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dudewuttheheck

Japan Trip

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After saying goodbye to Goto-San, we headed straight for Brass Tokyo to pick up my 2 custom pairs of engineer boots. I believe this is location is fairly new to them based off of Instagram. Either way, it is a stunning little setup. This was my favorite storefront we visited in terms of style and looks. As you can see from the pictures, the inside is adorned with shoes and boots, globes, and some very unique and clever lighting fixtures which really add a stylish feel to the store. I introduced myself to the guy who seemed to be running the shop (there were three Brass employees in there at the time) and he went to get my boots from upstairs, which is where the actual workshop is.

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As far as I can tell, both pairs came out perfectly. The black ones are made of their Japanese veg-tanned leather and there is some wax residue left over in some places, but I don’t consider that a problem. I think they look pretty smart with the red contrast stitching and medium brown edges.

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The stunners were the horsehide boots. These are easily my favorite boots that I own to this point. The leather blew me away. From what I gathered, it’s horsebutt from an Italian tannery that is sent to and finished in the Shinki tannery. It really does have a very Shinki-esque look and feel to it, whatever the amount of work that Shinki actually put into it. Either way, this is probably the best leather for boots that I have seen or handled in my life so far. I love my Role Clubs, but this leather is leagues ahead of what he uses in my eyes. The HH on those is flat and characterless in comparison. Other details include natural finished edges, 9in rather than 11in height, and some very light tan contrast stitching which I absolutely am over the moon with.

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The man I spoke to the most (I failed to get his name) spoke very good English and my brother and I were able to hold a conversation with him quite easily. I managed to learn some more information about Brass that I thought would interest several people on here, though this may not be news to you. First off, they now have 9 people who actually work on making the shoes and boots. However, the handwelting is done by only one man as of right now. I have his Instagram if anyone is interested. Also, while the inner welting is done completely by hand, the sole stitching is done with an old goodyear machine. I am not sure if this is correct, but I believe that Brian actually hand sews even the sole stitch. I did confirm with Goto-San that he does that by hand. Finally, I did get to meet the founder/owner of Brass (he is pictured next to me below) and he instantly recognized my boots and informed me that he worked on them.  I have his Instagram as well, but some of you may already follow him. All of this info was from the man who ran the shop so I believe it to be accurate.

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As it turns out, Brass and Role Club are more different than I initially thought, but at this point, I would pick my Clinch boots overall. The construction is dress shoe quality (they must train their staff well), the leather choices are amazing, and the CN last is my favorite engineer boot last around. The new HH really puts them over the top.

They were also quite happy with the Bourbon and gave my brother and I Brass branded shoe horns (which I find funny to give to a guy picking up engineer boots)

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The black boots had been worn for a few hours when these pictures were taken.

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The next day, we went around Tokyo to visit the other shops that I wanted to see most- Timeworn Clothing, The Real McCoys, and Freewheelers/Desolation Row.

 

Timeworn Clothing was up first. Their shop was very nice, but they had a very strict policy of no pictures, so I unfortunately only got shots of the outside and of the shirt I purchased. Their selection is not large, but the store is laid out nicely and they seem to have a good amount of stock of what they do have- mainly denim, trousers, t shirts, henleys, and chambrays. The shirt I ended up with was this cool cotton knit polo. It makes me feel like a Cuban gangster and it breathes beautifully, so I couldn’t pass it up. They have a man at the store who speaks excellent English, having spent over a decade living in London.

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Next was The Real McCoys. I was not expecting such a massive store. It’s down at the basement floor, but it is huge. I got what pictures I could, but they do the place no justice. There were at least 4 or 5 staff members there and every piece of RMC gear I have seen was there, and quite a few pieces I have not seen were there as well. Something I noticed that seemed to be new was the Buco J-100 being available in a dark brown color as well as a D pocket in dark brown as well. I had never seen these before and I know that the J-100 was pretty much only available in black and blue before, aside from the short time it was available in a tan color. I actually did not purchase anything here. My brother walked out with 2 shirts, though- a navy blue work shirt with white polka-dots and a purple chambray shirt.

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The final shop of the day was Desolation Row. We actually accidentally found what we think was Freewheelers’ headquarters first on google maps. It was a house with an old pickup truck outside and engineer boots at the door. I didn’t know that we needed to search for Desolation Row specifically because I’m an idiot :P The store is not all that big (again, no pictures so I could only snap the one of me in the jacket I tried on) and they were out of pretty much everything in my size. I tried on the La Brea and I liked it, but the sleeves were far too long and they did not have a Sunset in my size. Again, my brother walked out with more than me, purchasing a really nice burgundy shirt.

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Our largest adventure took us to Nagano to visit with The Flat Head. I know they aren’t that big of a brand on this forum, but it was still quite an experience that should be worth sharing here. We were met at the train station by J. Attila Antal (he’s the newest guy doing what Cold Summer on SuFu used to do) and his boss, Masaki Horiuchi. Considering that they and I were dressed completely in FH/RJB gear, it was easy to spot each other. They took our bags, despite us trying to refuse (I noticed that the Japanese are very insistent on carrying bags for you and they are much better at it than Americans) and drove us in a van to Chikuma, where the Flat Head headquarters are located. We met with Kobayashi-San, founder and owner of The Flat Head very briefly before going over to the Stockburg leather factory to see how their leather goods are made.

