For Goodness’ Sake

Sep 14, 2010

Tokyo makes trendy tote bags out of used sake sacks.


hitmonokoto sake sack


HITOMONOKOTO, a web store and gallery based in Tokyo, has taken a creative approach to upcycling by turning sakabukuro or sake bags into tote bags. They named them “SHIB.”

The word “sakabukuro” is not familiar even to many Japanese. The sake sacks are both rare and vintage. Here's the description from the HITOMONOKOTO website:




Brewers used the sack sakabukuro during the Edo period to filter nigori-sake (unrefined sake) into seishu (refined sake). This process was used up until the early 20th century. Every summer, craftsmen repeatedly applied persimmon juice onto sakabukuro to clean them and keep them waterproof. Due to this process, the cotton fabric gradually began to look like tinged brown leather.

SHIB are made from hard-to-find, dark sakabukuro cloth that is elastic, like leather, and has a black shiny appearance. No two SHIB are the same colour. Blurring and scratching reflect the unique texture of sakabukuro cloth to which persimmon juice had been applied repeatedly over the years.

The variety of colours and textures of each sakabukuro along with their limited numbers demands high skilled artisan to craft them. After careful consideration, HITOMONOKOTO assigned the task to exceptional horse rein and bridle craftsmen because "their knowledge of leathers and their beautifully refined handling skills were enough to 'read' the quality of the leather-like sakabukuro cloth."


colourful sake bags


shib sake bags


Each SHIB has handles made out of persimmon dyed bridle leather. The linings are mostly upcycled beautiful fabric from Japan, India, Thailand and other countries; from dresses, koinobori (carp streamers), obis, kimonos and even shop curtains. Each lining is used for only one bag, making each bag truly one of a kind.


dark coloured SHIB bags in various sizes


There are three sizes to choose from. The large ones range from Y114,450 (US$1,368.50) to Y1450,950 after tax, the medium size from Y96,600 to Y126,600, after tax and the slightly more affordable small size from Y55,650 to Y69,615. The price tag fits the antiquity and rarity of sakabukuro. You are also paying premium for one-of-a kind items. Although, I question the price, it seems to vary based on lining.

I also wish that the designer(s) had put more thought into the design. There should be pockets inside the bags. The straps can be a little bit longer as well, so users can have the option to hoist it onto their shoulders. I think the small SHIB might be the most comfortable to use.

If I were to choose, I would buy the small SHIB. I think they are priced reasonably and have a great selection of linings as well. It looks the most comfortable and convenient to use. But for now, I will pass.

To purchase, you can head to the HITOMONOKOTO website and grab your own SHIB.


This post was originally published on Otaku Hime in June 2010.


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