Put our hearts into manufacturing over 70 years
Kushitani celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2017. We are grateful for the support from our customers and everyone involved. Kushitani started as a small leather shop in the town, but since the bike industry and manufacturing in Hamamatsu has developed rapidly, we started to make leather suits for motorcycles. Until then, there was no suit for motorcycles that integrated the top and bottom of the rider in Japan. It was also the first challenge for Kushitani to manufacture leather suits. Nonetheless, we received positive feedback from many riders that "Kushitani leather suits are good!". Firstly, we started our business to aim to cooperate with the local industry, but the manufacture of leather suits for the rider began because the founder of Kushitani felt that " We want to make better products and we want to see customers smile". Then, Kushitani became a company that manufactured and sold mainly motorcycle wear for the Japanese bike industry. We also received much feedback from racing riders that "Kushitani's products are excellent and would like to wear it continually! "
Even though we got much positive feedback, we constantly improved the quality. As riders demanded more, we devised ways to meet their wishes with safer and more comfortable products. Because the Kushitani founders and staff wish to make better products and we want to see customers smile …. We wanted to support our riders by making safer suits, as they use speed and skill. Kushitani started manufacturing and selling bike wear for ordinary riders running on public roads in addition to leather suits for racing riders because we realized that safety and comfort are important for both professional riders and general riders. Many of the Kushitani staff are also riders who enjoy riding motorcycles. Their comments and input are meaningful as well as our customer’s feedback. In recent years, Kushitani does not only manufactures and sell motorcycle wear but also start to build up products for bike culture because we realized that if the bike culture is not build up as entity in its own right, Kushitani will not able to expand. Even though the times and the generations of staff have changed, the feeling that "We want to make better products and we want to see customers smile." is still remaining in our heart as our origin. We will grow up with our customers and make the effort to develop our products to express our thankfulness to our customers.
From leather clothes to seeking safety
The history of Kushitani began in 1947 (Showa 22) shortly after the end of World War II. Yoshihiro Kushitani and his wife, Toshiko and several craftsmen opened a small leather shop called Kushitani in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka prefecture. All of the founders of Kushitani were craftworkers, who have high skill in leather. They mainly manufactured and sold clothes such as leather jackets and leather coats and use leather to make the origin of Kushitani. At that time Japan began to recover gradually from war.
Various industries began their business and one of them is the bike industry. In the 1950s, Japan had about 150 large and small bike makers - especially around Hamamatsu area. 3 in 4 well known bike makers in Japan were born from around Hamamatsu. Bike industry was particularly popular and developed and racing was very important. Manufacturers compete for technology, and racing furthered development. One of the well-known races was the 1st Mt. Fuji Tozan race in 1953. At that time, the races in Japan were also developing, the equipment for the riders was not enough. Most of the races are gravel roads and the riders were mostly wearing textile suits. Although there was also leather wear, leather jackets and leather trousers were separated from the top and the bottom and the level of safety was low compared with today. Suzuki Motor Co., Ltd. (current: Suzuki) based in Hamamatsu invented us the idea to wear leather suits which connected the top and bottom in the 1st Asama Kogen race. Leather suits were normally used in races in Europe and America, but at that time there were no leather suits for racing and a lack of information in Japan. Then, the person in charge of the Suzuki race ordered "leather suit which the connecting top and bottom part together" and Kushitani started to manufacture it at Hamamatsu.This became an opportunity for Kushitani to start manufacturing bike wear.
The Kushitani founder did not have any deep involvement in motorcycling or racing - and of course they had never seen leather suits. Originally, we were challenged to manufacture first leather suits from our feeling that "We want to make better products and we want to see customers smile" and "Challenging mind." We made the first leather suits shaped like a connecting leather jumper and leather pants as it was called. Finally, the first Kushitani leather suits appeared in the 1st Asama Kogen race and we received good feedback from many riders that "Kushitani's leather suits are good." Then, wearing the textile suits in the race decreased and wearing leather suits became popular. Since then, Kushitani’s leather suits were used by many of the riders who participated in race such as the Asama Kazan race. We improved our leather suits to meet with rider’s expectations by hearing from riders directly and studying European and American leather suits in magazines. Kushitani's leather suits evolved more and more. As the result, Japanese riders and foreign race contracted riders wore Kushitani leather suits in World Grand Prix race in the 1960s. There had been various well?known and long established leather suit makers in Europe and the United States, but foreign riders who wore Kushitani leather suits all said our leather suits were “excellent". Even in domestic races and overseas races, Kushitani's leather suits have been worn by many riders.
