The city of Gyoda is a leading center for the Tabi industry today. Gyoda is home to important historical sites reflecting the rich cultural heritage and nature of the city.
The history of the city dates back to around 1716. Gyoda was developed as a Castletown serving Oshi castle, with only 3 Tabi production sites at the time. It expanded into 27 houses across the city over 90 years due to the feudal lord of Matsudaira domain had promoting Tabi production.
The book shown here notes that "Sashi-Tabi* is Oshi's (Gyoda's) specialty. Subsequently, Gyoda's Tabi became famous all over Japan. In addition to the promotion by the lord, the location of the city, which allowed it to purchase the cotton used for Tabi from neighboring regions and was a stop on the Nakasendo postal route, also played an important role in the development and growth of the Tabi industry.
*Sashi-Tabi means Tabi made with fabric which is reinforced by adding stitched called Sashiko.
The book: "Toukai kiso ryodochu zukan," 1765, owned by the Gyoda City Folk Museum
The townspeople, Samurai, and the wives of the Samurai were encouraged to start making Tabi.
Some Ninja also started making Tabi as a way to conceal their status.
Image: Townsman making Tabi
As their key feature, Tabi socks are made with separation between the big toe and the other toes, and there are two major theories for this tradition: 1. The separation allows for Tabi socks to be worn with thonged footwear, e.g., Geta or Zori. 2. The toes were separated to enable Samurai to plant their feet firmly on the ground on the battlefield.
Before cotton was used, Tabi were typically made with buckskin, and fireman wore them due to their fire resistance. Because the price of buckskin increased following the great fire of Meireki in 1657, cotton was used in place of buckskin.
Image: "Hojutsu keijo zushiki," Gyoda City Folk Museum
After the Edo periodcame to an end, the Meiji era (1868-1921) began, and Japan opened its doors to the world again, accelerating the country’s modernization. Mechanized production increased, and the people could take out loans once banks were founded. This is when the Tabi industry in Gyoda flourished.
Image: "Osawa Shoten," Gyoda City Folk Museum
From the Taisho period to the beginning of the Showa period
With the country entering the Taisho period (1912-1926) and the beginning of Showa period (1926), the golden age for the Tabi industry in Gyoda had begun.
Image: "Image of Tabi manufacturing," Gyoda City Folk Museum
In 1931, around the beginning of Showa period, there were more than 200 Tabi manufacturers, and their annual production reached more than 84 million pairs of Tabi socks.
In those days, Masayuki Nakazawa, a founder of Kineya Tabi, started to produce Tabi while selling ice cream, a rare occurrence at that time in Japan.
Distribution map of Tabi manufacturers.
As mentioned above, Masayuki started producing Tabi, and his son Takeo continued to run the business and established Nakazawa Tabi LLC in 1949.
In 1965, a manufacturing facility was opened at the current location, and the company was renamed Kineya Tabi Ltd.
The picture on the left was taken at the company retreat in Atami city. There were more than 200 Geisya in Atami, and the company presented Tabi to them. This was how the name Kineya Tabi became known all over the country.
The picture on the right was taken at Kineya Tabi’s factory in 1975.
From the Heisei period to the present
In 1995, Takeo the third commissioned a factory in Vietnam to manufacture Tabi. Craftsmen selected from a Japanese factory had lived in Vietnam to pass on the skills and traditions of their Tabi manufacturing to the local workers.
Today, our Vietnamese staff are hard-working, motivated craftsmen with a strong sense of duty, and they have achieved the same level of skills as our Japanese craftsmen.
In 2006, Kenji Nakazawa the third began holding factory tours, allowing visitors to observe the manufacturing process at the factory.
Today, the company is still a family-run business headed by Takayuki Nakazawa. He is currently exploring new challenges and determined to expand into new markets with Tabi running shoes.
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