38. Making the case - Issue 140 - Magazine | Monocle

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While we get plenty of use out of a wheelie suitcase, some journeys call for more heft. On those occasions, our top choice would be a handmade leather case or trunk from Japanese maker Masumi Hono. Masumi has been in business since 1916, making hat boxes for the imperial family, cases for kabuki (Japanese dance) performers and torch boxes for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Today the company is run by the third-generation owner Kenji Uemura, who took over from his father about 20 years ago. The workshop and showroom sit in a wooden structure that was once the family home. “I thought it was time to make a place where people could come and see what we do,” says Uemura.


A traditional kura (storehouse), with thick walls and a heavy door, is now a private showroom. vip customers sit at a large wooden table and choose from Italian buttero leather, German shrunken calf, Japanese leather from Himeji and English bridle leather; they come in colours that cover the classics and bolder choices, such as sakura pink. Kiri or Paulownia wood is used for the frames of small suitcases, cedar for bigger trunks, with the linings made from Japanese jacquard. Masumi is located in the city of Toyooka, on the Sea of Japan coast, which is the centre of Japan’s bag-making industry. Uemura’s father, Michio, still runs a bag workshop in town.

Masumi’s craftsmen can make travelling trunks, belted suitcases, doctor’s bags and attaché cases as well as handbags, wallets and jewellery boxes. The in-house woodwork team can also turn its skills to storage chests and retail displays. So even if you’re not planning to go anywhere, you can order trunk furniture (they made a piece for the Japanese emperor). You can go full or semi-bespoke and bags can be returned for repairs. “Our customers love the romance of travel,” says Uemura. These are investment pieces that future generations will thank you for. ­masumihono.com

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