Before 1960's, leather suit was used in motocross and we received many requests from those riders. In parallel with Japanese bike industry developing, Kushitani also improved manufacturing technology of making products in the 1950s and 1960s.
Expanded to Hamamatsu, Tokyo, Osaka and Nationwide
The manufacture and sale of leather suits grew up in 1960s and we started to produce other product line from1970s. We Not only manufacturing and selling gloves and boots for motorcycles in-house, but also selling motorcycle supplies such as established overseas brands. Yoshihiro Kushitani and Toshiko's children grew up with motorcycles. They were actually enjoying riding bike and seeking what they can to respond to normal rider’s needs. Since then, the head office in Hamamatsu and the Tokyo office in Tokyo have brought together the power to nurture the brand called Kushitani. Hamamatsu head office develops and manufactures excellent leather suits, and Tokyo office caught customer's needs and market trends, making use of these for making better products. Since the area around Tokyo is the largest market for motorcycles and motorcycle supplies in Japan, sales in Tokyo were very large. Hisashi Kushitani who operates the Tokyo office who participated in trial motorcycle competition himself and had an International Class A license, always thought of new products one by one as a sense of rider and fed back to the head office.
In the 1970s, the environment surrounding bike and bike wears also changed. Before the 1960's, Leather suits were almost exclusively for racing and limited for a group of riders. In the case of Kushitani, Leather suits were fully custom made to match every rider. Toshiko Kushitani did the essential measurement to get the right body-fit and flattering cut to riders by herself. But in the 1970s, General riders also wore leather suits and the demand was higher than before. It was difficult to respond to demand from all over the country because we could only do measuring and selling at the head office and Tokyo office so we decided to expand Kushitani brand nationwide. since 1977. Customers around the country could feel closer with Kushitani products. Moreover, we built up measuring system that can be done accurately at all shops. "If we will have new leather suits, we want you to measure with Kushitani's mother (Toshiko Kushitani)" "Even if gloves, we want to make it at Kushitani Hamamatsu store" … Some of the customers visited our original shop. As time changes, we want to make better products to meet customer’s needs. We will never forget the craftsmanship that continues from this foundation.
Once, a customer delivered all of his products shch as suits, gloves and boots at the head office for repair. All of them were repaired by the Kushitani craftsmen during the day. Sometimes we were working on until midnight. Kushitani began repairing at the circuit at the earliest time in Japan. Currently we are providing the racing service and also repair other companies' leather suits for safety.
Move Forward (~ 1980's)
To be a supporter for the bike culture.
In the 1980's, motorcycles and racing were booming - unprecedentedly. Sports bikes were mainly popular in teenagers. As the result, the sales of motorcycles grew, sales and demand of leather suits were widely increasing. That was the greatest era of Kushitani. Manufacturing of leather suits cannot be mass-produced, and even today there are made manually one by one. We choose a good leather, cut the right parts according to the place to use, and sew to fit with the rider's body. Then the experience craftsmen just work with this in mind. Costs could have been reduced by using cheaper leather selection, cutting, sewing and labour - but Kushitani's policy does not allow it. Despite this we would like to offer Kusashini's leather suits to as many customers as much as possible. We could not compromise on quality at all and this became our troubled era. Contracted riders of World Grand Prix such as Wayne Gardner, Graeme Crosby, Randy Mamola like and admire Kushitani's attitude highly. Even after she became the president of Kushitani, Toshiko Kikutani was still doing the measurements for riders by herself and was celebrated as a "Japanese mama". Even though those foreign riders were offered higher contract money, they all said that "they wanted to wear Kushitani leather suits" and this is the greatest evidence of Kushitani's quality, safety and spirit.
Leather suits have evolved rapidly. As the result of racing machine evolving, the demand of leather suits also changed. New innovation was used in manufacturing - such as protectors which protect the body when falling down. Knee sensors to prevent knees from being scraped off the road during hang-off and leather mesh processing to reduce the heat in summer. Moreover, the new function such as slip down, the protector which was added as a part for preventing the body when tire slips down and high-side rider which protects the body when being thrown into the air. Kushitani has adopted it from early times to aim to response the requests from riders.
