Shop Interview~Shokodo Takahito Matsumoto (1)~

~SHOP INTERVIEW~

 

Part 1  “Focus on the ‘good old-fashioned’ "

~Shokodo Takahito Matsumoto~

(From Here on KENDO PARK= KP   Takahito Matsumoto= Matsumoto)

 


-Takahito Matsumoto-

Born in Tokyo, Japan

Belonged to the Toin Gakuen High School and Hosei University kendo clubs.

Became the President of Shokodo Co., Ltd. in 2005; is still the incumbent President now.

Became the Chairman of the All Japan Bogu Cooperative in 2015.


KP:

I hear that Shokodo was established quite a long time ago.

Please tell us a bit about the company’s history.

 

 

Matsumoto:

Shokodo was established in 1934 by its founder, Yaichi Matsumoto,

who founded the company by becoming independent from Matsukan Kogyo Co., Ltd.

 

At the time of establishment, the company HQ was located in 5-chome, Honmachi.

Factory facilities were also located there.

 

The reason the factory was established was to manufacture Jukendo (a form of bayonet fighting) equipment for the army and navy.

Because Honmachi itself was a town that was comprised of subcontracting factories,

building a company factory there was a natural progression at the time.

 

 

KP:

I see, so sales routes at the time were primarily focused on the army.

 

 

Matsumoto:

That’s right. I think there are remnants of that trend still alive today.

We still receive periodic orders from governmental and municipal agencies.

We believe that this is an indication of the history and the trust we have built over the years.

 

 

KP:

It seems quite difficult to have to maintain a company factory.

 

 

Matsumoto:

Since our company’s establishment, we have prided ourselves on our “manufacture-and-sell” style of business.

 

I definitely consider the core concept behind kendo gear to be “crafting”; even though our base of production has moved overseas, we have no deviated from this particular focus at all.

 

However, things definitely have become more difficult as times change.

In the past, there was a great deal of demand from governmental and municipal agencies in addition to a lack of competing companies with the same production capabilities as us.

 

This allowed us to maintain our “manufacture-and-sell” style of business. Back then, there were so many craftspeople that we needed a bus especially for them.

 A photo of the store, where you can find a row of sturdy and stately kendo gear (Bogu).

A photo of the store, where you can find a row of sturdy and stately kendo gear (Bogu).

 

KP:

How did you adapt to these changes?

 

 

Matsumoto:

From around 1975, we shifted our business to high added-value products such as hand-stitched Bogu.

 

We also moved our factory to Akita during this same period.

By this time, most craftspeople were still working using pre-War traditions,

so I believe that the aging of the craftspeople tradition had already started.

 

When demand was high, we made our products in a unified standard to maintain supply, without classifying our products by specifications or size.

 

We slowly shifted our product lineup away from this production model and introduced high-added value products that would make use of our high level of craftsmanship.

 

 

KP:

Around 1975… that would be around the same time that overseas –made products started circulating the market.

 

 

Matsumoto:

Yes. However, many overseas products were poor in quality at the time.

I would say that the past 10 to 20 years have been the real age of price competition.

 

We are no exception to this rule. We also moved our base of productions to China at around 2006.

 

 

KP:

The uniqueness of Shokodo’s kendo gear (bogu) series seems to be its “sturdiness”.

Please tell us what things you particularly focus on when making your gear.

 

 

Matsumoto:

We particularly focus on the “good old-fashioned” style of gear.

Even after our base of production changed, we have not changed how we make our products at all.

 

Right now, the trend seems to be for Futon (pads) to be short, light, and simple.

 

However, our company Futons are longer than average,

and have not been made lighter just to follow trends.

 

 

KP:

True-your products are very reminiscent of the kendo gear (bogu) that my “old kendo teacher used to wear in the past.”

 

 

Matsumoto:

I think you will be able to feel the sturdiness of our products if you look at them in person.

Because materials for our products are becoming harder to come by, it is not easy to keep producing the same type of gear as we have in the past.

However, we have no intention of changing our product’s quality.

 

FROM MANAGEMENT:

I was deeply able to feel Shokodo’s commitment to historically-backed craftsmanship.

Their sturdy gear (Bogu) that reminded me of those that “elderly kendo teachers” used to wear almost evoke a sense of nostalgia.

 

I was able to hear from Mr. Matsumoto, who is currently the Chairman of the All Japan Bogu Cooperative, regarding the SSP Shinai standards.

We’ll be talking about this in more detail in the upcoming part!

Poster:
Kenshi Nagamatsu

Born December 8th, 1987 in Tokyo
Graduated from Keio University's Faculty of Law.

Started Kendo at 5 years old at the Tokyo-budokan (located in Ota-ku, Tokyo), and continued kendo club activities throughout Keio junior high school and Keio high school, and during Keio University Athletic Association's Kendo association, as well as Nomura Securities' Kendo association.

Started KENDO PARK services in 2017.

Major kendo accomplishments include:
・Second place in Kanagawa prefecture's high school kendo tournament
・Best 8 in Kanto students' new player tournament
・Best 16 in All-Japan Business Organization Kendo Tournament, etc.