Author Archives: Richard Russell

Hunting in Japan Volume One- Sneakers- ASICS

Sneakers- Hunting in Japan Volume One finally ran into the elephant in the middle of the sneakers room. A company so influential that the American giant Nike began with it.

You can’t really discuss sneakers in Japan without starting at the beginning. The beginning of sneakers in Japan was Kihachiro Onitsuka’s Onitsuka Tiger sneakers, now ASICS, in 1949. 1949 was a watershed year for Japanese industry. As American occupation eased pachinko producer Marushin Bussan (now NewGin) and auto parts giant Denso along with many other now substantial companies opened for business.

A Sneaker sole, inspired by a sucker in Mr. Onitsuka’s octopus salad was his first sneaker innovation in 1951. The “Octopus” sneaker became an immediate success. The Onitsuka Co. ltd merged with GTO, and Jelenk in 1972 to become ASICS. The company grew by leaps and bounds into the nineties.

The Onitsuka Tiger sneaker sole

The Original Tiger with “Octopus” Sole

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Hunting in Japan Volume One- Sneakers- Buddy

Sneakers- Hunting in Japan Volume One discovered a fledgling member of the Japanese sneaker world. It is always good to find something new.

With a 2012 debut, Buddy is Japan’s new kid on the block in sneakers. Buddy’s line of sneakers features high quality suede in some neat colors, hand crafted and, in essence, signed by their artisan with an individual leather tag.

Buddy sneakers are fairly reasonably priced and really don’t offer specialities, you can play basketball, jog, walk or just relax in them. They don’t offer much in the jell filled, pump-up, velcro fastened world of the performance based athletic shoe, nor do they fit in the high end footwear category. Just wearable, comfortable and colorful enough to be fashionable sneakers.

Buddy sneakers tag

Buddy’s signature tag for its sneakers

The designs are simple, basic sneaker designs with no Velcro, or high tech innovations, just basic sneakers to, as the company says “Make feet happy.”

While they are fairly basic sneakers they come in a wide variety of colors and work well with numerous fashions.Buddy also makes backpacks and handbags to compliment it’s sneakers.

Sneakers by Buddy

A Line of Buddy Sneakers

As a new brand, Buddy is a brand for sneaker collectors to watch. It could just turn out to be the next big thing. Two other sneaker brands we’ve looked at, Hender Scheme and visvim were once in this place.

And even if Buddy fails to make the cut, it’s usually not a loss for the collector. Well-made products, especially ones with a good gimmick such as the individualized tag, signing each sneaker, are pretty cool if they are not being made anymore. In other words, they acquire the exclusivity of a thousand dollar pair of sneakers without the high-ticket buy in. If you collect sneakers, Buddy is a pretty good deal right now, so have a look.

Hunting in Japan Volume One- Sneakers- RFW

Sneakers- Hunting in Japan Volume One ran into a Japanese standard that is just beginning to break into the world market. One of the best selling brands in Japan, it started exporting only recently.

RFW Tokyo began as Rhythm Footwear in 1998. Until recently the brand was sold exclusively in Japan. While lacking a lot of designer features and focusing on simple silhouettes, RFW adds subtle details that catch the eye and make RFW kicks unique.

RFW Tokyo produces pretty basic sneakers without the pretensions of designer sneakers or the innovations of athletic shoes. However many feature imaginative color combinations and patterns, some in tune with the season they were released in. This makes it easy to single out RFW sneakers in a crowd. RFW sneakers are very popular in Japan and may soon replicate that success in the worldwide sneaker market.

Simplicity of design married to imaginative color and pattern choices seems to be a very good idea for sneakers. Sneakers in plaid, various camouflage designs, leafs and stars, compliment simple solid colors alone or in combination to create new and exciting looks.

RFW sneakers

RFW Eye-Catching Detail

RFW keeps things simple with high quality sneakers that are distinctive but without the bells and whistles that seem to predominate the sneaker industry. The design is basic, like the classic sneaker Converse’ Chuck Taylor or All-star sneakers, rather timeless and basic sneakers, but dressed in all new clothes. Making the most of all the things you can do to canvas and suede to make it prettier and more colorful.

patterned RFW sneakers

Imaginative Combinations on RFW sneakers

Long time staple of the Japanese sneaker market RFW is just beginning to break into the worldwide sneaker marketplace. It should be A hit among those who like simple designs filled with eye-catching detail.  

Hunting in Japan Volume One- Sneakers- visvim

Sneakers- Hunting in Japan Volume One cornered another creative manufacturer of sneakers. This one features a breadth and depth of design that is actually breathtaking.

Hiroki Nakamura’s visvim has been creating waves in the sneaker market since 2001. Visvim sneakers are anything but ordinary. 