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This was quite impressive. ‘Factory’ is a bit of a misnomer here as the only machines in the whole building were the sewing machines they used for hemming and jean repairs. The closest thing to a machine they had that was used on the leather was a hand operated press to cut out the leather and press the logos into certain items. We met the man who runs the Stockburg facility and they gladly allowed us to film and take pictures the entire time, probably because they were happy to show off just how hand made everything is in the facility. I am a massive Flat Head/RJB fan, so the fact that I was beyond impressed should not surprise anyone. They do everything from the sewing, to the edge finishing, to even cutting the holes by hand with only the simplest tools. Downstairs was where the outer parts of the wallets and bags were done and the inner linings were done upstairs.

They also gave us a demonstration of how they do their denim repairs which was pretty cool. It was a lot of fun seeing how my wallet that I bought over a year ago was made and I must say I feel even more sure that I made the right choice buying a Flat Head wallet. They even had one of their sewers teach me how to sew for a bit! I was terrible, but it was quite fun and it gave me an appreciation for what they and other leather craftsmen do.

Kobayashi-San actually showed up while I was sewing and we then went to his house from there. Well, when I say house, I mean houses. He owns an entire block basically- 3 houses and 5 garages. His daily driver is a twin turbo Mercedes wagon (if I’m not mistaken, I saw the same car parked outside of Konaka-San’s workshop, but I can’t be sure) and he also owns a limited edition Fiat 500, a Datsun 50 Bluebird SSS, a Chevelle SS (’66 or ’67 I believe), a ’57 Bel Air convertible, a Harley, a Kharmann Gia, a VW bus, and a Porsche Gt4 with a manual transmission for extra cool points. He even had a large amount of vintage Snap-On tools including Bel Air edition and Harley Davidson edition sets. The coolest thing was the custom Flat Head logo on one of his driveways and the fact that every car’s license plate said 3005.

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He had even more crazy stuff inside one of the houses which he uses as his design studio. He showed us a pair of $15k WWII levis which made my Conners WWIIs seem like a bargain and an actual brick from the Indianapolis motor speedway. I won’t bore you all with the rest of this and I’ll skip ahead to lunch. We went to the second floor of one of his Googie’s Café restaurants and were served the best meal we had during the entire trip. This included all locally sourced fruits and vegetables in the salad (the salad dressing was yogurt-based and made fresh daily), French fries dipped in maple syrup (it made no sense, but it actually tasted good), 2 different pizzas (one normal, one with apples, honey, and maple syrup), some fresh beef, their take on hamburger, and mushroom risotto. It was kind of American food, kind of not. The ingredients were so good that everything actually worked really well together. Apparently Nagano is famous for their apples so they even feed the cows with them and I will say it was some of the best beef I have ever eaten. For desert, we had their frozen yogurt which apparently won ‘best frozen yogurt in Japan’ one year. It was definitely the best I have ever had.

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Finally, we went to another Googie’s restaurant that also housed a sizeable Flat Head store. I purchased an RJB rayon shirt and two rings that I picked up at a store in Osaka. I also bought a necklace with dice pendants because I really don’t care for feather pendants that seem to be all you can find. MY brother walked out with an RJB loopwheel t shirt with felt letters and a stunning RJB seafoam green dress shirt (easily the coolest shirt he bought the whole trip). Finally, I bought him a wallet from stockburg as a thanks for bringing me on the trip. As it turns out, that wallet is only sold in Chiikuma which makes it even more special. We did the gift exchange here as well and we received signed Flat Head bandanas from Kobayashi-San and he received the bourbon. Apparently he does not drink much anymore, but he was thrilled nonetheless. We also offered to show them around and buy them dinner when they are in LA next. They were particularly interested in my brother’s offer to take them on a tour of his workplace (he works in aerospace.)

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surprisingly i enjoyed it! nice

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4 minutes ago, jigsaw said:

surprisingly i enjoyed it! nice

Glad you enjoyed it!

@beautiful_FrEaK : Thanks! I know there isn't too much overlap, so I figured I would post here too.

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37 minutes ago, Capsicum Fried Meat said:

Thanks for your post. really enjoy it.

Thanks I'm glad you did. I tried to make it at least somewhat informative and I cut out all the non-denim and boot stuff.

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Sounds like an awesome experience, great write-up! 

Now I just wonder how the hell you got it all home ;) 

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Also enjoyed reading your write up at denimbro & here.

Seems to be having most amazing time of your life. :)

The most important question though: how's the coffee? :P

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great post, thanks for sharing sir.  i take things for granted living here for work, need to get out and explore more!

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1 hour ago, Cucoo said:

Sounds like an awesome experience, great write-up! 

Now I just wonder how the hell you got it all home ;) 

Thanks! I had to take the boots out of the boxes and we brought two empty carry ons just to take stuff back :P

@redragon - Thanks! Quite good, actually :) 

@DoitsuJin - I do that where I live too. It helps when it's a vacation and you don't have to worry about work.