Also leather, thin calf leather, that was light and easy to move was popular in the 1960s - 1970s, but since 1980s, thick cowhide leather has been used with the highest priority. In case of overseas leather suits that are made from thick and hard leather that makes the rider feel difficult to move. Kushitani uses supple texture, even if it is thick. This is also a point that we have been evaluated from foreign riders. Varieties of Kushitani products also expanded such as starting our EXPLORER as a brand of outdoor image with the strong Kushitani brand. Kushitani grew up as a leading company and established a distribution center in 1981 and changed Kushiya Shoten to Kushitani Corporation in 1982. In 1986, we established a head office building in Mishima-cho, Hamamatsu. Established MANX-KUSHITANI on the Isle of Man in the UK in 1988 and carried on our business activities with the overseas market. In 1989, Nasu Explorer circuit was built in Kuroiso city, Tochigi Prefecture (present, Nasushiobara city). It was not only to manufacture and sold motorcycle wear to customers -but we also provided a place where bike users can enjoy motorcycles. We also considered constructing a bike culture at a high level, such as having a vintage bike museum inside the circuit. Currently, the Nasu Explorer circuit has been renamed to Nasu Motorsportland and the owner has changed but there is still a place where many motorcycle users are loved and feel free to enjoy circuiting. The original purpose of providing a place to enjoy bikes and building a motorcycle culture was fulfilled.
To the ultimate manufacture remembered starting point
In 1990, the bike boom in Japan converged because the effect of economic crisis and the market for motorcycle supplies calmed down. Although the market got impact of the declining demand in the late 1990’s, Kushitani did not forget the attitude of the founding era. Enjoying the very successful boom in the 1980s. The impact of the declining demand in the late 1990’s is not uncommon. Even when absolute market shrinkage was in effect, Kushitani did not forget the attitude of it’s foundation because we would like to make excellent products and make customers happy. This is our intention. For leather suits, we choose high quality leather, that performs the best - cutting and sewing it neatly by skillful craftworkers.
The attitude to pursue the best product quality of gloves, boots, jackets, pants, and textile wear - we never overlook in terms of quality, safety and comfort. Even the designs are brought up to date. Since the 1990’s, Kushitani combines tough new materials such as Zylon and Kevlar with leather and suede leather - giving it better mobility. The explorer jean was honed from Proto-core leather which uses fluorine processing and this makes the material itself water repellent - which customers can wash by themselves easily at home. The soft jeans with a soft texture drawn from the traditional riding pants make explorer jeans popular among wide range of customers.
Quality improvement and technological innovation have been constantly continuing from the past, but we have been trying new challenges. From the end of the 1990s to the 2000s, we have established new partnerships in the United States and Europe and planned to expand the Kushitani brand. Even in Asian countries where development is prominent, we have been supporting various activities, such as spreading the word of leather suits, supporting race riders, and promoting bike culture as same as domestic activities.
Not only in the bike industry but also others - such as opening shops and cafes in Shimizu parking area and Hamamatsu service area on the new Tomei Expressway and "Hari Terrace" on the Roadside Station of Meihan road. These became hot topics in general paper magazines. We also opened mini shop called "Kushitani pro-tent" in each area where Kushitani shop does not open, "Kushitani Fitting Sibiz" which people can enjoy with leather suit fitting and "Kushitani Coffee Break Meeting" where bike users can relax and have conversation while drinking coffee.
Compared with the bike boom period in the 1980’s, the market for motorcycles in Japan shrank. People who love motorcycles are present firmly in various places and also people who would like to ride motorcycle from now on.There was also an example where people who had not experienced touching a motorcycle recently had interest in leather goods and motorbikes as a result of stopping by Kushitani shops at parking area in the highways. Kushitani challenged to create new demand with new deliveries of products. The management has been passed down to children and grandchildren.
70 years have passed since the beginning - the situation surrounding the motorcycle has changed. The newest leather suit which we make to the suits of the 1950s still keep that strong feeling that "We want to make better products and we want to see customers smile”.
The thought of craftsmen who founded Kushitani 70 years ago has been inherited to all current staff. "Challenging mind" is thing that the founder of Kushitani accomplished the first leather jacket production. If you have the opportunity to visit Kushitani shops and events, please feel free to enjoy with our products. You will be able to feel the Kushitani Spirit" Making better, safer and more comfortable things".