Leatherworker Kinjo receives praise throughout Japan: turning sharkskin into appealing products like wallets and bags

Leatherworker Kinjo receives praise throughout Japan: turning sharkskin into appealing products like wallets and bags

Ryuma Kinjo (center) and his handmade products in front of the Container Shop, which will open on June 27 (May, Taira Ozato in Nanjo) 

June 11, 2021 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Sanemichi Kinjo

Nanjo – In Taira Ozato, there is a leatherworker who turns the skins of culled sharks into products. Ryuma Kinjo (Naha) has already made 200 sharkskin products such as wallets and bags. He explains, “I want to give sharks that were killed for being a nuisance new life as appealing products.”


After graduating high school, Kinjo started working at a leather workshop in Okinawa. He practiced his craft there for seven years. When he was 21, a classmate who works in the tuna industry asked him, “can you make wallets out of shark?” At first, Kinjo refused, believing it was impossible. But he was shocked to learn that 200 sharks are culled and disposed of in Okinawa annually.  Upon learning that leather products using shark skin are being made in Kesennuma, Miyagi, he decided “I want to use the culled sharks to make something.”


In 2019, Kinjo started his own brand, cafooca, and set out to make sharkskin products. He visited fishing ports throughout the Okinawa, skinning the tiger sharks that had been culled. He says, “At first, it took me two or three hours to skin one shark.” Then he would have the skins tanned by a tanner outside of Okinawa, turning the skins into leather. Kinjo recalls, “The first time I held tanned sharkskin, I was impressed by how rough and thick it is.”


Kinjo makes his leather products in silence at his workshop in Taira. Recently, he has received more orders from both inside and outside of Okinawa, and in March, his brand was authorized as a Nanjo Selection 2020.  He was also chosen from among 405 nominees throughout Japan as a finalist for the TOYP 2021 (the young People’s Honor Award). Results will be announced in July. Kinjo says, “Sharkskin is highly water resistant and damage resistant. No two skins have the same pattern, so each item is the only one of its kind in the world.” He donates a portion of his sales to orphanages and to the reconstruction of Shuri Castle.

On June 27, he will open a container shop next to his workshop. He says, “I received 1,050,000 yen in support through crowdfunding, and used the money to open a shop with a friend I’ve known since junior high school. The interior of the shop has a great atmosphere, it’s wonderful.” Misaki Maeshiro, the friend opening the shop with him, says, “As his friend, I’m so proud of what he has accomplished. I can’t wait to see the other cool products, with his own personal touch, he will make.”

cafooca is located at 2239 Taira Ozato, Nanjo. Questions can be answered by phone at 090 (6866) 5674, or online at https://cafooca.com/. The website can be accessed using the QR code below.

Ryuma Kinjo makes a leather product using sharkskin (workshop in Taira Ozato in Nanjo)

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