and luggage in the Museum
The museum displays exhibit under the section named ” History of bags”, “Secrets of bag design and structure”, “Bags around the world” in the consecutive way. In the “History” corner, the evolution of bags’ design and function is described from the primitive age. In the “Secret” section, the material and characteristics, production process are introduced. Next, in the “World” section, a variety of shapes and characteristics of bags in Japan, as well as Europe, America, Africa, and Oceania’s ones are presented. There is also an exhibition corner of “Favored bags” being loved by prominent figures in sport, cultural world.
♣ The Section of “History of bags and luggage”
Here, the evolution of bags and their origins is elaborately introduced in the chronological tables along with a bundle of sample photos. According to the description, there’s a stone relief in the ancient Assyrian found which engraved a bag type or box-shaped carrying device in the picture. So, this is believed to be the first prototype of bags. Also, in the ancient Egypt the trunk-like tools were existed that were made of hollowing big trees to transport bulky materials by boat in the Nile river. In ancient Greece, the specific tools were believed to commonly use small handy bags hanging in the waist.
However, the appearance of a full-fledged “bag” was the fresh matter from the 15th century Renaissance era, they say. At that time a kind of modern bag was produced for the first time as a box-like carrier in flattened bottom and round top adding handles.
Also, around this time, a pochette (Chatelain) on the waist was born for women because they hadn’t pockets in their clothes. (This is said to be developing into handbags) In addition, when the Napoleonic era, a shoulder bag was come to born as a soldier’s back-pocket (Similar to current Ricksack in Japan’s school bag).
Regarding the materials, it seemed it was benefited much from the advancement of leather “tanning” technology in the 19th century. Since with this development the leather was able to keep flexibility without damaging skins and the highly qualified leather bags were produced by it. Then, many craftsmen of horse harness had shifted their job to leather bag manufacturer altogether. The leather bags were appreciated greatly by upper wealthy class at that time because of its precious color and design along with quality. (For example, a luxury brand bag maker “Hermes” is said to be originally a harness craftsmen)
Furthermore, when the times went on, various raw materials were used in bag making process thanks to the technological advancement and the industrial development, and the prices are significantly down as a following result. Since then, many type of bags were born to attract common people as beneficial commodities for their moves. The popularization of travel also spurred the dissemination of bags. The trunks for travel was also began to be popular around this time too. They say that the emergence of wardrobe and trunk were significantly fit in this condition. Ladies’ handbags were also spread for their socialization and travel purposes.
Further progress came in on the carrying tools as time going, for example, diverse functional bags appeared in the business scene, such as “attaché case” beside small trunk and suitcase for travel purposes, and vanity bags or evening bags women became quite popular which have promoted the social activities. In addition, many bags were going to pursue more aesthetic fashionable designed ones just not merely carrying purposes. It is believed to be around this time that bag manufacturer has significantly grown as an industry from primary craftsman shops. And recently, further technological advancement brought in the carrying equipment world, such as the zippers that have greatly widen their function, in addition to the material revolution, like adoption of plastics, nylon, even carbon fiber for materials for bags which have dramatically increased their toughness and durability. and other materials.
Then, the diversified and highly functional bags are now seen in ubiquitous among our life at the present time. These technologies are also applied to overseas travel, climbing mountain, polar behavior, etc. as well. Furthermore, it reminds us that a strengthened special trunk carried and brought back to earth lunar stones in 1960s. As seeing this historic exhibition, we can confirm the extensive history of the bags and luggage, the development of bag making technology and the situation of spreading use of bags at the present time.
♣ History of ancient bags in Japan
In the chronology at the museum, the history of Japanese bags and luggage tools is also explained in detail.
Japanese a primitive style of “carrying tools · bags or sack”, are historically found in the records in the ancient epic “Kojiki” and others. There a bag-like sack “Uwasashi Bukuro” shouldered by “Okuninushi-no Mikoto” is depicted. There was also a top cap holder “Itadaki-bukuro” drawn in the picture which shaped like crowns in the 7th century. Further, in the 12th century, a weapon holding bag and a flint bag called “Hiuchi-bukuro” were commonly used among the Samurai world since Kamakura period. Most of them were sack-like bags using locally available natural materials.
