Shoemaker gives back to earthquake-affected area with shark leather shoes

KESENNUMA, Miyagi Prefecture – An Osaka-based luxury women’s shoe maker is responding to the kindness shown by its employee in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami by paying him to help this quake-hit city earthen.

Shinjukuya is working with Takahashi, a Japanese-style underwear maker here, to offer a local specialty that he hopes will take a big chunk of the women’s shoe market.

The two have created shoes for female customers from the skin of blue sharks caught off Kesennuma, which has the largest catch of predatory fish in Japan.

Sharkskin shoes are softer and conform to wearers’ feet better than cowhide shoes, according to Shinjukuya and Takahashi.

According to Hajime Maruyoshi, 50, chairman of Shinjukuya, a company sales representative was visiting Kesennuma when the 9.0 magnitude Great East Japan earthquake hit the northeastern Tohoku region on March 11, 2011. .

Seeing the perplexed employee on the way home because no means of transport was available in the wake of the earthquake, the local residents gave their support to the stranger.

Maruyoshi heard the story and became determined to “do something for the reconstruction of the region”.

He then reminisced about the episode during his visit to the Kishi-Biz Business Support Center in Kishiwada, Osaka Prefecture, which offers free counseling to small and medium-sized businesses.

The staff of Kishi-Biz then contacted his counterpart of Kesennuma. The Kesennuma team put Maruyoshi in touch with 62-year-old Kazue Takahashi, president of Takahashi, who continued to make unique Japanese items despite the tsunami damage.

In July 2021, Shinjukuya and Takahashi launched a joint development program.

The finished shark leather goods will be of two types: pumps and standard shoes. Each shoe weighs 220 grams and one whole blue shark is used to produce a pair of shoes.

As the characteristics of the waterproof gear are its durability and flexibility, the products are recommended for those who suffer from hallux valgus, a deformity of the big toe, according to the developers.

“The size of the leather is smaller than that outside of Japan, which makes processing difficult,” Maruyoshi said at a Feb. 22 event to unveil the deals in Kesennuma. “I hope as much money as possible will go to Kesennuma.”

Takahashi talked about the appeal of sharkskin shoes.

“I was impressed with how comfortable it was to put on the shoes,” Takahashi said. “The products are promising because they can be used for a long time, which has another advantage.”

Pumps and standard shoes cost 107,800 yen ($933) and 132,000 yen respectively, including tax. The shoes will be made to order and sales are expected to begin between March and April at the earliest.

The special shoes will also be donated by the city of Kesennuma as a gift under the “furusato nozei” (payment of local tax) program.

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