People

Akihisa Kawaguchi×Chisako Takashima

GINZA CONNECTIVE VOL.23

Akihisa Kawaguchi×Chisako Takashima

2013.08.06

A talk series with the violinist Chisako Takashima and the Ginza people. Ginza holds many personal and professional memories for Takashima. In this talk series, she thoroughly explores various aspects of the Ginza culture with her guests. Today’s guest is Akihisa Kawaguchi, the president of Ginza Zenya, a long-established shop that sells traditional Japanese footwear and umbrellas.

To look stylish in zori, wear them with the straps sitting lightly on your toes

Takashima
Of course, zori don’t have any trends, do they?
Kawaguchi
Actually, they do. Just a little while ago, it was trendy for them to have wide straps. The design changes, becoming thinner or thicker, to suit each generation.
Takashima
Oh, I didn’t know that. Could you tell me some tips for choosing zori?
Kawaguchi
Sure. If you are looking for quality, you should check the leather on the bottom. If it’s wet-blue leather, for example, or another good quality leather, the zori are also probably good quality.
Takashima
I see! Very informative. But if the bottom is leather, won’t they be slippery on rainy days?
Kawaguchi
In general, you shouldn’t wear zori on rainy days. In the past, on rainy days people wore geta (casual Japanese sandals) instead. Now you can get zori made especially for rainy day wear. They have rubber on the soles to keep you from slipping.
Takashima
When I hear “zori,” I think of beach sandals. When I wear zori, beach sandals, or other shoes with a thong strap, the part between my toes start to hurt. Is there anything I can do about that?
Kawaguchi
This applies for both zori and geta, but those who are not used to wearing them tend to push their feet right into the thong strap, making the part between their toes hurt. Zori and geta are actually made so that the strap sits on your toes a bit.
Takashima
So that’s the problem! If your feet hurt when you wear them, you are pushing your feet too far forward.
Kawaguchi
Exactly. Also, those who wear them more loosely look more stylish. They are made so that pushing your foot forward hurts, so that you’ll wear them with your feet set back a little. That said, if you want to wear them with the thong snug against your toes, just tell the shop. They can make them so they don’t hurt, for example by widening the front a bit or changing the fabric to something a little softer.

To do business in Ginza, the most important thing is to always put your customers first.

Takashima
Does Ginza Zenya also sell geta shoes?
Kawaguchi
Yes. It was originally a geta shop.
Takashima
Of course. Can you tell me, what’s the difference between geta and zori?
Kawaguchi
Geta are generally more casual. They are not accepted in certain dress codes.
Takahashi
Are they like the Japanese version of beach sandals?
Kawaguchi
Yes, kind of.
Takahashi
Interesting! When wearing geta, do you usually go sockless? You wear geta when wearing a yukata (casual style of kimono), right?
Kawaguchi
You can wear geta with or without socks. Wearing zori might hurt a bit if you wear them sockless.
Takashima
Do people wear different kinds of zori depending on the occasion, for example a fancy conference or party or what have you?
Kawaguchi
It is best to have a number of different ones. Nowadays people don’t have as many chances to wear a kimono, and many people say they just have the one pair from their coming-of-age ceremony, but we also have many families of customers that have come to us for generations.
Takashima
That’s wonderful to have a long relationship with some customers. When did you take over the shop?
Kawaguchi
I started working here 14 or 15 years ago. I became the president three years ago, in 2010.
Takashima
Are there any traditions you try to maintain since your father’s time?
Kawaguchi
My father ingrained into me the basic concept that I must never forget to put my customers first. He said to find joy in making your customers happy.
Takashima
What a wonderful teaching.
Kawaguchi
I was told many times that I would never get by if I didn’t keep that in mind, especially in Ginza. And he was right. So I try to remember that attitude as I work.

I first learned the attraction of my hometown, Ginza, after entering my 30s

Takashima
Have you lived in Ginza since you were a child?
Kawaguchi
Yes, but I went to an elementary school a little ways away, so I don’t have any childhood friend or friends from my school days here. On days off I stay indoors (laughs).
Takashima
That must be rare, for someone from Ginza to be a recluse (laughs).
Kawaguchi
I like the indoors. Before taking over the shop, I worked for a game maker.
Takashima
So you made friends in Ginza after becoming an adult?
Kawaguchi
Yes. After entering my 30s, I joined the Ginza Merchant’s Association, a junior merchants’ group in Ginza, and finally made some friends in Ginza. Before that, Ginza was just a hometown to me. So it didn’t make any sense to me when other people were impressed. Through the Ginza Merchant’s Association, I met other Ginza businessman and other people working here. I finally learned the attraction of Ginza, only recently. I guess Ginza is an “adult’s district” after all.
Takashima
After actually starting to run a shop in Ginza, have you acquired some new aspirations for yourself?
Kawaguchi
Actually, we have begun making Japanese-style bags using tweed from England and other European fabrics. Ginza is an area where you mix the old with the new. At our shop as well, we keep our previous concepts as our previous concepts, and at the same time also concentrate on developing new styles of products and products with a special twist.

The next guest will be…

Takashima
Could you tell us about the next guest?
Kawaguchi
It’s Mamoru Sugiyama, the fourth generation master of Ginza Sushiko Honten, a long-standing sushi restaurant that has been around since the Meiji era.

He can tell you all about anything from the fashionable way to eat sushi to the history of sushi restaurants in Ginza. I’m sure you will learn the attraction of a historical Ginza sushi restaurant that should be enjoyed by all adults at least once.

Chisako Takashima

Violinist. Started playing the violin at age 6. After playing abroad, she moved her home base to Japan, and gives concerts all over the country. Although her current focus is on performing music, she also appears on TV and radio programs. Thanks to her much-loved personality, she is appearing in more and more venues.

Chisako Takashima’s official website

Akihisa Kawaguchi

Third generation president of Ginza Zenya, a long-standing shop that sells traditional Japanese footwear and umbrellas. Born in Ginza and followed his successors in 2010 to become the next president. While preserving traditional concepts, he also sells zori and umbrellas with new designs that incorporate the latest trends. Previously held the position of Chairperson for the Ginza Merchant’s Association, and aids in the development of Ginza.

Ginza Zenya Website

Writer: Mizuho Takahashi  Location: Sobadokoro Yoshida

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