It is crafted using full vegetable tanning, a method that tans leather using natural forces instead of chemical agents.
Tochigi Leather Co., Ltd
Established in 1937 in Tochigi Prefecture, Tochigi Leather is a venerable leather manufacturing company specializing in cowhide leather tanned with vegetable tannins. Known for its quality, Tochigi Leather is considered among the best in Japan.
Tochigi Leather's cowhide leather is flexible yet durable, and it gains a deeper character with age, earning high regard worldwide.
The tanning process requires a significant amount of water. The factory uses groundwater and has extensive water treatment facilities to purify wastewater generated during manufacturing. This thorough management extends to water discharge into rivers, highlighting Tochigi Leather's commitment to environmental sustainability.
Initially, tanning, the process of making leather from what would otherwise be discarded animal skin, is an act of repurposing a natural by-product.
Cow leather products are made from 100% cattle hide, a resource born from the existence of meat consumption.
Tochigi Leather products are created with gratitude towards nature and animals, utilizing these resources fully without waste, incorporating the wisdom of predecessors.
The supply of raw hides, the material for leather, is currently unstable due to increasing population and global dietary changes.
Animal hides, if left untreated, decay quickly.
A tanner's job involves various steps like drying, cleaning, tanning with tannins, pressing, and dyeing. These processes transform the hide, giving it a new role and life as leather. These steps are labor-intensive, tense, and ultimately create something beautiful.
This intricate and tense process is an act of reinfusing life into what was once lost.
The process of cleaning the raw hides that have been transported in salt.
It's a tough task performed by two men, dealing with the heavy, water-laden hides.
Vegetable tannin pits.
These do not use chemical substances, but instead contain a plant-based tannin solution. The hides are immersed in 160 meticulously concentration-adjusted pits and are tanned over approximately 20 days.
The stirring of mimosa solution, which is the ingredient for Tochigi Leather's full vegetable tannin, is a process born from accumulated experience since the company's founding and is made with a unique recipe.
leather is coated and then washed again, added with natural fish oil, and stretched in a process called setting, before entering the drying process.
The leather is naturally dried, adjusting to its thickness and the weather.
After many processes, it comes closer to the leather products we see regularly. It's a beautiful scene.
In the leather tanning process, a large amount of water is required for washing and tannin pits.
Tochigi Leather purifies all the water and wastewater used in the factory.
Large multi-layered purification tanks use an aeration method, which involves aerating the wastewater and using bacteria/microorganisms to separate it into water and waste. Enzymes are added during the process, which also serve as nutrients for the bacteria. The cleaned water then flows back into the neighboring river.
By aeration, air and water are mixed, and bacteria and microorganisms are used to gradually neutralize the wastewater.
Using the power of nature, the water is purified to a clear state and returned to the river.
The remaining waste, sorted out as sludge, contains lime and collagen, making it nutrient-rich. It's used as fertilizer in farms that grow lime-favoring vegetables and as a soil conditioner in areas with severe soil contamination.
In every process, there's a strong commitment and belief, considering how nature's gifts return to the earth, embodying true craftsmanship.
Mr. Osozawa, who guided us through the factory, shared his thoughts about eco-leather, the standard in the leather industry.
"To obtain eco-leather certification, there are obligations to use and discharge a regulated amount of chemicals, wastewater, and waste. However, at Tochigi Leather, we don't use the relevant chemicals in the first place and purify our wastewater in-house. That's why we prefer not to call it 'eco-leather.'"
Hearing this, I was impressed by their respect for the environment and their attitude of inheriting the wisdom and thoughts of their predecessors.
At LIFESTYLIST, we hope to support Tochigi Leather by commercializing and selling their leather, sharing their story.
We'd be delighted if our LIFESTYLIST products can be an opportunity for more people to learn about the production background and the wonderful story of materials born from nature.