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Really liked reading that, glad you posted.

Reminds me how much I miss Japan, and that I should start learning Japanese again

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mate. you've done more on this trip than i could do in a lifetime of trips to japan. i'm really curious on how you get to meet kobayashi-san and all of them personally. whether you'd just email them beforehand or something? 

also, how good is brass aye?! i'm not sure if you'd remember my posts from my trip a couple years ago when i did some resole with them on a couple pair of boots. the craftsmanship is brilliant and thorough. one thing i'm not used to though, is the lasts from their clinch boots. i'd been hoping to get some shell cordovan and getting them to make me a pair of boots. but the last just isn't right for me...

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Thanks for sharing. 

The Flat Head experience you had is enviable. 

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4 hours ago, louisbosco said:

mate. you've done more on this trip than i could do in a lifetime of trips to japan. i'm really curious on how you get to meet kobayashi-san and all of them personally. whether you'd just email them beforehand or something? 

also, how good is brass aye?! i'm not sure if you'd remember my posts from my trip a couple years ago when i did some resole with them on a couple pair of boots. the craftsmanship is brilliant and thorough. one thing i'm not used to though, is the lasts from their clinch boots. i'd been hoping to get some shell cordovan and getting them to make me a pair of boots. but the last just isn't right for me...

 

I actually met Kobayashi-San in March of 2016 when Flat Head came to Self Edge LA. I showed up wearing all RJB gear and talked with Kobayashi-San and his crew for over an hour along with Ben who is on this forum. I got a lot of pretty cool perks with Flat Head after that and one of them was that I was offered to come visit and be given a tour if I ever came to Japan. As soon as I scheduled this trip, I let them know and they set the whole thing up. 

 

Brass is amazing. They are the best boots I own right now, though I think White Kloud will take that title once I get those. I haven't seen that post, but I wasn't on this forum back then. I'd love to see your pics/post, though! Which last are you referring to? I believe they have three. I personally love the classic narrow last (my feet are comfortable in anything). You should look into their other lasts though.

Thanks guys! Really glad you enjoyed the post :)

 

 

Edited by dudewuttheheck

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great trip and great write-up and pics. Thanks for taking the time to share. 

 

I'm seriously obsessed with boots, although I have nothing that compares with anything you've shown here. I'll prolly be hitting you up with PM's in future plugging for info. ;) I didn't know too much about WK or Brass prior. Thanks again for the great info - enviable, epic trip. 

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2 hours ago, mpukas said:

great trip and great write-up and pics. Thanks for taking the time to share. 

 

I'm seriously obsessed with boots, although I have nothing that compares with anything you've shown here. I'll prolly be hitting you up with PM's in future plugging for info. ;) I didn't know too much about WK or Brass prior. Thanks again for the great info - enviable, epic trip. 

Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you got something out of it. Feel free to pm anytime :) 

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Interesting reading. Regarding Clinch, as those are mto-pairs, did you visit them earlier or post them your measurements re:Role Club?

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10 hours ago, mrman said:

Interesting reading. Regarding Clinch, as those are mto-pairs, did you visit them earlier or post them your measurements re:Role Club?

I gave them measurements and discussed sizing with them beforehand. Luckily, I already had a pair of Clinch boots to reference. With Role Club, I was measured personally because I live relatively close to Brian's shop.

@mikkadehachikai - Yeah he asked for those pics so he could post on his blog! I was very honored to be on the same page as Iron Heart, Good Art, and Nine Lives!

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I have not even finished reading this entire thread yet, but I just want to say it  has made me feel inadequate in every conceivable way. Well done. Those engineers are absolutely breathtaking. 

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2 hours ago, marcusV2 said:

I have not even finished reading this entire thread yet, but I just want to say it  has made me feel inadequate in every conceivable way. Well done. Those engineers are absolutely breathtaking. 

Thanks! I love my Clinch boots. I don't think anyone makes better engineers.

@mondo thanks, glad you liked it! I appreciate the kind words :) 

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That is some serious boot love you are going through! The back stitching is amazing... I was on fence about japanese made footwear until those shots...

[urges for engineer boots intensify across forums...]

nice write up

looking fwd to csf tux evo

mmmmm dem boots

 

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On 7/16/2017 at 0:46 PM, bartlebyyphonics said:

That is some serious boot love you are going through! The back stitching is amazing... I was on fence about japanese made footwear until those shots...

[urges for engineer boots intensify across forums...]

nice write up

looking fwd to csf tux evo

mmmmm dem boots

 

Thanks! I wish it wasn't so hot so I could actually wear the tux.

My Clinch boots are the best that I own and I really love boots!

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Really great post and I enjoyed reading it. Seems you guys had a great time and bought some good items. 

I'm going to the same cities you went to but a few days later. My girlfriend is not into denim so I couldn't have done a trip like yours.

I'm in the shinkanzen to Nagano right now and will go to Kyoto next, after that we'll have a few days in Tokyo left.

We probably have some time to see a few denim shops but can 't head out to Kojima jeans street for instance. I have no idea what to visit. What are your recommendations? 

Also if you have some tips for good for or anything please tell me :) 

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