Most people are in love with Japan for many reasons: Its delicate cuisine, natural landscapes, and forward-thinking, unconventional trends. The latter, especially, is prominent in the streets of major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, where locals can be seen all decked out in the trendiest streetwear labels.
One of the most popular things about fashion in Japan is its sneaker culture. Some of the world’s most famous cult sneaker brands come from the land of the rising sun, especially the capital, Tokyo.
Here, an introduction to the Japanese cult sneaker brands that should be on your radar.
Uma Thurman rocked a pair of Onitsuka Tiger in Kill Bill, marking one of the more iconic moments for the brands, one of the oldest shoe companies in Japan. However, not many know that the line started off with a pair of basketball shoes in founder Kihachiro Onitsuka’s hometown of Kobe.
The company then rebranded as ASICS in 1977, but a vintage line of their shoes is still sold under the Onitsuka Tiger name. Vintage styles are recreated from the best of their 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s hits, with the Mexico 66 being the most iconic style.
Founded in 2010 in Tokyo, Hender Scheme is the brainchild of Ryo Kashiwazaki, a leather artisan who sought to juxtapose classic Japanese “shokunin” craftsmanship with some of his favourite sneaker silhouettes.
Raw leather is used to make the shoes, so that untreated material is able to pick up the natural wear and tear of its environment, making each shoe unique to its owner. The brand is mostly notable for reproducing popular sneaker models, such as Nike’s Air Force 1 and Air Jordan IV, completely by hand in premium leather as part of its Manual Industrial Products (MIP) line, as well as its collaborations with Adidas.
Japanese menswear brand Visvim was founded by Hiroki Nakamura in Ura-Harajuku in 2001. Since then, it has become a staple in some of the most coveted wardrobes. John Mayer’s love for the brand, for instance, has been well-documented since he was introduced by legendary rock musician Eric Clapton.
The brand is known for amping up tried-and-true silhouettes (such as Stan Smiths, Air Force 1s and Converse Chuck Taylors) with luxurious fabrics and putting them back on the market as something entirely new.
Tokyo-based streetwear label Losers is one of the coolest brands in Japan, priding themselves in curating designs that reflect the Japanese culture. All the brand’s sneaker styles incorporate the concept of iki, an expression of simplicity, sophistication, and originality, an aesthetic unique to Japan.
The brand has been making waves at fashion exhibitions with their clean and subdued designs and prominent use of colour blocking — as well as their trademark V-shaped design on the toe.
Unconventional Japanese label Comme des Garcons, one of the pioneers of the Japanese cult sneaker scene, is founded by and headed by Rei Kawakubo. Now, it is one of the world’s most renowned sneaker brands and is based in Tokyo and the Place Vendôme in Paris.
Comme des Garcons offers designer clothes, accessories and sneakers — out of which, it is most notable for its Converse collaborations, with the iconic heart logo emblazoned on the side.