Shop Interview〜 Tsuyoshi Ito〜(1)

~Shop Interview~

Through our extensive connections, KENDO PARK was able to conduct a few interviews with experts within the kendo equipment industries

PART I “Legendary Craftsman”

Tsuyoshi Ito from Yamato Budogu Tokyo

(From here on KENDO PARK = KP   Tsuyoshi Ito= ITO)

 

KP:

It seems you have been making kendo Bogu since the revival of Kendo postwar (WWII)?

ITO:

Yes. Yamato Budogu Workshop has been established circa year of Showa 27~28(AD 1952~1953), when the martial art prohibition has been lifted with kendo included.

Also, the All Japan Kendo Federation was still a small scale organization, my predecessors were leading the initial group of craftsmen tasked with prototyping new kendo equipments.

KP:

What was the business channel back then?

ITO:

Back in the days, most salesmen who used to sell kendo equipment had to trade other things during the prohibition, had revert to selling kendo equipment once again in small shop houses. So did we.

Choices were limited back then and we held a large share of the market to a certain extent.

 

 (Mr. Ito answers our interview, while assembling the Dou)

(Mr. Ito answers our interview, while assembling the Dou)

KP:

Times changed when oversea made equipment emerged.

ITO:

It started in Showa 40 ( AD 1965) and new retail shops grew in number up until Showa 50 (AD 1975).

This is largely due to the greatly lowered cost of equipment production. However, the technology and skill of production of oversea factories at the time was not mature, even cardboard were used as fillings instead of futon. Looking back at it now, the product quality was really bad.

KP:

With that, why did you not move on to trading instead of in house production?

ITO: I don’t want to lose the spirit of crafting. It has nothing to do with pride however, purely because I like to craft kendo bogu and also I did not have the confidence to focus solely on trading.

KP:

Who are your main customer base?

ITO:

Currently our products are focused on individual custom made equipment, clients range from elementary school students up to high Dan holder. Most came by words of mouth and reference by peers.
Recently, orders from oversea has been increasing too.

KP:

Do you generate any marketing events for your workshop?

ITO:

We never did any marketing for our work. Thanks to that, we were able to fully focus on our craft.

Clients who became fans of our work would introduce more potential clients to visit us.
After all, being a one man operated business, it is hard to look for clients while focusing on my craft, I am really grateful for such help.

KP:

With many years of experience, is there any observable change in consumer habit?

ITO:

I feel that there are two groups of predominant customers nowadays, customers who likes fancier Bogu (increase in request for Kazari or decoration, etc.) and customers who wants their Bogu to be as cheap as possible.
On the contrary, customers requesting specifically for high protection Bogu has been scarce, which is a sad situation. However, such situation is the sole responsibility of us Budogu craftsmen who were unable to pass on such crucial relevant information to fellow kendo players.

KP:

In the case of Yamato Budogu Workshop, your stitch distance is wider, cushion bumps are bigger, superior durability seems to be your signature feature.

ITO:

Initially, more materials and futons were stuffed into bogu to maximize impact absorption, but we were still worried of the method’s limitations.

Thus, we greatly focused on researching for better methods and arrived with this style of design around 20 years ago.

During the 13th WKC in 2015, we held a booth to showcase our work at the Nippon Budokan and received great response from not only the customers but also other kendo equipment resellers.

Even recently, craftsmen from other workshops has come to me to learn my techniques.

 

From Management:

Not only does the workshop has long history and great technique in making equipment with great protection, Mr. Ito’s warm personality has resonated with a lot of customers.

Next topic will be focused on Mr. Ito, the legendary craftsman himself.

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.