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Onitsuka Tiger Shoes Make a Comeback (March 2, 2006)

Onitsuka Tiger shoes (two Tai-Chi Tigress Nishijin shoes on the right and two Marathon Tabi Nishijin shoes on thr left) (Asics Corporation)
Onitsuka Tiger, Japan's first sports shoe brand, has been revived after almost 30 years and is enjoying immense popularity in Europe and elsewhere. The shoes' appeal lies in their trademark thin soles and vivid colors, which make them stand out even amid the current general boom in retro-style footwear. The craze for the shoes has now spread back to Japan, where fashion-conscious young men and women have been snapping them up. With new stores opening in Japan and abroad and a matching line of apparel and accessories now available, this may be only the beginning of the boom.

Focus on Fashion
Onitsuka Tiger is the name of a brand of shoes that Onitsuka Co. Ltd., the predecessor of Asics Corporation, manufactured from 1949 to 1977. In 1956 the company was chosen as the official supplier of Japanese athletes' shoes for the Melbourne Olympics in Australia, and famous athletes from around the world were so impressed by the quality of the shoes that they began to order pairs for themselves.

In 2002 Onitsuka Tiger made its comeback when Asics revived some classic designs and reintroduced them in Europe. Fashion-savvy young men and women were taken by the shoes' thin soles, simple Tiger-stripe designs, and vivid colors, and the brand was an immediate hit. The shoes not only go well with jeans and a T-shirt but look good with jackets. Onitsuka Tiger got a further boost when leading actress Uma Thurman wore a pair in the movie Kill Bill. Today the brand enjoys a following among men and women alike.

"Mexico 66" is one of the bestselling designs. Originally made in advance of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, it is now one of the flagship designs in the Onitsuka Tiger line. To date, it has been released in more than 150 colors, and the wealth of hues has further fueled the boom.

In September 2002 Asics launched a marketing campaign in Japan, and sales have risen steadily since then. A pair of Onitsuka Tiger shoes costs about ¥10,000 ($87 at ¥115 to the dollar). Asics has also marketed a matching line of apparel, including T-shirts and jackets, and handbags and other accessories.

Building on Past Successes
Onitsuka Tiger shoes are not just reproductions of classics but a blend of the old and new. The latest findings in ergonomics guide their design and make possible their extraordinary levels of comfort. But the beauty of their retro shape, colors, and Tiger stripes remain unchanged.

Asics has also created a totally new lineup of footwear. Aiming to capitalize on the worldwide interest in Japanese culture and Japanese materials, the company released the Kyoto Collection in 2004, featuring shoes with an upper made from an attractive brocade cloth. (Brocade is the general name given to fabric that is woven with a pattern of gold or silver threads or foil.) Ten thousand pairs were put on sale and soon sold out. For this collection, Asics teamed up with Bando Co., a wholesaler of a traditional type of Japanese fabric called Nishijin. Bando also provided the brocade that the warriors wore under their suits of armor in the film The Last Samurai.

Most recently, in January 2006, Asics came out with two new collections, Tai Chi Tigress and Marathon Tabi, which feature brocade with Japanese spring motifs. Tai Chi Tigress and Marathon Tabi shoes cost ¥13,650 ($119) a pair. A limited edition of 4,400 pairs were marketed globally, and they were so popular that soon after their release rumors began to circulate that it was difficult to get hold of them.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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