Yuuki Kamei

Born in 1963.

KINOKABAN, wooden bags began in 1990 when he created his first wooden bag as a gift for his wife. Self-taught in wood carving techniques and fascinated by the beautiful grain of linden wood, he has been creating his own unique "wooden bags" for over 30 years. In his atelier in Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture, he works with linden every day, pursuing unique designs that make the most of the material's characteristics. We look forward to seeing your bag grow with you and become a partner whose beauty will not fade away over time.

The passion behind the wooden bags

A wooden bag is a canvas for its creator. Each bag is a one-of-a-kind piece, carefully crafted by hand, and no two are alike. Each bag has its own unique design and beauty.

The entire process is carried out by Yuuki Kamei alone, and the passion and inspiration of the artist is evident throughout. The most important thing in determining the design is to avoid wasting wood as much as possible. The wood is taken from the trees with as little waste as possible, and bags of various shapes are produced so that the grain and knots inherent in linden wood can be incorporated into the design.

When designing, he does not make drawings in advance. He designs each bag one by one, devising the size and shape so that it will be easy for our customers to use. As a result, unique curves and complex smoothness are created.

Inspiration for production

Ever since he was a child, Yuuki Kamei has always loved to do things that others did not or had never done before. He always loved to try new things, and one day he decided to quit his job and enter the world of woodcarving.

Of course, this major career change brought financial challenges. But with the devoted support of his wife, he was able to teach himself wood carving and painting techniques. He then decided to create and present something as a special gift to his wife to give form to the deep gratitude he felt in his heart for her. While searching for materials for the gift at a home improvement store, he happened to come across a linden tree and thought to himself, "If I carve this, it would make a bag, wouldn't it?" This led to the creation of "KINOKABAN."

In the beginning, he tried various materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, and brass as well as linden, and also went through a lot of trial and error in the structure and design of the bag itself. While keeping the user-friendliness in mind, he eventually arrived at the current sophisticated manufacturing method, design, and structure of the closure.

Creativity and a sense of adventure

Not only did he decide to enter the world of woodcarving, but Yuuki Kamei's life has been a series of adventures, moving forward one step at a time.

In 2022, he completed his first 100-kilometer ultramarathon. However, behind this feat is the reality that he could not even run 100 meters at first. Through days of little by little running and fast walking, the "limit" of the distance he could run slowly increased. His "go as far as I can" personality, curiosity about new things, and sense of adventure drive him to take on new challenges, always with a positive attitude. Whether it is an ultramarathon or learning and incorporating new materials or techniques, he enjoys every minute of it.

Of particular note is his ability to enjoy the tension of the moment when a new adventure begins. He accepts each "beginning," which many people dread, as an event, and enjoys the entire process. The artist's "creativity and adventurous spirit" is expanding step by step, but steadily, just like himself. We believe that this is exactly the same way that our wooden bags grow together with its customers, and that we will enhance each other's creativity together.


Overflowing Inspiration

Our bags created by Yuuki Kamei's hands are a never-ending source of inspiration that wells up from his heart, even after more than 30 years of production. Each bag is not just a square block of wood, but has a presence as an artwork with smoothly carved curves and unique charm.

Not only is the bag attractive as a mere craftwork, but also the user's comfort a is deeply considered. The bags are designed to be both light and durable, and people who come into contact with our bags for the first time are often impressed by their surprising lightness.

In addition, linden wood is attractive for its white bark, and some of them have a rare and beautiful grain created by nature. This special grain is called "mokume." Materials with these special grains are finished with a lacquering technique to further enhance their beauty.

Delicate wipe lacquer finish

Lacquering is a traditional Japanese craft technique with a history spanning thousands of years. This technique, which involves the layering of multiple layers of natural lacquer, allows for the expression of a deep texture that embodies both durability and beauty.

KINOKABAN products are finished using a delicate technique known as "wiping lacquer" to bring out the full beauty of the linden wood grain. In this technique, lacquer is applied and then carefully wiped off with a cloth, emphasizing the texture of the wood and bringing out the deep luster characteristic of lacquer. The timing and pressure of the wipe can subtly alter the texture and tone of the finish. As a result, each piece is unique and no two pieces are exactly alike.

The wipe lacquer finish blends the delicate grain of the linden wood with the deep luster of the lacquer, encapsulating the beauty of the materials in a single bag. This exquisite balance is the result of the craftsman's years of experience and delicate sensibility, allowing you to reaffirm its allure each time you hold and feel it.

Vivid and intricate colors

In order to bring out the grain of each wood, we use a unique coloring method to draw it out. We use traditional Japanese materials such as kakishibu (persimmon tannin), bengara and gofun, etc. for coloring. Not only are there bags that attract the viewer with the deep luster of the lacquer, but there are also bags that evoke the warmth of the tree with their transparent and vivid colors. The unique and complex hues are expressed not by simply applying one color, but by layering several layers of color.

When lacquer is used, a finishing technique called "Togidashi" is used. The degree to which the lacquer soaks into the wood varies depending on the amount of moisture contained in the wood, which naturally creates a unique pattern. By repeating the polishing and lacquering process after adjusting the wood surface, this pattern and subtle unevenness can be expressed. Please look at the surface of the bag and enjoy this intricate coloring.

Engraving on the bottom

A little surprise is hidden at the bottom of the wooden bag.

The bottom of the bag is engraved to provide a non-slip function. When we first started making wooden bags, the carvings were simply functional. Over the years, however, they have been sublimated into delicately designed sculptures inspired by natural landscapes and geometric patterns, where the playful spirit and passion of the craftsman intersect.

Because they are hidden parts of the wooden bag that cannot be seen when simply holding and using it, we hope the carvings that can be seen at a moment's notice make us feel a little happier.

Yatsugatake Atelier

At the foot of the Yatsugatake Mountains straddling Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures, in the quiet and serene forest, there is the atelier where KINOKABAN is being made and the gallery where you can see our works.

In 2020, we celebrated our 30th anniversary of our founding. At the atelier and gallery in Yatsugatake, many wooden bags are on display, including those made in the early days, as well as the first one, which was a gift for my wife. Visitors can actually hold and see the bags Visits by appointment only.

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