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Passions of Artisans We ask Rin crossing participant manufacturers about their wishes regarding manufacturing.

Home > Passions of Artisans #026 Mizutori Industrial Co., Ltd.

#026 Mizutori Industrial Co., Ltd.2015/05/07

The most comfortable <geta> in Japan fusing traditional and modern.

Geta that defy conventional wisdom and are comfortable for modern people to wear.

"Surely you want to wear your yukata (light summer kimono) and clip-clop along in your geta on your way to the fireworks display, right? This is how Japanese people feel. But it is hard to walk in geta, the geta thong hurts, and you end up feeling like you hate them. That being the case, all we need is to make geta that are comfortable and easy to walk in. Then, everyone started to wear geta, even with jeans."

Popular for their comfort and modern design, "Mizutori Geta (Japanese wooden clogs)" have been featured in a variety of fashion magazines. Products are continuing to be a big hit, selling out in the summer one after another. These geta are characterized by the curved wooden base shaped to fit your feet, and wide geta thongs with cushioning material that wraps gently around your feet.

"Mizutori Geta" boast a great many awards, including the Good Design Shizuoka Award (Governor's Prize), the Grand Prize in the New Product Contest at the 70th Tokyo International Gift Show, and the like. They were used at the G8 Summit held in Toyako, Hokkaido, and are now used in the Eco House Venue, at luxury resort hotels, and even at high-end well-established Japanese inns.

No doubt the moment that you put your feet in, you are surprised at how the wooden base fits the soles of your feet perfectly and comfortably, and you think, "Wait, are these geta?" And it is not just that the geta are comfortable--you get a sense of exhilaration as you do when you walk barefoot on a wooden floor or on tatami straw mats.

"That's what's great about geta," explained Mizutori Industrial Co., Ltd. Representative Director Masashi Mizutori. "The good quality of nature. It's because you're wearing something made of wood.

Japanese people probably love the feeling of wood instinctively. But traditional geta have absolutely no curve in the arch, no difference between left and right--just a flat wooden base. It comes as no surprise that modern people who are used to wearing "evolved footwear" such as sneakers and the like cannot wear geta.

President Mizutori gave a hearty laugh as he recalled, "When I said that geta need to evolve in the same way--customers say that their feet hurt--nobody listened, with the thinking that, 'That's just the way geta are.' So it all started when I finally said, 'If that's the case, then I'm going to make them!' and resolved to do just that."

“Representative Director Masashi Mizutori is known as "the man who changed Japanese geta." "Geta are a natural feature in the beautiful culture of Japan. In order to keep the natural cycle of the earth, we make effective use of Shizuoka wood and promote product development that helps to protect the environment."

Creating things together with skilled craftsmen without compromise.

President Mizutori was born in Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture, which has had thriving forestry since ancient times, as the eldest son of a geta wooden base manufacturer. The company was founded in 1937 by his father, who devoted himself entirely to geta.

When there was nearly no demand for geta wooden bases with the changing times in the latter half of the 1950s, however, Mizutori Industrial shifted production to sandals and insoles for shoes in order to survive. While the business was on track, President Mizutori had a hunch that this would "not last for ten years." Around that time, he traveled widely in China and Southeast Asia and sensed the crisis sooner that anyone in the production area.

"But because things were going well at the time, it didn't hit home with anyone when I said that there was danger. In fact, in less than ten years we were suddenly overwhelmed by foreign products. Even when you make good products, you lose on the price. The geta union collapsed a long time ago, and although there are several shops that still make geta, the production area was destroyed. It was really frustrating. I thought about going back to the starting point and making geta again, but this time with geta that modern people would wear."

The hint was in the wooden sandals of Indonesia.

"While the thongs are horizontal, Indonesia has a wooden clog culture as well, with kanna and nomi wooden bases dexterously carved to fit your feet, and there were a great many skilled craftsmen. I thought, 'This is it!' and placed an order even though I had nowhere set to sell them yet (laughs)."

At this time, President Mizutori was in his forties. He went to Indonesia at a pace of once every two months, even though he didn't speak the language, and he devoted himself to creating more refined geta to fit the feet of Japanese people through trial and error with the craftsmen. The fruit of this labor was the company's flagship product, series.

