Vol.5 Takeo Kikuchi

April 8, 2009 2:26 PM update

Takeo Kikuchi

English translation:MIYA SAKASHITA
One day Takeo Kikuchi who had just ran the small shoe factory was stunned by the young ladies' shoes he saw. The design was exquisite, but it heavily lost shape. The shoes they wore were from his factory... He was quick to check their foot and found they had had some dislocated and deformed joints of foot, which is called 'hallux valgus'. It is obviously caused by their shoes. Thinking-over and regret he had for them. In such a frustration, he made up his mind, which is to make sensible shoes. In 1975, it was in an age of mass production and consumption, and then he was already 50 years old. The shoe production challenge by him as a wood pattern craftsman, who would be called a master-hand later, ironically started like this with the sound of collapsing his confidence...

'The customers buying our shoes might hurt their foot like my daughters do. Design is priority to functionality. It is assumed that foot has been fit into shoes. That means foot is adapted to the shoe which is convenient for mass production by manufacture. I was ashamed that I had been making shoes with no knowledge of the structure of the human foot at all. I had to study that. I thought so, and then knocked at the gate of the Anatomy of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.'

He studied ergonomics and leg anatomy in the special lectures by the professor Mr.Yoshiyasu Nakao, and then knew that the bone structure between the Westerners and the Japanese is different in a large scale. He noticed that the shoes made by the wooden pattern in those days had not been broken in to the shape of the Japanese foot because it is the western pattern as it that had been used for making the Japanese shoes. Wooden pattern is a shoe mold that is a basis for making shoes, which makes or mars shoes. In other words, it is needed that there is a wood pattern reflecting the Japanese bone structure. He readily asked some specialists for making wooden molds, however the items finished is far from his ideal. He knew that he had no way without making it by himself. He still had the memory and confidence of his younger days when he worked as a lathe man before getting involved in shoe making, but he had never shaved wood pattern from scratch. It comes near to stating the obvious that his challenge was a bold decision as 55 years old.
'The foot structure is different between the Anglo-Saxons and the Mongoloids at all. The calcaneal of agricultural people is short, and that of hunting people is long. It means that the Westerner's wood pattern can't fit the Japanese. Besides, in making shoes, we need to make them considering the motion below the knee including 60 parts of right-and-left bone, muscles and nerves. Without the anatomic knowledge of foot bone structure, we cannot know where in human foot we should measure even for making wood pattern.'

The examination by interview, vision and touch: the complete custom-made shoes production by Mr. Kikuchi starts from. He also asks one's body-build, physical condition and clinical record. Subsequently the foot measurement: he spends a half-hour to an hour to measure 15 points on each foot, so the total is 30 points. Foot is never symmetric. Most of foot measurement instruments are made from scratch. After examining and measuring, he enters the stage of drawing figures for wood pattern design. Based on the line from the dorsum pedis measurement, he lines out as contour line of orographical map, from which he creates the rough-cut model wood pattern from the Japanese cherry birch and then develops a sloping curve considerably like human foot. The characteristic concave part made at the middle of sole can never be made by machine. From such a finished wood pattern, the shoes are produced and completed through paper pattern making, cutting, instep part making, affixing the bottom and finishing process. Thus the best fitting of foot and shoe can be achieved.

'Basically it is, like, what we call a defense of Japanese Judo. By making the toes touch side surface of shoes at large, the shoes can absorb a shock from the human body through a large area and ease the burden. The 3 steps of examination "interview, vision and touch" are important for us to create the best fitting of foot and shoe.'

It all begins with facing to customers. At the time, Mr. Kikuchi always sews a white coat. During the interview with him, the appearance of him who described to me with holding and tracing the foot structure model with his finger is like a doctor of an inquiring turn of mind. The craftsman who makes a living as shoe maker seems to be called "Blow knee surgeon", and it actually makes sense to me when seeing such his appearance. He wish to see that the ladies suffering a impairment of foot can freely walk. The wood pattern craftsman called " a surgeon" is now 84 years old and still dreams the ladies stepping out smartly on streets. And we hope a new generation craftsman inheriting the genius skill from Mr. Kikuchi will carry on the tradition of this "luxurious comfy fit like custom -made" to young people.

Address: 1-5-13 Ojihoncho, Kita-ku, Tokyo 114-0022 Japan
TEL: 81-3-3908-1754
HP  http://www.dinus.co.jp/

Contour is drawn for making the wood pattern, which is called as Toukou map. It is made by foot print copied from the foot feature size and used as sketch for designing wood pattern. Mr. Kikuchi's tools including the hand-made measurement equipment called scriber are unique. He says that the paper thickness for tear-off calendar is the best for paper pattern model.

in the basement workplace, a series of operations such as cutting, instep part making, affixing the bottom and finishing is done with the paper pattern made by the wood pattern. He's never allowed any visitors, nor taken a call while shaving the wood patterns. In the tense feeling, he finishes the wood pattern which is asymmetric based on the 30-point measurement data.

Once making the original wood patterns, the skilled craftsman fix with a touch-up based on it. It is from the notion that shoe is not article of consumption. oung sheep leather which is textured is used because it fits comfortably in one's foot, although it has so delicate surface that tends to get damaged and so difficult for craftsman to handle.

Mr. Kikuchi's representative design: created using the design technique based on artistic anatomy and ergonomics