Traditional Kawa tanning


Hello All

Does anybody knows what tanning method used for traditional Kawa processing?
I was able to find references for Vegetable Oil tanning as well as Alum tanning in making armor and wearable leather but nothing on Shamisen Kawa so far…

Best regards,


In my opinion/experience it is not tanned at all but rather used as a rawhide. Though depending on whatnot, there might go through some sort of treatment, I don’t think it would be tanning per se.
I have used goat and lambskin on shamisen and deer. cowhide and elk on my koras. All Rawhides.
For sure, on armour and clothing type bits and pieces it would be tanned but I would say on drums, shamisen etc rawhide is the way to go.

Very interested to hear other perspectives here!


Hello Catherine

Thanks for your opinion on skin treatment. I have seen your shamisens and they look amazing.
As Kyle introduced a new “Vintage Tone Skin” he mentioned what the skin gets processed the same traditional way as the Dog and Cat skins before.
As well the tanning process is the only I knew of to get the white color instead of amber transparency of the raw hide. It seems it is quite close to vellum production used in Europe.
It would be very interesting to have a pick on a “trade secret”

Best regards,


Comes out the parchment or vellum was not tanned. The white color was achieved by an equivalent of tanning by thin pastes of lime, flour, egg whites and milk rubbed into the skins. (As I mentioned before, one of old Japanese methods was to use canola oil or similar products for tanning)