While American-made goods are certainly near and dear to our hearts, we are not blind to the fact that there are plenty of stupendously made pieces of gear that come from all around the world. In fact, one nation directly across the Pacific we hold in especially high esteem: Japan.
One particular piece of gear that the Japanese do exceptionally well is the backpack. Though their formats and appearances can often seem almost alien, there’s no denying the mastery behind many of the bags offered by Japanese-born brands and designers. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of our favorites from the Asian island nation for this list of the 15 best Japanese backpacks on the market.
Makavelic Trucks Weatherproof Backpack
Headquartered in Tokyo, Makavelic endeavors to be a brand that evolves alongside the needs of its customers – so that no matter what style and functionality dictate, they’ll always have something that fits the bill perfectly. Take, for instance, their Trucks Weatherproof Backpack. Stylish enough to carry with you thorough the city streets, but durable enough that it wouldn’t seem out of place on the trails (especially on rainier days, thanks to its water-resistant design), this bag is the perfect city-country hybrid daypack – one you could actually carry every day.
F/CE. No Seam Zip Lock Bag
Based on the concept that all of their offerings should make life simpler, F/CE. is a brand that creates fashionable and minimalist, albeit no less functional carry solutions. They also have an interesting design philosophy. As they base all of their collections on specific countries, they actually send their team to said country to ensure that their bags’ styling and feel fit that of the host country. We’re not sure where they developed their No Seam Zip Lock Bag, but it must have been somewhere pretty humid, as this stormproof bag is one of the best for hauling your gear through inclement weather day-in and day-out.
Hobo X Araitent Slope Backpack
We hear a lot about western culture borrowing from the east, but it isn’t often we see that go the other way. But that’s exactly the case with Hobo – they’ve drawn much of their inspiration from the traveling American workers of the 19th century. And that’s seen in both the stylistic elements of their offerings, as well as their overall quality of build and durability. Their Slope backpack, seen here, gets some bonus points, however, as it also benefits from the expertise of Araitent – the Japanese outdoor equipment brand that collaborated on this one.
Material: CELSPUN Nylon
AS2OV Dobby Roll Backpack
Owned by UNBY, the same parent company behind the makers at Cote & Ciel, AS2OV was founded in 2013 by Taichi Fujimatsu, a former designer from Master-Piece and an expert in the field of functionally sound streetwear. That expertise is evident here in the brand’s Dobby roll top bag – from its clean style lines to the material attention to detail (the pack is crafted from durable water-resistant Cordura nylon). And it’s not just the exterior either, as the Dobby also features a wealth of internal organizational options, plus a few smaller quick-access zippered pouches on the outside.
Material: 305D Cordura Nylon & Vegetable-Tanned Leather
Southern Field Industries Backpack
Headquartered outside Tokyo in the Saitama region of Japan, Southern Field Industries is a small brand helmed by a handful of dedicated master craftsmen who seek to create timeless and functional goods with the utmost care. Interestingly enough, the brand was started by a man who got his start producing equestrian-focused goods for race horses – a notoriously selective industry. The same dedication to quality and precision translates perfectly into their offerings, like the backpack pictured here. As simple as it is beautiful and well-made, this zippered bag is an excellent everyday carry staple anyone would be lucky to carry.
Material: #6 Cotton Canvas & Vegetable-Tanned Leather
Narifuri Hatena Rucksack
‘Hatena,’ the Japanese word for ‘question,’ is certainly the most appropriate name for this bag, namely because of the unique question mark-shaped main compartment zipper. And while it’s certainly a stand-out stylistic choice, it also offers up some neat functionality, such as a combination top and down-the-center opening that makes accessing your gear even easier. We’d expect this perfect meshing of style and purpose from a brand like narifuri, who based their catalogue on creating fashionable pieces of gear with cycling in mind.
Beams X Arc’teryx 40th Anniversary Sebring Backpack
Arc’teryx – a Canadian outdoor gear brand – is one of the most highly coveted outfitters in the world. So it says a lot that they would partner with Japanese brand, Beams, on this 40th Anniversary Sebring backpack. It’s not entirely surprising, however, as both brands offer beautiful carefully-crafted items throughout their individual catalogues. Beams has made a habit of partnering with some truly excellent brands when it comes to their collaborations – the result of which is always superb, as is the case with this ripstop nylon backpack.
Material: Ripstop Nylon
And Wander 40L Backpack
A little less streetwear and a little more trail-friendly, and wander was launched in the spring/summer season of 2011 to create stellar outdoor gear that could stand up to use traversing the mountains, but still looks good enough that it wouldn’t make you stick out like a sore thumb in the city. And their 40L backpack is perhaps a perfect example of those styles meshing brilliantly. Made from PU-coated Cordura nylon, this water-resistant bag is certainly an excellent carry option for inclement weather in the great outdoors, but you could definitely use it to haul your gear on the days between adventures, too.
