The Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), the ancient chronicle of Japan written in 712, records that willow craft was conveyed to the region by Amenohiboko, the legendary prince of Silla, in the 3rd or 4th century.
While this history goes back to the time of legends, it is said that the roots of the bags of Toyooka lie in the willow craft described in the Kojiki.
In the Nara Period, Toyooka supplied the Shosoin Storehouse with Ryukyo, boxes from the wood of the willow tree.
The Ōninki, a military record of 1473, records that Yanagi-gori willow basket trunks were a popular traded item. It is estimated that it was from around this time that the Kiryu industry began to develop as a local cottage industry.
By the Edo Period, production of Yanagi-gori basket trunks was flourishing as a monopoly product of the Toyooka Domain.
In 1668, Kyougoku Ise-no-kami Takamori was ordered by the Shogun to relocate from Tango Province to Toyooka. Once there, he devoted himself to growing willow trees and to the production and sale of willow products, encouraging it as a local industry. This is the origin of Toyooka’s bag industry.
In 1936, Toyooka’s “Fiber Bags,” trunks made from hard fiberboard made of pressed wood pulp and cotton, were selected as the official luggage to be carried by the Japanese athletes at the Berlin Olympics. Around this time, the Fiber Bag had become the mainstream product of Toyooka Kaban.
In 1953, a new type of bag was developed in which the conventional frame of the suitcase was revamped and piano wire was used to keep the bag’s exterior from bending out of shape.
These new bags were light and tough and made up for some of the shortcomings of earlier bags, so their production soon overtook that of all other products.
Against the background of Japan’s economic boom of 1958-1961, more than 300 bag-related companies were established in Toyooka.
The industry grew to the extent that it accounted for 80% of Japan’s total bag production.
Historical Archives, 2F Tajima Region Local Industry Promotion Center