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Yunogo Activities: Deer skin handicraft at 35R/kokochi

12,Aug 2015 Activities in Yunogo

kokochi

35R / kokochi is a local shop in Mimasaka which sells antiques, curiosities, and an assortment of other goods, including deer skin products made with the skin of deer from the surrounding area. Here, it is also possible to try crafting small objects with deer skin, under the guidance of an expert. One can make objects such as screen cleaners, key rings, coin cases, and small purses, all using skin from local deer.

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The project to use deer skin for craft originates in the necessity of culling errant deer in recent times. As a result of changes to their natural environment, deer which typically live and graze in the mountains have been experiencing food shortages, leading to them leaving their mountain homes to scrounge for food in the villages below. The destruction they leave in their wake – of personal property, agricultural crops, and more – is unsustainable, and the offending deer are thus, regretfully, deemed as pests and put down.

Not wanting to let the deer’s remains go to waste, the carcass is cleaned, the meat stored for later consumption, and the skins processed for use. Turning the deer skins into beautiful accessories endows the deer with posthumous utility; the soft touch of the deer skin a reminder of the fragility of life and the delicate balance of the ecosystem, the creation a tangible demonstration of the possibility of being stylish even when environmentally conscious (the deer are not bred or slaughtered for their skin; only destructive deer are targeted out of necessity).

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The craft experience takes place in the back room of the shop. Samples of the objects which can be made (as well as different designs for them) are first shown. After deciding what to make, pre-cut and dyed skins of different shapes, size, and colour are brought out, and one chooses the size and colour of the object’s base, as well as any other decorations. The process for putting the key ring together begins only after one has finished deciding which materials to use. Below, a long orange base for a key ring has been chosen, and additional flower ornamentation is being selected.

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Clear instructions are given for how to put the object together, and everything is explained – from how to punch a hole into the skins with a hammer and thin metal rod, to where to punch them; from how and where to apply glue to the skins, to how to make them stick together, and so on. The process is a tactile delight from start to finish – handling the soft deer skins is relaxing and pleasurable, and in the age of consumerism and mass production there is a certain joy to be found in making something serviceable  with one’s own hands.

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The finished products are both aesthetically pleasing and an excellent memento for remembering the good times well spent in Yunogo city. The instructions are easy to carry out, and key rings have been made by people from between 3 years old to 92 years old; an enjoyable activity for people of all ages.

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The shop is open from 10.30am to 6pm from Thursdays to Mondays, and closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  The price of crafting a key ring starts from ¥1000, and the price of crafting a coin case starts from ¥1800. Only one person can craft at a time, and talking on the phone during the session is not allowed. If you would like to try your hand at crafting with deer skin, we recommend booking a session through the website here, or  if you email us your request we can help you with your booking.

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