 

The <Tale of Geta> series. The results of joint experiments with Shizuoka University showed that there were health benefits in the geta including (1) increases blood flow in the feet (2) resolving floating toe (3) relaxing your mood, and the like, and they are recommended for all ages.

 

The <m2> collaborative series among designers who are active in a variety of fields and fabric dyeing artists. The <Shikibu> using "Shima-Shima" cloth from registered Rin crossing manufacturer Kokura Creation.

"It was a good thing in the end to have not only wooden base manufacturing techniques, but also insole manufacturing expertise, which can be regarded as the heart of shoes. It still took seven or eight years to bring the product into the world."

Opening up sales channels by word of mouth, against the headwinds

You might say that the situation just after launching was not positive, "Geta nowadays?" But the quality of the products attracted customers.

"With buyers we exhibited them at the Tokyo International Gift Show, and the immediate interest of buyers from department stores downtown led to demonstration sales and the like. At the Hamamatsu Festival in May, hearing that the tea girls serving the first tea of the season hurt their feet every year with geta, we made geta with thongs to match their kimonos, and when the news spread by word of mouth that they 'Made it through without having to take off the geta even once!' orders poured in from drapers and the like."

There were innovative ideas for making shoe-type geta in order to fit your feet. The craftsmen stretches the bottom of geta in the manufacturing process, pair after pair, and finishes by attaching and tying the ends of the thongs to the geta. Even skilled craftsmen could make no more than about 30 pairs per day, as the work requires strength and accuracy.

The results of joint experiments with Shizuoka University showed that there were positive effects on your health wearing "Mizutori Geta." Walking for 30 minutes in "Mizutori Geta" activates your blood flow, and your center of gravity approaches the optimum position. The geta were also found to ameliorate floating toe (a condition in which the five toes do not touch the ground when standing), which causes lower back pain, knee pain, and the like.

Putting together thongs designed with modern textiles in order to match modern fashions is another reason that the geta are attracting attention. Mizutori is actively involved in collaboration with up-and-coming artists and designers as well.

Executive Director Hideyo Mizutori explained that, "In collaboration with Kozue Hibino (a native of Shizuoka), whom we met in a project at Wacoal Art Center in Shizuoka, we used Shizuoka cypress and established a wooden base compression technique after two years in order to create a wooden base with a thin and supple curve. After searching all over Japan, we finally found the technique of a furniture manufacturer in Shizuoka Prefecture. A broad range of wisdom and techniques are poured into every pair of geta."

This <Hinoki Cypress Footwear> series won the Sarai Grand Prize sponsored by Shogakukan in 2006.

The <Hibino Kodue + Mizutori> Series

We want to bring Japanese geta to the world!

"Mizutori Geta" are one of a kind. Since they are popular, similar products made overseas are coming out, but because you immediately notice the difference in quality when you put them on, these products are sure to disappear quickly. The tears shed in frustration over producing the traditional geta and insoles are wiped away by having brought back the tradition with Japanese commitment to detail, compassion for the people who wear geta, and flexible thinking.

Hideyo smiled and added, "We are thankful to have a great many repeat customers. We have customers who have treasured wearing their geta for many years, as we provide reliable after sales customer care, and there are those who look forward to buying new designs every year as part of their summer fun."

Hideyo Mizutori noted that, "The designers demand things that surprise us from the standpoint of our own common practice, but I think that taking up challenges without giving up thinking them impossible leads to growth."

President Mizutori smiles and agrees that, "Even in a different form, I want to pass on the geta culture forever. Geta always evolve during peaceful eras, you know. I hope that the peaceful era in which we can comfortably wear geta continues forever."

In recent years, his daughter Yukiko--who had been working as a beautician in Yokohama--joined the management, the number of young employees increased, refining the sense of fashion further still. We would like to draw on Rin crossing to spread geta throughout the world going forward.

In setting up booths at overseas exhibitions, we felt some response, enjoying a particularly positive response from the French people. Geta shops are only busy in the summer, but going forward we need to change our thinking in management and aim to sell geta in the winter on the other side of the of the earth, in Australia."

Mizutori Industrial Co., Ltd.

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