Roland jogger sneakers

A Unique Sneaker Design visvim’s Roland Jogger

Nakamura delves into several cultures such as vintage Americana, Japanese Edo period garments, Amish patchwork, Native American footwear, French work clothes, the Alaskan outdoors, and Finnish Sami tribe culture to create rather unique sneakers and other things, such as unique clothing and fashion accessories.

The breadth of design motifs used by visvim is amazing in it’s scope and diversity. Ideas seem to fly into visvim’s creative machine from all corners of the Earth. Visvim’s sneakers push the sneaker envelope to include things that were never before thought of as sneakers.

Right now the talk of the sneaker world is the FBT, a sneaker inspired by Native American moccasins. While not quite in the rarefied realm of Hender Scheme, visvim sneakers aren’t in the bargain basement either. So search carefully for sneaker bargains.

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Hunting in Japan Volume One- Sneakers-Hender Scheme

Sneakers- Hunting in Japan Volume One breaks open the piggy bank. What we found is Hender Scheme, a truly unique higher than high end sneaker maker with interesting features for both the wearer and collector.

Hender Scheme makes high-end leather shoes and other leather goods. Their sneakers have been the talk of the sneaker world for a while now.

Designer Ryo Kashiwazaki creates ‘homage” sneakers out of raw leather. Thus each set of sneakers shows every bump and bruise. This causes them to gain uniqueness and “character” over time.

In 2014 Hender Scheme created a homage to the classic sneaker the Air Jordan 4. Titled the Manual Industrial Products (MIP) 10, the all leather sneaker has none of the technological developments of the Air Jordan 4 sneaker. It is usually priced over a thousand US dollars, which ennobles the humble sneaker exponentially.

hender-scheme-"homage" sneakers

MIP 10 Black and Natural

For 2016, they dyed it black, and made it one of the world’s priciest sneakers.

Hender Scheme sneakers have become somewhat trendy. Some well-heeled sneaker collectors are actually in the market for Hender Scheme sneakers that have acquired some “character.”

Then, of course, some dissatisfied customers do get fed up with “character” and auction off their pair.

The MIP 10 is not alone as a “homage” sneaker. Hender Scheme produces several “homage” sneakers. The Van era “homage” line is very popular among the non-athletic sneakers.

Van's sneakers Hender-Scheme

Hender-Scheme Vans “homage” Line

Thousand dollar sneakers alone is newsworthy I expect, always fun to look up anyway. Who knows, get a pair cheap and tell everyone you can afford them.

Beware, however, Kashiwazaki’s “homage” sneakers are not, nor are they meant to be, athletic shoes. They are high end footwear, and have none of the advantages built into the original athletic versions.  

Hunting in Japan Volume One- Sneakers- Shoes Like Pottery

Sneakers-Hunting in Japan Volume One stalks a sneaker manufacturer, Shoes Like Pottery that features a unique method to create a comfortable shoe.

One of the most interesting sneakers made in Japan is made by Moonstar, and called Shoes Like Pottery. Basically a canvas-sewn sneaker, the Shoes Like Pottery sneaker is a  high quality sneaker with a difference. After the sneaker is assembled Shoes Like Pottery adds an extra step.

Kilns to fire Shoes Like Pottery sneakers

Moonstar Kilns exclusive to the Shoes Like Pottery process

The shoes are fired in a pottery kiln at about 248 degrees. A process called ka-ryu. The raw rubber used for the sole of the sneakers is mixed with sulfur. The result of firing the sneakers produces a very soft, pliable sole, almost like clay. Shoes Like Pottery, because of this process, is perhaps one of the most comfortable sneakers available anywhere.

Two examples of the Shoes Like Pottery sneakers

Shoes Like Pottery

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Hunting in Japan – Volume One – Sneakers Old, New, Exclusive and Rare

Join us for Hunting in Japan as we stalk old, new, exclusive and rare sneakers across the landscape.

Thinking about Japan, one rarely thinks sneakers. Japan, we think, is more of a sandal place, I mean they even make tabi socks to fit sandals, right? (or as you gaijin call them, “ninja” socks”)  

Well, it turns out that Japan is just stocked full of sneakerheads, people who collect and wear sneakers. There are people who actually own as many as eight hundred pairs of new and used exclusive kicks. Some wear a new pair every day of the year. 

Japanese Sneakers Collector

Kakiuchi Yuuki owns over 300 in his sneaker collection, and loves retro Jordans.

In fact, there are Japanese sneaker stores that sell only used kicks, for those who prefer the wild nature of a used sneaker, as opposed to the new, domesticated variety, and for those who can’t afford the cost of the newest Air Jordan. These stores operate pretty much like American used bookstores. They buy, sell, and trade, catering to the collector as well as the wearer. 

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