Shop Interview~Shokodo Takahito Matsumoto (2)~
Part 2 “Creating the future of kendo gear”
~Shokodo Takahito Matsumoto (2)~
(From here o : KENDO PARK= KP Takahito Matsumoto＝ 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.
Please tell us about recent changes in the kendo gear industry.
With the appearance of online shopping about 7 to 8 years ago,
I feel that the flow of materials distribution has changed.
Materials that are produced overseas are also being consumed overseas,
which has made it difficult for us to obtain good-quality materials.
Are there any changes in your customer base?
I think demands with respect to size and specification have gotten more detailed.
This in itself is fine, but we’re recently starting to receive requests from school kendo club teachers such as “please make the Men-buton (Men padding) as thin and short as possible.”
In consideration of the safety of the kids that would be using the gear,
we had to decline this request.
Though it has become easier to acquire information,
I feel that it is a bit disappointing that the correct knowledge with respect to how to determine “good or bad kendo gear (Bogu)”has not spread in the same way.
Please tell us about current issues or tasks that you face.
As a business, as I mentioned before, one of our tasks is procuring materials.
Obviously, focusing on the “good old-fashioned” business model inevitably raises costs,
so finding a good balance has been challenging.
With respect to the industry itself, I think there is a problem with ‘definitions’,
as well as finding successors.
The development of machinery has made it difficult to clearly define the difference between “machine-sewed” and “hand-sewed”.
The definition of “made in Japan” has also been reduced in many industries as “put together in Japan.”
The industry as a whole needs to tackle how to properly convey the quality of their products to their customers.
With respect to the issue of successors, I think it’s especially apparent in the materials business.
From the perspective of distribution, not being able to procure even one material for production can impact our business greatly, so this is a huge point of concern for us.
Tell us a little bit about the problem of successors with respect to the kendo gear industry.
There are, of course, some companies that do not have any successors, but depending on the type of business, there are businesses where young craftspeople are emerging out of the woodworks.
This may be a result of the economic recession necessitating young people to “find an occupation”.
The kendo gear industry should do its utmost to value these young people.
Can you tell us a little bit about the shinai standard SSP that has now become mandatory in the All Japan Dojo Junior Kendo Tournaments?
※Regarding the mandatory use of SSP standard Shinai in the All Japan Dojo Junior Kendo Tournaments
“The All Japan Dojo Junior Kendo Tournament, which is hosted by the All Japan Budogu Cooperative, will make it mandatory starting from the 2017 “52nd Tournament” for all athletes to use shinais marked by a SSP sticker. These shinais can be purchased at any national certified specialized store, and clearly denotes that it fulfills all the standard specifications for competition by the All Japan Budogu Cooperative. The reason this measure is being implemented is to put safety first and to also prove that the shinai being used is covered by PL insurance in event of an accident.
In order to support safe improvement of our kendo athletes, we ask for everyone’s support and understanding in proliferating SSP sticker-marked shinais which have been cultivated for over a decade and has evolved with the help of instructors who support the growth of our kendo athletes every day.”
(Quote from the All Japan Budogu Cooperative Official website)
The implementation of the current standards means that all juniors will be using shinais that are in accordance with All Japan Kendo Federation shinai standards, and that insurance will apply if shinais ever break.
The SSP standards are being tested in Japan based on the All Japan Kendo Federation standards. Of course, there are still a good many tasks to tackle, but at the very least we have eliminated the abnormal condition that “anyone can enter using any kind of shinai”.
As a secondary effect, I think it was good that businesses all came together to have a discussion within the All Japan Budogu Cooperative. Even if we are members of the All Japan Budogu Cooperative, we are all competing companies in the same industry; it has been difficult to come together and talk shop in the past, but SSP has given us an opportunity to do just that. I think it was beneficial for all of us.
When I was a student, I was also very confused by all the different Shinai standards that were in place in each tournament.
Do you think that the SSP will ever become a unified standard in the future?
It would be wonderful if that were to happen, but the SSP itself has just taken off.
I think we have to wait and see.
There are organizations such as the High School Kendo Federation and the Student Kendo Federation who have unique and stricter Shinai standards.
With respect to applying for insurance, I think that many different varieties of insurance will arise in the future, so I hope to address these tasks as they come, one by one.
No matter what, our aim of “providing safe equipment” will remain unchanged.
Tell us about something you’re aiming for as an industry.
As a supplier of equipment, I have to say “safety first.”
With respect to kendo gear, there are many aspects to them that have not been medically clarified.
I believe that in this regard, each federation should come together and cooperate in research.
Even if some aspects of gear may be traditional,
if they are detrimental from a safety perspective, they should be corrected.
Mr. Matsumoto was incredibly dedicated to securing safety for the people using the gear.
I was particularly struck by how his dedication was not limited only to his duties as a “businessman”, but also extended to his duties as a member of the “industry”.
His attention to detail spanned from product development all the way to Shinai standards.
You can find a wide variety of Shokodo products at KENDO PARK.
Please take a look at these “good old-fashioned” selection of products.
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.