The INDEN:印傳 Urushi Strap

The HIROSHIGE Inden Urushi Strap is created from combining Japanese deer leather with hand-applied urushi lacquer. Popular during the Sengoku period (1467-1603) as part of samurai armorware, this centuries-old technique is now applied to create what is perhaps one of the most unique watch straps today. Our Inden Urushi straps leverage the unique properties of urushi lacquer - becoming glossier and achieving a slight patina over time. All HIROSHIGE straps - including Inden Urushi - are limited and will not be reintroduced after this production run.

red and black strap with green dial
blue strap with pink dial on rock plate and leaf background
red and black watch strap with black and gold dial
blue watch strap with white dial on rock plate and leafy background

History of Inden

Koshu Inden is a traditional craft of Yamanashi Prefecture, in which patterns are applied to deer leather with Urushi lacquer. Inden was originally created as a material for armor. However, as the era of battles came to an end, the demand for armor declined. Eventually the Inden technique translated into crafts for novelty goods in the Edo period.

HIROSHIGE Inden is made by a certified master craftsman from start to finish. Today, there are only five other 'master' level craftsmen in all of Japan.

Step 1: Preparing the Deer Leather

The size of the product will have to be decided first. The leather harvested from an adult deer is small, so waste must be kept minimal. The type of deer leather used is of the finest quality, from a species of deer called "barking deer". In the fusube technique, chains are used on white buckskin to remove remaining fine fur. Depending on the design, hemp yarn is wound around the leather or patterns are glued in place before dying. Koshu lacquered deer leather is the only leathercraft in Japan that uses straw smoke and resin to cure and color the leather in a range of unique colors. This art requires a high level of craftsmanship and lots of experience.

Step 2: Craft of the Stencil

There are multiple patterning techniques. In the urushi oki technique used in our straps, a hand-carved stencil pattern made of traditional Japanese paper (washi) is placed on the leather and lacquer is applied evenly with a spatula. This pattern is completely formed by dots, and each dot is carved out one by one with a tool like an awl or a needle. This paper itself is called Mino Washi, which is made in the Gifu Prefecture.

Stencils are expendable, so they are not something passed down over generations, but rather something that will break if it is used to their full extent. We constantly need to make new stencils after every batch.

Step 3: Application of Urushi

It takes approximately 3 to 7 days to complete a typical article made of beautiful lacquered deer leather. When applying Urushi, it can only be stroked once. Getting the pattern evenly on the entire surface in a single stroke is a difficult part of inden.

If you stroke twice, a detailed pattern will not be sharp because the dots next to each other will stick together. If the pattern is not applied evenly in just one stroke, the fine dots will not come out clean.

Because Japanese lacquer is sensitive to temperature, humidity, and other seasonal factors, it requires many skills to apply evenly.