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Marugo, a brand founded in Kurashiki, has been operating for over a hundred years making stylish two-toed tabi-shoes. Read on to learn about their history, the new Tokyo store, and recommended items.
Marugo Company Inc. is a jika-tabi (Japanese footwear with a split rubber sole and divided toe design, *1) manufacturer based in Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture. The firm not only values the quality of its products but also cares about the employees. Highly regarded by locals, Marugo celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019.
Hoping to promote jika-tabi to overseas visitors and young Japanese people, the company aims to develop a modern version of the toe-toed footwear.
This article features the popular items made by Marugo.
*1 Jika-tabi... Rubber-soled footwear with a divided toe design worn by laborers.
While most established companies in Japan employ a logo using kanji characters, the Marugo logo consists of the number 5 (read as "go") in the middle of a circle (called "maru" in Japanese).
It was designed in a simple fashion so that people around the world can enjoy the pun.
Until the Meiji Period (1868-1912), Japanese people commonly wore waraji (straw sandals) or geta (wooden clogs). But these footwear were liable to injury while working as a farmer, laborer, or a carpenter.
Jika-tabi footwear gradually gained popularity in the Taisho Period (1912-1926). With a rubber sole, the shoe's cloth completely covers and protects one's feet.
The footwear was mainly produced in Fukuoka, Saitama, and Okayama.
This footwear has a split rubber sole and divided toe design. Compared to an ordinary shoe, the wearer can grip the ground firmly and is less likely to slip. The rubber sole also absorbs most of the impact while walking. They are often called tabi-boots.
Even today, jika-tabi is favored by carpenters, construction workers, and people who carry the mikoshi (portable shrine) during traditional festivals.
Picture courtesy of Marugo Tokyo
Marugo has been making jika-tabi and protective footwear for construction workers. Now, with the changing trends, they are developing original products to meet demands of their growing popularity.
Picture courtesy of Marugo Tokyo
Initially, the sales of Marugo jika-tabi, which can be used daily, did not go well. The imagery of people participating in festivals or construction workers was stuck to the footwear.
The firm decided to handle the entire production from design to manufacturing at the Kurashiki factory, located in Okayama, under the name brand Made in Kurashiki. This resulted in the Tabi Shoes series, a functional and fashionable jika-tabi.
After opening the flagship store in Tokyo in 2019, the Marugo brand is slowly being recognized. Currently, the firm hosts a tour of their factories. Participants can see how the product is made from start to finish.
Marugo stores welcome a wide variety of customers, such as the fashion-loving youth, overseas visitors interested in traditional Japanese culture, and the older generation looking for healthy footwear.
tabiRela, lemon color, 8,800 yen (after tax)
TabiRela is a popular item among women in the Tabi Shoes series.
The footwear uses 100% cotton canvas made by Takeyari Co., Ltd., an established manufacturer in Kurashiki. The shoes are sturdy, come with an attractive pattern, and fit like a dream.
It can also be hand-washed, is lightweight, and portable as well.
tabiRela, with a scale and cloud design, 9,900 yen (after tax)
While tabiRela can be used while taking a stroll or as shoes for the holidays. It is also suitable as indoor shoes at the office.
Since the footwear is breathable with constant airflow, your feet will not sweat.
Kurashikiya Saiki, 5,280 yen (after tax)
Athletic customers should try the Kurashikiya Saiki series, which can be worn like sneakers.
The sole is equipped with an air-cushion to absorb impact while walking, and the rubber surface has anti-skid features.
Sports Jog II, 5,090 yen (after tax)
The Sports Jog II series is a middle-cut, tabi-type sneaker.
The soft mesh cloth offers an ideal fit, which can be further adjusted according to the instep with shoestrings.
These shoes will support the user not only in festivals but also in music venues and sports events.
hitoe, zebra design, 13,200 yen (after tax)
The hitoe series is perfect for jogging with its soft, well-ventilated material. Using special thread and whole garment knitting technology, this footwear is ideal for athletic training.
It is light, and the user will feel as if they are barefoot.
The male store staff at Marugo Tokyo also wears the hitoe series.
Nintabi, 4,400 yen (after tax)
Nintabi, a children's shoe version, allows movement of the toes. With a soft rubber sole, it protects feet and assists its growth.
This is another type that offers a barefoot feeling.
Sou-Sou Tabi Socks, 605 yen (after tax)
Tabi shoes calls for tabi socks. Marugo teamed up with SouSou, a company in Kyoto handling traditional apparel and accessories, to produce contemporary and stylish socks. They are sold at Marugo stores.
Wearing comfortable shoes is not only good for your legs but leads to a healthier life. Why not give jika-tabi a try? You'll experience a new type of footwear that combines the old with the new!
Main image courtesy of Marugo Tokyo
In cooperation with Marugo Tokyo