So what is Bunko?

So what is Bunko?

Hi there! 👋

We decided to tell you about our craft and its details throughout a series of blog posts. We’re going to cover everything from prepping the leather to the finishing touches. You’re gonna learn about which work phase follows which, small nuances that make huge differences, the lingo our artisans use and maybe even a few of our secrets. 🤫
But before we jump into all of that, we’re gonna answer a question we’re being asked a lot.


What is that ‘Bunko’ in Bunko leather or Bunkogawa and where does it all come from?

It comes from Bunkobako (文庫箱), or Bunko-box, which is a small box used either as a bookcase or to keep personal belongings and valuables in it. Like a small treasure box. 💍

In the old times these wooden or paper boxes were painted with lacquer. During the Muromachi period (14th century) the leather workers’ skills improved and the first leather bound Bunko-boxes were made. From the different kinds of leather craftsmanships, trials and errors, today’s Bunko leather was born.✨

In the Edo period (17-18th century) Bunko-boxes became widely used, but only by nobles and merchants. Unfortunately, it wasn’t something the masses could’ve afford. 😔 

Even though it is our trade name, because of the lack of craftsmans, we had to stop the production of Bunko-boxes around 25 years ago. The one you can see on the picture was made as an attempt to revive the craft.

The box has a wooden base, with seven layers of Urushi Lacquer on the inside.The outside is Bunko leather made by our artisans, which was then stretched on to the box by one of the last remaining Kawabari (革貼り) artisan. 


Isn’t it beautiful?