Left Side: Hatakaya Craftsman, Mr. Toshiaki of Tesshin-Ryu
Hatakaya Budougu came into prominence as a kendo supplier around Heisei 10th. While most suppliers nowadays have a tendency to cut business costs by move their manufacturing process overseas, Hatakaya Budougu has insisted on operating domestically. Their passion for quality bogu makes them stand out as what I believe to be a "treasure of the kendo world".
Mr. Toshiaki entered the bogu manufacturing industry as an apprentice under Nishioka Tomeizou (Tesshun-Ryu). During his 9 years of apprenticeship, Mr. Toshiaki mastered the arts of making men, do, kote, and various other bogu parts.
Received an award of excellence for his craftsmanship from the governor of Nagasaki prefecture.
Received a second award of excellence for his craftsmanship from the ministry of labour. (This award was the first of its kind to be awarded to a bogu manufacturer within Japan)
Mr. Toshiaki received a yellow medal of honor during the fall selections for his diligence and hard work over the years. (This was again the first award of its kind to be awarded to a bogu manufacturer within Japan)
“Modern Day Master Craftsman”
Masaomi: Our shop specializes in custom-made bogu. Every piece of our customer’s order is carefully crafted by hand.
While our shop is small in size we have had the chance to collaborate with distributors small and big; from local stores to large chains that operate on a national scale. Along with the help of a few kendo magazine features, we able to proudly present quality equipment to an even wider audience.
-We have received many inquiries from customers in the past requesting Bushizo to partner with Hatakaya Budougu.
Masaomi: Since starting our business during Heisei 10th, we have had the honour of receiving both an award of excellence from the ministry of labour and a yellow medal of honour from from the government for our work. These are the first awards of their kind to be handed to a bogu maker in Japan.
-Most bogu makers have outsourced their manufacturing overseas but Hatakaya Budougu remains an exception, why is that?
Masaomi: Every kendoka has a different body structure and style of kendo, so in response our shop wanted to make our products personal and suited for that individual. We wanted to incorporate our customer’s preferences and opinions into the bogu-making process, and to ensure that we deliver products of the highest quality, we have decided that we needed to keep the manufacturing process domestic.
-Are all the materials used also sourced within the country?
Masaomi: All the materials used in our “Takeaki” line have been hand picked by myself. I went to each factory individually to ensure the quality of the materials we will be using.
Materials from Hatakaya Budogu’s “Takeaki” Line
Brown Deer Leather, Navy Deer Leather, White Deer Leather
Masaomi: Deer leather could be said to be the most important material in the bogu making. The harvested deer leather is processed into three types of leathers: brown deer leather, navy deer leather, and white deer leather. The leather we use for our “Takeaki” line is taken from the deer’s back, which also happens to be the best part. (One sheet of deer skin can only produce one set of kote)
Masaomi: Brown deer leather is used for the palms of the kote. We look for durability and flexibility in the leather when picking out the leather. While the consistency of quality is not much of problem, processing the leather is very time consuming. It takes at least one week to prepare a single sheet of deer leather for bogu making (sheets are processed in batches of tens).
Masaomi: Materials aside, the skills and experience of a bogu craftsman just as important. But due to an aging population and a declining number of people in the industry, quality bogu is becomes harder and harder to come by.
-Are the numbers of suppliers also affected by the aging problem in Japan?
Masaomi: Yes. Bogu makers can’t survive without their suppliers. I think we should work fast while we still have the chance.
Deer fur in the kote
Masaomi: The fur that’s been delicately harvested are put into pipe shapes in order to increase breathability and shock absorption. As the kote is being used, the deer fur will mould to the hands of its user, making the fit even better. We used authentic deer fur in every one of our kote.
Comments from Bushizo
The bogu produced from these craftsmen are like works of art. In addition, I was able to learn a lot about the material selection process. There have also been a lot of requests overseas for quality Japanese bogu recently. As such, Bushizo is proud to present Hatakaya Budougu products to kenshi around the world. Thank you very much for reading this article.