October 24, 2013
Alida KotzéHallo! My name is Alida Kotzé, and I'm from Cape Town in South Africa.
I work as an English teacher at an eikaiwa and at a university. Why did I come to Japan? Many years ago I met a Japanese man in South Africa, fell in love ... and here I am.
South Africans have an outdoors lifestyle and prefer natural fabrics rather than synthetic ones. We wear cotton clothes and flat sandals; don't use air conditioning; love wood, stone and natural light in our homes.
Leather is a part of our lives, not only as clothes, but also as furniture.
I remember my grandmother's "riempiesbank", a wooden bench with a seat made from a network of leather thongs. It looks just like a tennis racket, and it's surprisingly comfortable.
Nowadays a bench or chair made with "riempies" is regarded as an antique. It can be extremely expensive, especially if it's made from indigenous wood like yellowwood.
Modern leather couches are also very popular, but if you want to be a real South African, you must have an authentic riempiesbank.
Another item that is quintessentially South African is "velskoene" or "vellies", in other words, bush shoes made from leather. They have soft rawhide uppers that are attached to a leather footbed and a rubber sole. No nails or tacks are used; only glue and strong threads.
They're very light and very tough, and are ideal for walking on South African's harsh terrain. When I moved to Japan, I brought my favourite pair of vellies with me. I've worn them while walking in Tokyo, hiking in Yamanashi, fishing in Gunma and struggling through heavy snow in Niigata.
So far I've talked about products made from cow leather, but South Africa is also famous for ostrich leather with its characteristic pattern of bumps. It's very expensive, because it requires a complex production process by an expert. I have an ostrich leather wallet that I've been using for many years, and it still looks brand-new.
Here in Japan, leather seems to be mostly a fashion item, and products are made of a softer leather with finer details. There are so many excellent leather artists, but I'd like to highlight these three:
1) I love the products of a company called Tsuchiya Kaban. Their products appeal to me because it's so simple yet beautiful, subtle yet elegant. Their emphasis is on the quality of the leather and the craftsmanship, with no unnecessary decorations or fussy elements.
2) A surprising discovery in Japan has been products made of horse leather, which I've never seen in South Africa. My personal favourite is Flying Horse.
3) Finally, my dream is to have leather walking shoes made by Patrick Labo Ginza: they're strong, stylish and very comfortable.
What I really love about Japan's leather products is their excellent craftsmanship, which is much more refined than the rough-and-tumble approach of South Africa's leather products. Japan is world-famous for its attention to detail, and it's very clear that this extends to leather products: top-quality leather, top-quality finishing and ... best of all ... top-quality service when you enter any shop.
How Japanese Leather products are perceived by foreigners living in
Japan and Japanese overseas?
“Mekakushi” from outside may shed a light on and help you open the eyes to the undiscovered.
- Vol.16 Japanese Leather - Full of Surprises!
- Vol.15 Leather goods of South Africa have taken root in my life
- Vol.14 Traveling life lightly: A Permaculture Designer's experience with Japanese leather
- Vol.13 As tough as leather
- Vol.12 In France, taking off shoes is the same as taking off clothes
- Vol.11 In Praise of Pen Cases
- Vol.10 Japanese leather products in the eyes of an English gentleman
- Vol.9 Awareness for leather product
- Vol.8 The appeals of the leather bags made in Japan
- Vol.7 From the smell of leather―To those nostalgic days
- vol.6 Mainland shoppers towards Leather Products
- Vol.5 Readily Available or a luxury- the leather culture difference between Korea and Japan.
- vol.4 Japan Leather Award 2011
- Vol.3 Professional Pride in Monozukuri
- Vol.2 My first encounter with Japanese leather
- Vol.1 Hidden Treasure