In the Edo period, “Furoshiki” (a wrapping square cloth) was quite popular, and “Kinchaku” (a drawstring cloth purse), a box-shaped container for accessories, a coin holder box ”Zeni-bako”, tobacco containers, a large-sized loading device named “Nagamochi”, a twin carrying basket “Hasami-bako” on the shoulder, and other variety of carrying tools were appeared. A type of drawstring bag named “Chiyoda-bukuro” and “Shingen-bukuro” is also found widely. Many of these samples are on the display shelves in the museum.
However, it is after the Meiji period that a modern shape of bag (“Kaban”) appeared in Japan. In 1873, an Osaka’s merchant “Yamashiroya Wasuke” brought back the cowhide bag from France, and asked Morita Naoshichi to remake it to a new bag. This is believed to be the first of Western style bags produced in Japan. This Japan-made new western bag was soon exhibited at the first Japan’s industrial exhibition in 1877. In and after that, Tanizawa Teizo (a founder of Current “Ginza Tanizawa”) began manufactured the modern western bags and commercialized by giving a name “Kaban” since1887. (Name of Kaban was actually a new Kanji character combined “leather” and “cosmetic”). This brand bag was well sold and created a boom among Japanese consumers. Since then, many bag manufacturers were established, and Western-style bags (Kaban) have become the mainstream of portable equipment in Japan.
The period has changed, in the 1960s, it’s a memorable that a founder Shinkawa Yanasaku of “Ace Co.” developed a quality bag using nylon material to compete Western major manufacturers. He also produced a new style of suitcase in collaboration with Samsonite to promote export them. In the midst, modern bags are dominantly produced by western makers, it would be great that a small domestic venture could produce such competitive world class suitcases and bags in the market.
The museum provides a special exhibition section showing the development of Ace as well as the Shinkawa’s contribution to the development of the bag industry in Japan.
♣ Manufacturing Secret of Bag
In this section, it shows the structural features and contents of bags with decomposition models, especially suitcases, their functionality and robustness are described. It explains how the present suitcase has been evolved, such as structure of frame, lock function, wheel, structure, material, etc. too. Video footage is also provided, which makes it easy to understand the manufacturing process of the suitcase at the factory. I thought this corner contributes a lot for the basic understanding of bags and suitcases.
♣ Diverse style of Bags in the world
This section is a fascinating corner showing what sort of variety bags have been produced in the different countries and regions, and how people used these bags in their daily life, as well as functions in response to the different cultural in the world. The exhibition is regionally categorized, such as Europe, America, Asia, Oceania and Africa, and each item indicates regional features and age of production and its usage.
<Collection of Europe and America>
The major points in this section are to introduce what sort of bags have been appeared and became popular while explaining their specific function and their feature of design. It also indicates the change of customs and life following increasing chances of transportation and travel in the Europe and American society since nineteenth century. Many wardrobes or trunk carrying on a long trip, women’s handbags of various designs, leather business bags, casual daily bags for sports, document holding attache cases, current travel bags and suitcases, and many other are exhibited there. The largest number of exhibits are displayed in this section, in addition to the richest variation of bag and design are displayed compared with the other regional sections. Many collections of brand bags and luggage are displayed there too.
<Collection of Asian Region>
The characteristic of Asian bags showing in the section are quite diverse in nature and having fancy design in addition to the variety of materials. In China, there are many sorts of textile materials are used, particularly silk, for bags and luggage beside leathers. In Southeast Asia, such as Thailand and Vietnam, people preferred to use sack-like bags and pouches attached shoulder straps using locally available natural materials (animal skin, bamboo wood, hemp and chrysanthemum, etc.) They are bags mostly having strong color and flashy designs. This section has one of the best collections in the museum.
<Collection of Bags in Japan>
Although this is under the same category of Asia, but Japan’s exhibition of carrying tools is naturally abundant. Various mobile tools being used in the Edo period, such as a twin carrying basket “Hasami-bako”, a medicinal herb container, tobacco holder, wicker suitcase “Yanagi-gori”, a large-sized loading device named “Nagamochi”, a drawstring cloth bag named “Chiyoda-bukuro”, cash box and a drawstring cloth purse “Kinchaku” etc. can be observed like previously described in the historic corner.
