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Matsusaka, Hida cows now shine in shoe biz

Chunichi Shimbun

Leather shoes made out of high-quality hides from such cows as Hida and Matsusaka are becoming increasingly popular in Japan.

These cow brands are better known for the luxury beef they produce, but stores have started using leather from these animals to make products ranging from shoes and school bags to watch straps and wallets.

Shoes Bonanza, a shop selling custom-made shoes in Nagoya, added leather from Hida cows to its product line on April 15.

The store offers two styles for men and one for women, with plans to add more Hida products in the future.

The price for a pair of made-to-order shoes ranges from ¥39,000 to ¥45,000.

“All the cows were raised with diligent care, so we can expect good quality leather with little damage,” said Yasuo Yoshida, manager of a shoemaking school that runs the shop.

According to Yoshida, 43, in addition to the quality, the shine and pliancy of the leather makes it a great fit as well.

For a long time Yoshida wanted to create shoes to promote the local shoe industry. Some time later, a leather wholesale dealer introduced him to Takayama Kasei, a company based in Gifu Prefecture that produces leather products made from Hida cows.

The two began collaborating and after two years of trial and error, the new brand was finally released in Shoes Bonanza last month.

“Hida cow is a powerful brand name. I want to market these shoes as ‘Made in Chubu,’ ” said Yoshida.

According to the Tanners’ Council of Japan, which is based in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, leather is sourced from various breeds of cattle, both beef and dairy.

The hides from different regions are collected and sold wholesale based on their size, so they are not linked back to their places of origin.

Takayama Kasei has been purchasing cow hides from meat markets in the city of Takayama and selling them wholesale as ‘local leather,’ but only began marketing Hida leather separately in 2010.

In 2012, Takayama Kasei opened a store to sell its own leather products, such as school bags and other small items.

“Hida cows have many layers of fat, which makes the leather shiny,” said Masaki Nagamoto, 45, one of Takayama Kasei’s sales assistants.

Areas producing Matsusaka beef, synonymous with high-quality meat, have also started selling leather products made from Matsusaka hides.

Matsusaka Shokuniku, a government corporation in Mie Prefecture, collaborated with Tokyo-based Bambi in 2005 to commercialize Matsusaka leather, selling them as straps and wallets.

All Matsusaka beef is allotted unique numbers so that its producer and distribution route can be identified. From now on, the leather from Matsusaka cows will also be given unique serial numbers.

Consumers can trace its origin and distribution route by typing the number into Matsusaka Shokuniku’s website.

Matsusaka beef is processed by either Matsusaka Shokuniku or the meat market in Tokyo, but Matsusaka leather is only taken from carcasses processed by Matsusaka Shokuniku.

Each product also comes with a certificate stating its origin and material.

“The unsaturated fatty acid that creates the flavor of Matsusaka beef can also be found in the leather, adding a shine to products produced from those cows,” said a staff member at Bambi.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on April 24.