By Kevin Mcgue
A proper bag or briefcase is essential to anyone working in Japan— whether on the morning commute, hopping in a taxi to go meet a client, or boarding a flight to Shanghai for a conference, arriving in style is vital. There seems to be something of an obsession with business bags in Japan. Visit any department store on a weekend and find fresh college graduates ready to enter their first jobs or working people spending a good portion of their days off carefully inspecting the seemingly endless array of available shoulder bags, totes and briefcases. Finding the right bag depends on one’s personal approach to both work and style.
Being constantly on the move in a job that requires working in a variety of situations, a highly adaptable bag with lots of compartments and pockets to organize all of your business essentials will prevent scratched computers, crumpled documents, or tiny memory cards getting lost at the bottom of the bag.
Victorinox (www.victorinox.co.jp), maker of the original Swiss Army Knife, offers bags with just as many functions. The “Rushmore” model (¥30,450), is the ideal choice for a trip on the shinkansen, featuring a padded laptop sleeve that can be easily accessed without opening the entire bag, a patented water bottle pocket at one end of the bag and multiple internal and external pockets. There’s even a mobile phone case that clips on the outside of the bag, alleviating the annoying problem of missing another call while searching for that ringing phone at the bottom of your bag. The Swiss company also has a line of bags only available in Japan. The “Web Transport” model (¥39,900) includes a laptop sleeve and study construction, as well as featuring rollers and a retractable handle, making it a perfect carry-on bag for flights.
The fancifully-named “Mr.Lau’s Business Tripper” (¥19,950) by Manhattan Passage (www.leisure-products-inc.com) is a business bag with the ruggedness of camping gear. With multiple padded and expandable compartments for laptops and other electronics, and dozens of pockets and pouches, this portable office will suit those who like to keep everything in its own special place.
Versatile bags with both handles and a shoulder strap have long been the standard in Japan for business people on the go, the shoulder strap freeing up both hands for multi-tasking: taking a call while simultaneously flagging down a taxi, or feeding your train pass into the turnstile at the station.
Japanese maker Acegene (www.acebag.co.jp) offers a variety of highly functional shoulder bags in the “Flex Lite” series (¥5,775—¥22,050), available at major department stores. Every part of each bag is designed to make the finished product durable and light-weight, including rip-resistant nylon, handles reinforced with light-weight plastics, magnesium strap hooks and locking straps to prevent dropped bags that can spell catastrophe if laptops inside are damaged.
For a more Japanese style alternative, Kyoto-based maker Temas (www.temas.jp) uses traditional Japanese craftsmanship and dyeing techniques to produce durable garments, wallets, and bags that are deep, dark black. The Kabto Kamon Business Bag (¥63,000) is constructed of fine-weave black canvas trimmed with leather and emblazoned with a kamon (Japanese family crest).
Although shoulder bags have become de rigueur in Japan, choosing a strapless soft briefcase can mean a return to a classic look and also prevent telltale wrinkling across the shoulder and back of your jacket.
Tokyo-based maker Coperto (www.rakuten.co.jp/coperto) offers classic sophistication with their “elegante” line (¥48,000—¥53,000), made from fine Italian leather. A single zippered external pocket and several internal pockets offer a variety of storage options while not ruining the simplicity of the overall design. For those who need to carry heavier loads, the “cera” model has three expandable internal compartments, and while styled as a classic briefcase, it has a removable leather shoulder strap.
In stark contrast to the market for women’s bags in the fashion sector, when it comes to business bags women have a much narrower range to choose from. Businesswomen might be initially disappointed by the apparent lack of variety of business bags for ladies. A bit of looking, however, reveals some great finds.
Temas (www.temas.jp) offers the unisex Biz Tote bag (¥31,500), made of black canvas finished with leather handles. The handles are available in two lengths, with the longer style being the right length to allow the bag to be carried without dragging on the ground or to be carried over the shoulder. The deep black of the bag is offset by splashes of a single bright color, created through a traditional dyeing processes.
Coperto (www.rakuten.co.jp/coperto) offers the Lucchetto line (¥19,00-¥24,000) of stylish Japanese canvas accentuated with Italian leather straps and handles. Coperto’s Gentiluomo line (¥32,000- ¥45,000) was originally designed for men, but found popularity with Japanese businesswomen. The Maglia line (¥46,000-¥68,000), with a leather weave design, is highly fashionable while still being suitable for business.
The shop Kurachika Yoshida (03-5464-1766, 5-6-8 Jungumae) in Omotesando carries a wide array of Porter brand (www.yoshidakaban.com) bags for both men and women. Lazy Susan in Aoyama (www.lazysusan.co.jp 03-3403-9546) and Mano Garment Complex (www.manogc.jp) with locations around Japan, both carry select brands of women’s business bags.