Japanese Military Bags

This section is about bags: the plain, cloth bags (fukuro or bukuro) the Japanese military used for several purposes. It focuses particularly on three types of bags: hoko-bukuro, which held service records; kichohin-bukuro, which held valuables; and imon-bukuro, or “comfort bags”, which were similar to what we would now call “care packages” for soldiers. There were several variations on these terms, but most of these cloth drawstring bags can be categorized as one of these three types. There is also a section for miscellaneous bags that don’t fit into these three categories.

 

Hokobukuro (Service Records Bag)

This is the bag in which a soldier carried everything related to his service, from his call-up letter and qualifications to decorations and campaign medals (see full list below). They are usually about 9” by 13” (23cm by 33cm) with a drawstring at the top. The large characters in the middle read from top to bottom and say ho-ko-bukuro. Hoko means “public service”, and fukuro or bukuro means bag. Some had other labels, but if they served the same purpose I willl post them here. In English these bags are often mistakenly called “comfort bags”. The comfort bag was a special bag labeled imonbukuro and was used for gifts from home (see separate section below). Hokobukuro are also often called “personal bags” or “ditty bags” on eBay. Here is a late variation; several others are shown on the hokobukuro page, including some of the documents that went in them.

To find out more about hokobukuro, please click here: hokobukuro.htm

 

Kichohinbukuro (Valuables bags)

These bags were used for a soldier’s valuables. The one I have is much smaller than a hokobukuro. This one is about 11.5cm wide by 15cm high (4.5” X 6”). The characters down the centre say ki-cho-hin-bukuro, “bag for valuables”. The shaded star is the symbol of the Imperial Japanese Army. The Navy used an anchor. The cord is very long, about 60cm (two feet). This leads me to believe it was made so that the owner could wear it around his neck if he needed to.

To find out more about kichohinbukuro, please click here: kichohinbukuro.htm

 

Imonbukuro (Comfort bags)

An imonbukuro, or “comfort bag”, what we would now call a “care package”, was used to send small gifts to the troops. Hewitt (p. 261) indicates such items included “tins of crabmeat, razors, blank postcards, sake and cigarettes”, etc. This one is about 23cm by 30cm (9” X 12”) and has three big characters that say i-mon-hin, “comfort articles”. Many others had the characters i-mon-bukuro, “comfort bags”.

            To find out more about this and other comfort bags, please click here: imonbukuro.htm

 

Other Cloth Bags

The Japanese had a few other kinds of miscellaneous drawstring bags. Any that don’t fit the above three cateories will be posted here. This one is labelled a kun-ren-bukuro (training bag). The large character in the star is sei-nen, short for “youth”. Down at the bottom is a box for the name of the boy and the training centre.

            To find out more about other types of bags, please click here: otherbags.htm

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            In case you were wondering how anyone could get so interested in cloth bags, here’s the history. When I was a kid there was a type of bubble gum that was made to look like gold nuggets and was sold in little cloth bags like the one on the left. I became fascinated with these little bags and later accumulated several of the beautiful blue cloth bags that are used to package Crown Royal Canadian whiskey. I can’t stand to drink the stuff, I just cadged the bags from all and sundry. Once I found out about all the bags the Japanese used, it just seemed natural to start collecting them!

 

 

Last updated: October 16, 2004. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.

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