Shoes That Fit (Each Foot) Perfectly- Have Custom-Fitted Foot-Wear Made at the Sutou Shoestore in Hojo, Tsukuba
By Avi Landau
The old town of Hojo (北条), in the northern part of Tsukuba city, is best explored on foot. Its maddeningly narrow streets, which could be used as a set for historical dramas (jidai geki), often have treacherous rain gutters on one or each side, and were clearly not designed for automobile traffic. A person on bicycle is also at a disadvantage as he or she might be going too fast and miss some hidden treasure, which would only be discovered by a walker. And I should know- I live there!
Recently, I spent a perfect spring day revisiting some familiar temples and shrines and seeking out
new (for me) sacred stones and other curiosities. A whole day of exploring certainly took a toll on my not-very-young-anymore feet, especially in the cheap pair of thongs I was wearing. But every day, it seems, there are little coincidences and miracles.
As the sun started to set I was walking down Hojo’s rusting main commercial street when I came across another Tsukuba surprise ( located about 100 meters from my house!), the Sutou Shoestore and master shoe-fitter Keiko Sutou, who has shoemaking and fitting qualifications from both Japan and Germany. She provides custom fitted shoes
carefully made to fit each of your precious feet.
When the Sutou family first opened their shop back in Taisho 13 (1924) only the mayor and the local lawyer wore western style shoes. Thus, the store had a major impact on the area’s culture as their shoes gradually replaced wooden clogs (geta), straw sandals (zori) and the still common bare foot.
Ms. Sutou took over the shop from her mother, now an indefatiguable world traveller in her 80s. She took over the reins with enthusiasm and has been studying and getting various qualifications in order to keep providing customers with more comfortable and healthier shoes. Last year she passed the schuh geseller (shoe craftsman) examination in Germany.
Let me quickly tell you about the fitting process at Sutou’s. First there is a short consultation (she speaks fluent English). Then your feet are checked and footprints taken.
After you select the design of shoe you would like, it takes 1-2 weeks for the shoes to be made.
You then come in for a fitting… and your new shoes are ready.
It’s not just an old-wives tale that bad fitting shoes are bad for your health. Now I’m rambling the backroads more vigorously than ever. It’s certainly worth a special trip out to Hojo for these shoes, which would be much more costly in Tokyo.
A pair of custom fitted shoes at Sutou’s start at around 30,000 Yen.
Address: Hojo 7, Tsukuba
Tel: 029 867 2201