Material: Invista Cordura Nylon
Junya Watanabe X The North Face Oxford Backpack
In the United States, The North Face is renowned for their outdoor-focused gear offerings. And while they do have a similar level of respect and admiration across the pond, the brand is very different in Japan, not so much in quality (everything they make the world-round is superb), but rather in style. Less outdoorsy and more streetwear, the application of that stylistic difference can be seen even in something as seemingly innocuous as this Oxford backpack. For instance, it features a simple form (styled by Japanese designer Junya Watanabe), but a number of interesting and unique details – like the tonal suede blacked out patch and base.
Material: Nylon & Suede
Y-3 Ultratech Bag
In Tokyo, Japan – way back in 1943 – Yohji Yamamoto was born. Over the course of the next few decades, he would rise to become one of the most influential fashion designers ever to come out of the country. Now, he’s responsible for Y-3, a sub-brand of Adidas renowned in the world of streetwear. Fun fact, the ‘Y’ in the brand name stands for the designer’s name, whereas the ‘3’ is representative of Adidas’ signature three stripes. Just have a look at this Ultratech bag from the brand and you can see Y-3’s mastery at work: minimalist style, uncompromising quality, and plenty of features to ensure that everything you need to carry will not only fit, but be safe and sound within the compartments of the backpack.
Allterrain X Porter Boa Backpack
This collaboration bag comes to us courtesy not just from one, but from two powerhouses of Japanese-born gear: Porter and Decente Allterrain. Porter, born in 1962, is actually a sub-brand of the highly-respected Yoshida & Co. and, like their mother brand, are known for their meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail when it comes to carry solutions. Similarly, Decente Allterrain is known for high quality, but in a slightly different venue: that of outdoor gear. Put the two together and you get the Boa – an impressively minimalist backpack that meshes both brands’ styles while still standing out as a unique product all its own.
Material: 1000D Cordura Nylon
Master-Piece Co. Black Leather Backpack
With roots that date back to the mid-1990s, Master-Piece hinges on the simple belief that something’s style should not bely its function – that both appearance and purpose should coexist harmoniously in order for something to offer true value. That outlook paired with far-reaching inspiration, touching on everything from reggae music to men’s work wear, has garnered the brand much esteem from peers and fans alike. In particular, we’re rather fond of this Black Leather Backpack, as it offers plenty of internal storage space, a clean-minimalist exterior that still boasts a stand-out appearance, and a careful attention to details and construction materials.
Material: Leather, Nylon, & Polyester
Visvim Suede-Trimmed Nylon Backpack
Believe it or not, but Visvim has only been around since 2001. In spite of the brevity of the brand’s existence, they’ve exploded in popularity thanks to endorsements from the likes of Kanye West and John Mayer. The brainchild of designer Hiorki Nakamura, Visvim endeavors to make what the founder calls simply “good product.” Still, the wide range of inspiration (everything from classic American blue jeans to architecture and everything in-between) has given this powerhouse of streetwear an impressive amount of staying power. Not quite understanding why? Just take a look at this Suede-Trimmed Nylon Backpack. It’s roomy, durable (thanks to a sturdy Cordura nylon construction), and manages to be unique enough to stand apart from the crowd.
Material: Cordura Nylon & Suede
Bao Bao Issey Miyake Daypack
Sometimes, the mark of a great brand is an unmistakeable style – even in lieu of clear branding. That’s exactly the case with the offerings from Bao Bao Issey Miyake. Every one of the brand’s bags features a unique geometric design – a series of individual triangles that together create a web-like folding textile appearance – recognizable from practically any angle. This daypack is perhaps one of their more subdued creations, but the matte vinyl coating, which also adds a measure of water-resistance, is still an indisputable representation of the brand’s signature geometry.
Material: Vinyl-Coated Canvas
Porter Paramount Packer Backpack
Though we featured a collaboration bag from Porter earlier on this list, we’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t showcase one of their individual offerings, as the brand is really that good at what they do. Certainly on the high end of the spectrum, this tactical-inspired hiking pack features a superb Cordura nylon exterior with a GORE-TEX waterproof coating. The bag also features a an inner ePTFE membrane and GORE-SEAM tape to ensure every inch of the bag will stay dry in even the worst of conditions. If you want a Japanese backpack and only the best will do, this is the one for you.
Material: GORE-TEX 500D Cordura Nylon
Best Japanese EDC Knives
If you love these stupendously-designed and crafted backpacks from Japan, you’ll probably also enjoy our collection of the 10 best Japanese EDC knives.