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 1951 Onitsuka Tiger sneakers and the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 sneakers are almost staples in the sneaker collector’s marketplace. ASICS is the fifth largest producer of sneakers in the World.
Mr. Onitsuka, who died in 2007, has been called the Godfather of Nike. In 1962, Phil Knight secured the right to distribute Onitsuka sneakers in the Western United States. The company he formed with Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman to distribute the Onitsuka Tiger began the evolution of Nike.
The original Nikes were not quite knockoffs of the Onitsuka Tiger. The quality and cost were certainly heavily influenced by Onitsuka sneakers. As well as the high standards set by Mr. Onitsuka for his sneakers and his company.
The original Onitsuka Tiger sneakers and the iconic Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 sneaker form the basis of many sneaker collections. They remain consistent sellers in what is now a crowded market they did much to create.