There’s a shoe repair place called Brass in Tokyo like no other I have ever been to. The guys from Red Wing Japan took me there last time I was in country. Often it’s those moments – like when I was first introduced to Brass in person – that make me realize the Japanese can still do ‘Americana’ better than Americans. I could easily see a place like Brass in Portland or Brooklyn or L.A., but I doubt it would have the customer base to actually survive. Maybe I’m wrong though.
Guys come from all parts of Tokyo to have Brass resole their Goodyear welted shoes. In the shop I saw footwear from Alden, Edward Green, Wesco and of course Red Wing; it wasn’t just fine leather bottom shoes it was a mix of brands and styles. That is something that impressed me about Brass. Normally in New York you go to a repair shop and they can redo a pair of Aldens (and know their stuff), but I’ve seen a lot of boots come out of those shops that just look ridiculous. I take my shoes to Mouded Shoe on 39th Street or to VIP on 55th, but never my boots – those get sent back to the OEM. Red Wing has a pretty amazing shoe repair facility in Minnesota (which I have seen a few different times) and Allen Edmonds also has a great repair service which I have also toured. But if I lived anywhere near Brass I would definitely have to try out their service.
To have your boots resoled there doesn’t come cheap. In some cases it can cost more than $300 a pair. Though, when you consider the price of American made leather footwear in Japan (it’s much more expensive over there because of the high import duty) a few hundred dollars isn’t that crazy. Not that I would suggest you pay that in New York.
One other cool thing about Brass is they sell a good selection of re-crafted footwear from many of the fine brands that they specialize in reconditioning. You can see some of the selection in the above photo. While expensive – and all the way in Tokyo – Brass is like no place I have ever seen. If you are in Japan soon, stop by and check it out.
This post originally appeared on the Red Wing Heritage Journal. More photos and info about re-crafting there.
Comments on “Brass Tokyo | World’s Coolest Shoe Repair Shop”
Wow, Anyone who loves a premium pair of shoes love a good repair shop! And this one is the bomb… So cool. I’de love to have a shop like this in my hoje town.
What I can’t understand — and I know Japan is a relatively prosperous country — is where young guys get the money to spend $1,500 on a pair of Wescos, then drop $400 more on esoteric customizing.
And it’s not just limited to Americana — the Japanese go all out in every trend that I’ve seen. Kinda cool, but the fanatical worship of consumer goods in modern Japanese culture is a little creepy. I take it back, not necessarily creepy, but worth investigating.
Wow – it’s like the fountain of youth for good boots…
On average a single guy in Japan makes a decent salary plus two generous bonuses a year, and with a surplus of single men it’s really no wonder. Plus more often than not they don’t own a car or pay health insurance premiums.
As for worship of consumer goods I think that’s a worldwide trend. However I’d say Japanese have a better sense of design and taste.
Gotta love any shop that extends a “Cordial Welcome”.
Amazing. Forget shoe repair, I would pay rent there.
The Japanese worship of consumer goods is tied to Shintoism and the belief that every object has a spirit.
what a beautiful place. i miss the old gentleman by the st. marks church in the east village. his cobbler shop had been there for 40 years and smelled like oil, leather, and wood.
@peter ” fanatical worship of consumer goods in modern Japanese culture is a little creepy”
I do have agree with that statement, the japanese do take trends and fads a little bit tooo far! More so than in western cultures thats for sure!
I hear its perfectly normal to buy a pair of vintage jeans on layaway in tokyo?
but yeah their love (or complete obsession) for Americana is definitely a little creepy!
The japanese ( and other asian cultures) tend to live at home with the their parents until they are married. So while you’re young, everything you earn is disposable
Thanks kyco and Bandanna…I suspected it was some combination of all that.
By “worship of consumer goods,” I probably should have said “fetishization.” And it’s not just Americana — check out any Japanese pop subculture, whether clothes, cars, animation etc. I think it’s cool on one level, but on another I’m not sure it’s healthy.
I also wonder how much it’s related to the massive societal changes in Japan since the 19th century. Not many other countries have gone from a feudal empire (that defeated Russia in 1905) to a dictatorship (that gave the US a serious scare), to being the subject of an atomic attack, then being occupied by the enemy (that would be the US), then emerging as an industrial powerhouse, THEN, having your economy collapse into deflation.
Japan’s peculiar history certainly plays its part.
Then again, there are more than 125 million Japanese — more than enough to spawn a large number of fetishists of all stripes. Moreover, all of them are crammed in to a country the size of California, which likely contributes to the sense that these eccentrics are ubiquitous. Nonetheless, I submit that the “norm” in Japan is fairly conventional — so much so that it likely contributes to extremism among the outliers.
I also note a fetish among many Americans for Japanese fetishists.
I can’t tell you how many of your blog posts made me wish I had learned a trade. This one is no exception. Very cool stuff.
Great find. I have also noticed the Japanese love for Americana. My family owns a small handmade shoe company in Upstate, NY. We have a Japanese buyer who makes his living selling American made shoes and clothing. Here, in the US we’re working on building a solid customer base. In Japan we’re in high demand. It’s interesting for sure.
speaking of brooklyn shoe repair, Bron Yakov on Degraw Street always did right by me.
jiheison, explained it all much better than I would have.
I live in Japan so I’m always curious about people’s impressions about Japan.
I really think most misconceptions arise by the lack of direct interaction between Japanese and foreigners. ACL offers his readers a unique insight into Japan with his direct connections through his work. I encourage, if your interested to see more about Japan to read my blog and others.
Yuya Hasegawa shoe shine club, Japan: I know this video has been circulated quite a bit but it just shows the Japanese appreciation for men’s shoes…….. Plus, listening to the audio in the video kind of relaxes me in a strange kind of way:
I do have agree with that statement, the japanese do take trends and fads a little bit tooo far!
Cool! A life-size Buddy Lee doll, the Japanese version.
Dang this place looks cool. It’d be even better if they served scotch or whisky while waiting for your repairs.
Japanese single men often have a lot of disposable income for a number of reasons. For example, commuting expenses are almost always 100% paid by the employer. They often live in company dormitories for very little rent (the dormitory often has breakfast and dinner service for free or quite low). They get bonuses twice a year. Tokyo, where I live, is considered the most expensive city in the world. And it truly is IF you are an expat living in one of the exclusive areas of the city. But Tokyo is huge and there are so many lower-price areas. The best thing is that in Tokyo, lower price doesn’t mean dangerous.
Not sure what they did to those Red Wing boots. Look pretty awful. They now look like something Daniel Day Lewis wore in the film “My Left Foot”
I really like how they’ve customers’ boots as their window dressing.
Sorry, ‘how they’ve USED customers’ boots as their window dressing.’
Very cool. Tony’s Shoe Clinic in Oak Park, IL is pretty awesome too. Below another business, so it’s nice and dark with really low ceilings. This is the only pic i could find online tho….
Not only the americana, but food, too. I was all like, “WTF? How are these the best bagels i’ve ever eaten?”
Check out our bow ties!
This place looks like a shop out of a fairy tale. Perhaps they have elves that come in at night and fix the shoes for them.
I was impressed at the appearance of their shop. My good friend has a spot next door off of the L7 in Setagaya. 3 guys working in very close quarters in the rear of the shop. Pretty cool to watch.
Takeshi Okuyama owns a small shop called Hukurokuju.
He is the man to see for top notch boot repair or work.
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