Inside the Bag: The History of Yoshida & Co.
Yoshida & Co., Ltd. is a Japanese manufacturer that designs and produces bags and accessories. With a rich history that stretches back to the early 20th century, Yoshida & Co. and its Porter brand are household names in Japan and the subject of cult following in the west.
We’re taking a moment to take a closer look at the Japanese bag-making powerhouse and the multiple brands that stem from the world-beating Yoshida & Co. umbrella.
The story of Yoshida & Co., Ltd. began in 1918 when Kichizo Yoshida left his hometown of Samukawa-cho at the tender age of 12 to train as a bag craftsman in Tokyo. Yoshida survived the great Kanto earthquake that devastated Tokyo in 1923, and managed to salvage some of his household goods by tying both ends of a cord to the items and holding the cord on his shoulders. This experience prompted Kichizo to coin his motto, “a bag should first of all be a tool to carry goods”.
In 1935, Kichizo Yoshida established his first bag making atelier, Yoshida Kaban Seisakujo, in Tokyo. The Yoshida brand faced many tests in its first decade with the Second World War seeing Kichizo and many of his bag craftsmen called upon for military service. In the periods of his absence, Kichizo’s wife, Chika, had to hide his tools, materials, and sewing machines in a warehouse under a girder bridge in Kandasuda-cho, Tokyo. Luckily, this warehouse survived the air raid attacks of the war.
After the war, in 1951, Yoshida Kaban Seisakujo was reformed and renamed, Yoshida & Co., Ltd. The first Yoshida bag to claim international attention was the Elegant Bag, released in 1953. Utilizing an adjustable zippered-gusset that altered the width of the bag, the stylish, innovative, and compact Elegant Bag suited the needs of many citizens of post-war Japan. Yoshida’s bags soared in popularity in the early 1950s with Japanese Empress Emiki Michiko famously sporting a white Yoshida bag whilst appearing on live television.
Yoshida established the Porter brand in 1962. This was Yoshida’s first private brand to be marketed under Yoshida & Co., Ltd. company, named after the porters who transported bags in hotels. It was unusual in the early sixties for Japanese bag makers to have their own private brands, so Kichizo made sure his Porter brand stood out with playful branding on the bags paper tags and boxes.
The Porter brand enjoyed a wealth of success and is to this day known as the ‘main brand’ under the Yoshida & Co., Ltd. umbrella. Over the next few decades, the brand would add more and more series to its roster, some of which are still in production today. One of the most notable and recognizable series is TANKER, which premiered in 1983. Drawing inspiration from MA-1 flight jackets, bags from the Porter TANKER series utilized sage green and black nylon fabric with luminous orange linings, hallmarks that still feature in today’s TANKER collections.
Sadly, Kichizo Yoshida passed away in 1994, leaving his two sons to take over the Yoshida business.
Yoshida & Co. Today
Yoshida & Co., Ltd. (also known as Yoshidakaban/Kurachika in Japan) has enjoyed sustained success since its conception and the company’s products are now stocked in over 700 stores around the globe. Currently headquartered in Higashi-Kanda, Tokyo, the company is also known for producing made-in-Japan wallets and other accessories as well as bags. Yoshida & Co. has upheld a commitment to high-quality Japanese craftsmanship ever since its establishment, and all Yoshida & Co. products are made in the company’s homeland to this day.
The Different Labels of Yoshida & Co.
Founded in 1962, Porter is Yoshida & Co.’s main brand in which many of its iconic products can be found. This brand makes all manner of accessories for everyday carry such as bags, backpacks, mobile phone pouches, and luggage solutions.
Founded in 2009, this brand produces bags and accessories that adopt more feminine designs and materials.
A Briefcase from the Madison series of the Yoshida Luggage Label via Yoshida & Co., Ltd.Established in 1983, the Luggage Label was founded with the concept to integrate “unique” and “basic”. It certainly does just that, with this label encompassing products that range from the military-inspired options form the LINER series, to the mature, formal options of the Madison series.
Founded in 2004, the Yoshida brand is similar to the Yoshida Luggage Label whereby it mainly utilizes high-quality leathers to produce luxury bags and accessories, aimed at more mature ends of the market.
Also worth noting are two other brands that are related to the Yoshida & Co. family. Head Porter is a private company headed by the hugely influential Japanese streetwear designer, Hiroshi Fujiwara. Established in July 1998, Head Porter products are manufactured by Yoshida & Co., Ltd., leading them to share many similarities with Yoshida & Co. products – especially those from the Porter brand – including the classic Yoshida & Co. woven label. Head Porter also has an apparel-based sub-label called Head Porter Plus.
Porter International is a Taiwanese brand founded in 2001. After initially producing collections that largely resembled Yoshida product, Porter International merged with Yoshida & Co., Ltd. in 2008 to settle any dispute and form a new, collaborative approach.
Porter Tanker Waist Bag
Straight from the military-inspired Tanker series, this classic Porter Waist Bag is designed for everyday life on the go. Constructed from a durable 100% Nylon twill, it features two roomy compartments with hidden snap closures in addition to a zipped main compartment. Made in Japan, the Tanker Wait Bag is finished with contrasting orange detailing and lining and the iconic woven brand patch.
$246 at End Clothing.
Porter Heat Tote Bag
Coming from Porter’s Heat series, this Tote Bag is mainly constructed from a ballistic nylon that’s heat, friction, and slip resistant. Durability and functionality are blended expertly with water-resistant tarpaulin at the base and side panels of the bag and a collection of buckles and cords that help to secure your goods. Coming complete with a branded Maglite mini-torch, this bag has a roomy main compartment with a zip closure and additional cargo pockets.
$346 ($445CAD) at Haven.
Another option from the successful Tanker series is the Porter Tanker Wallet. Built from a durable Nylon shell that develops a lustrous sheen with daily use, this money wallet features multiple compartments and card slots, as well as an external zip pocket and a D-ring to secure it to a chain or bag. Finished with a contrasting orange velcro closure, each piece comes complete with a Porter branded woven patch.
$162 at End Clothing.