Since the Meiji era, while Western style bags have spread beyond traditional ones, the exhibits also tend to display a large number of Japan-made bags and luggage based on the Western style. But Japan’s many modern bags with original design and carrying equipment characterized excellent craftsmanship are observed in the collection.
<A baggage of Africa / Oceania>
Bags in Africa and Oceania corner, the exhibited bags have unique shapes and tend to use variety of materials, and the way of wearing is very interesting too. And in the exhibition, plenty of strange bags are displayed in the cultural point of view. There are some bags hanging from the neck, bowl-shaped handbags, baskets knitted with Bandanas, etc. These are showing distinctive features and looked fun to see.
♣ Collection of Celebrity favorite bag
In the museum, there is a special zone of bags and luggage donated by celebrities in various fields such as sports, cultural arts, etc. which are loved by them. By looking at these bags, the lifestyle of these persons and the trajectory of their achievement are thoughtfully reminded. It is really memorable objects that could recall their figures and characters.
In the exhibition, there are names such as Nagashima Shigeo of baseball, Miura Yuichiro of adventurer and climber, Yoshikawa Eiji of novelist, Hanyu Yuzuru of figure skater, Yamashita Yasuhiro of Judo, Dorothy Hitler of violist, and others.
♣ Exhibition of Ryusaku Shinkawa Memorial Hall
In the museum, a special section “Ryusaku Shinkawa Memorial Hall” is set up to introduce the life and business of “Shinkawa Yusaku” and the development of “ACE Co” as a bag and luggage maker in the chronological style. According to the exhibition, Yusaku was born in a poor family in countryside in 1915 and sent out for apprentice in his young age under the severe conditions, But he later began study about the bagmaking skills as well as business spirit while working at a wholesale shop of bag, and established his own bag company in 1941. In the exhibition, his business carrier is further continues as like he successfully invented his nylon bag for the first time in Japan in 1954 and was advancing his business toward leading Japanese bag manufacturer with challenging spirit which had fostered in the toiling childhood.
Later, the company name was changed to “Ace Co.” in 1963 and started to produce suitcase as a first domestic maker under the business tie-up with Samsonite UK. Then, the company have been be expanding the business not only to the domestic, but to the overseas market while competing Western major bag producers using its unique design and qualified products. These development processes are extensively described in the exhibition with showing Ryusaku’s lifestyle, business entrepreneurship and working attitudes along with his social commitment in addition to the development trajectory of Ace Co.
After the visit · · ·
This “World Bag and Luggage Museum” was opened in 2015 in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Ace, as well as the 100th anniversary of the founder Yusaku’s birth year. It was established based on the huge collection of carrying goods by Yusaku himself gathered from around the world. I can’t help admiring the scale of exhibition that try to cover full history of development of bag and luggage, their changing design and materials, social and cultural environment surrounding carrying equipment to make. I thought the exhibits are a valuable cultural heritage reflecting people’s life and society.
Particularly, I felt that the exhibited goods are seemingly reflecting the unique culture and different customs in the countries where they use. So, we can really feel their diversity, valuation of design and its usage, social and cultural characteristics in the world’s life through familiar products like bags. In addition, it was also impressed that the carrying instrument had a long history from the ancient times, and it has been developed in various ways along with changing people’s needs and social life as well as technology development. It was a truly fun for me to see the valuable exhibits in the museum.
- 世界カバン博物館HP（”World Bag and Luggage Museum” of “ACE”）https://www.ace.jp/museum/
- 日本のカバン史 http://www.bag.or.jp/FASHON/kabansi/index.html
- 一般社団法人 日本かばん協会HP: http://www.kaban.or.jp/gallery.php
- バッグの歴史： https://www.kyoto-wel.com/yomoyama/yomoyama10/010/010.htm
- 銀座タニザワの歴史(Tanizawa Ginza): http://www.ginza-tanizawa.jp//html/page45.html
- Louis Vuittonの世界： https://jp.louisvuitton.com/jpn-jp/articles/retracing-the-trunk
- 豊岡のカバン： https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/豊岡鞄
- 「世界の傑作カバン」 (ワールド・ムック―世界の傑作品 – 2004)