Skip to main content

Mimura Leaves Asics to Start Own Company

http://www.nikkansports.com/sports/news/p-sp-tp0-20090401-477581.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner and Mika Tokairin

Master craftsman Hitoshi Mimura (60), the man who made custom shoes for the likes of baseball's Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners) and Olympic marathon gold medalists Naoko Takahashi and Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex), retired from Asics on Mar. 31 after 42 years with the company. Mimura now plans to launch his own new brand, Mimura Shoes, from a workshop in Kakogawa, Hyogo Prefecture. Certified as a 'modern artisan,' Mimura wants to continue helping support athletes from the ground up.

Even on his last day with Asics, Mimura was to be found hard at work matching careful measurements of each individual athlete's feet as he hand-crafts all his shoes. Mimura joined Asics in 1967 and began to make his customized shoes in 1974. Seko, the Soh brothers, Nakayama, Taniguchi, Arimori, Suzuki, Takahashi, Noguchi....the list of Mimura's clients over the years reads like the history of Japanese marathoning. When he left his old workshop at the end of the day his car was filled with bouquets of flowers of thanks.

Although Mimura reached retirement age, his passion for his work has not disappeared. "It's sad to have to retire, but I'd still like to pursue my dream," he said, looking toward his plans to continue making shoes by himself. He has already secured facilities for his new workshop in Kakogawa and a staff of ten, mostly family members. He hopes to launch Mimura Shoes by the summer.

Runners like Mizuki Noguchi and Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) who have used Mimura's handmade shoes in the past are still contracted by Asics. "I can't ignore it when an athlete calls me for help," he says. For this reason, even in April he will be returning to Asics' offices several times a week to help existing athlete clients free of charge. The Asics company, whose success as a shoe manufacturer depended heavily on Mimura's knowhow, said that they will do everything they can to continue helping their athletes as well as they have in the past. Mimura commented, "I'm not going to steal clients away from them, but if athletes want to come to me that's fine with me."

Using his unique sensitivity for making fine-tuned adjustments in shoes, Mimura gained great trust and respect among the athlete community. "When I started out I didn't know anything, but I had to make shoes for Mr. Kimihara, Mr. Terasawa and Mr. Usami. That was the hardest time I went through. When Taniguchi won (the 1991 World Championships men's marathon), his very first words after finishing were, 'I won thanks to Mr. Mimura.' That was one of the proudest moments of my career. I have too many good memories."

Mimura's reason for getting into shoemaking was simple. "In those days somebody like a schoolteacher made 16000 yen a month [around $150 U.S.]. Shoes cost 980 yen but would fall apart within a week. I thought it was an incredible waste, and I wanted to make better shoes." These 'better shoes' helped many a medalist win their prize. Although he has left the large-company world, Mimura's shoes filled with his artisan's spirit will continue to help the next generation of athletes reach the top.

Comments

dennis said…
Julia Mombi just ran the paris marathon. She ran 2:29:10. She's a Koide runner. CAn you write about her?

Most-Read This Week

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …

Guinness Certifies Kawauchi's World Record 78 Career Sub-2:20 Marathons After Half Marathon in Panda Costume

Known as the Civil Servant Runner, Saitama Prefectural Government employee Yuki Kawauchi's career record of 78 sub-2:20 marathons was officially recognized as the Guinness World Record at a ceremony in his hometown of Kuki, Saitama on Mar. 25.  Raised in Kuki, Kawauchi began working for the Saitama Prefectural Government after graduating from university. Running while working full-time as a civil servant, he has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic trial race.

Earlier this month on the 18th Kawauchi ran Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon, winning in 2:14:12. His 78th time running faster than 2 hours and 20 minutes, his achievement was certified as the official Guinness World Record. He actually broke the previous record on Jan. 1 at the Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon in the U.S.A. with his 76th sub-2:20 but followed up with two performances, one in February and the other last week, before Guinness could ratify the record.

The official recognition ceremony took place Mar. 2…