In 1997, a young high school boy in Nara got an opportunity to stay and study in the United States for a year. It was the first time for him to experience life in a totally different culture and environment, and he was shocked to realize that he knew almost nothing about the town he grew up in (Nara). After returning to Japan, he started a part-time job as a rickshaw driver for tourists around Nara Park, the most well-known tourist site in Nara.
In those days, not as many international tourists were coming to Nara as in recent years, but he noticed that almost all visitors from overseas were interested in his rickshaw driver costumes such as happi coat, maekake apron and momohiki pants, but it was Jika-tabi, the special shoes, that always grabbed people’s attention the most.
“These shoes could be a good business in the future…?,” he thought, but without careful consideration. The seed of TABI-JI was born from this simple idea of a teenage boy.
He stopped working as a rickshaw driver for a while from 2000, but returned to the job in 2004, with more determination. Around that time, the number of visitors to Japan had started to steadily grow and he found that many tourists were still interested in the Jika-tabi, and more so, quite a number of them even wished to purchase a pair. At the same time, his wish to spread the word to more people in the world about Nara and Japan grew. His experience of staying in the U.S. as a student and the chance to learn more deeply about his own country and culture helped him achieve it.
“How can I interact with more people internationally through Jika-tabi?,” he wondered and started to study about these unique shoes. He next contacted the manufactures, and even talked to the tourists at Nara Station and asked what they thought about the shoes. The birth day of Shop TABI-JI was coming closer…
Launch of Shop TABI-JI and up to today
In March 2007, Shop TABI-JI opened its doors as a specialty shop featuring Tabi shoes as one of the business incubations in the Mochiidono Center Arcade in Nara City. It was such a small shop, only about 9 square meters in size, into which only one customer at a time could come inside and try on the shoes.
Despite the small size of the shop, the first location of Shop TABI-JI attracted quite a number of people, both Japanese and international visitors.
Later, in 2010, the shop was moved to its current location on Sanjo Street in Nara. Our branch shops were opened in the later years: one in the Higashimuki Shopping Arcade in 2014, and the others in Hase, Kamakura City and lastly in Nara Park (Tabi sock shop) in 2016.
As of 2023, the shops in the Higashimuki Shopping Arcade was closed but the three remaining shops on Sanjo Street, in the Nara Park and in Kamakura Hase have been attracting a good number of people.
The simple original idea of Shop TABI-JI started from the owner’s wish to have more interactions with international visitors. However, our focus is now more on a fusion of traditional elements with modern designs as well as a health approach through the inherent functionality of Tabi shoes, with the main concepts of “tradition, modernity, and health.”
We will continue our efforts to make Tabi shoes loved by more people of all ages all around the world.