Masayuki Kaneko – The Next Great Japanese Shoemaker
In the day and age of having information at your fingertips, it can almost become too much to absorb and sift through. Prior to IG, you really had to do some hard research to find great shoemakers spread across the planet. You had to use Google search and hope that some bloggers, like myself or Shoegazing, had written about some obscure maker that you had never heard of in order to continue your quest for the perfect shoemaker or to simply try something different. But now, they are all there in one easy hashtag search of ‘bespoke shoemakers,’ on Instagram. Shoegazing Blog actually had a short but sweet article about it recently, calling it ‘The Golden Age of Quality Shoes,’ and he is not wrong.
On a weekly basis, I stumble upon a new Japanese shoemaker. I mean, geez, there must be hundreds of them and that is impressive. When you compare against their European counterparts that spawned the popularity of bespoke shoemaking, I cannot imagine there being more than 100 bespoke shoemakers in any one EU country. The most recent discovery that has blown my mind in terms of shoe creativity and greatness overall is none other than Masayuki Kaneko. Here you will read a little about his history, his unique way of doing business in the modern age and see some of his very beautiful creations.
Masayuki Kaneko is 36 yeards of age and has been working in a shoe store since the age of 21, so a total of 15 years in the game which for me, makes him a seasoned vet when it comes to shoes. At age 26, having spent 5 years in the shoe store, he decided that he wanted to become an actual bespoke shoemaker. So, while continuing to work in the shoe store he was at, he also undertook an apprenticeship with Chihiro Yamaguchi (Guild of Crafts) and trained for 10 years with them in Tokyo. During his time with this master shoemaker, he learned a lot about design, especially the paper pattern to which he credits his work. He feels that this paper pattern making is the most important step in shoemaking and by judging his patterns and designs, I dare say he is not wrong as it clearly shows in his precision. After his 10 years of training, Masayuki went at it alone to start his own brand in 2019 and today is making some of the most beautiful shoes and designs that I have seen.
Masayuki tells me that what separates him from the rest is his ability and access to a technology that allows him to measure the foot’s shape/fit from the camera (photos I presume or maybe live video?) of your smartphone. That sounds like some real next-level stuff in the face of bespoke shoemaking and today’s complications of the world and travel. Imagine that you do not have to leave your house to order perfectly fitting bespoke footwear? This is what is so intriguing about this shoemaker. The question is how accurate is it? And that is what will remain to be known until more people have a try at him. But just imagine if it works. It can literally change the game for the bespoke shoe industry in light of restricted travel.
The prices for his shoes start at $3200, and that comes with your last. But of course, this is the base price and it can go up from there based on what leathers you select. All shoes are made by hand from start to finish and by one person. For those that are extra shoe snob, this is an important feature as it means in theory there will be less chance of discrepancy as only one set of hands/ideas and workmanship touches your pair of shoes.
What intrigued me about Masayuki’s shoes was his design. He has some patterns that I have never seen before. Some are on the verge of super bold which I like as while they are not by any means practical for most business settings, he has a way of making them that maintains their elegance and balance despite being a very intricate and unique pattern. I am particularly fond of the black derby with the rounded facing pieces that define the lace area design, something that I have not seen before. It appears quite Victorian in style, an era that always appeals to me. I love the grey, brogued double monks and even more so the sweeping single balmoral monk in what looks like Gold Museum. Next-level beauty for sure. And those V-cut adelaide brogues…they make me speechless. In reality, all of his shoes are absolutely beautiful. I can only be excited for what he has in store for new designs. You see can that the patterns are executed perfectly. There is not one line out of place or not in perfect balance in all of his collection.
And lastly, that very intricate boot was a showman’s piece that he did to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Japanese Samurai and what they wore. Mind-blowing to say the least. Exceptionally crafted and I dare say that I have never seen anything quite as intricate as that boot in men’s shoemaking. I cannot even imagine how long it took to complete.
I see a very bright future for Masayuki and am truly excited to see what he comes up with next and to hear customer feedback on the camera measuring technology and fit outcome. I will see about commissioning one myself if I can. If you are curious to know more, you can contact Masayuki via email although he is quite active on Instagram. He speaks good English and is very pleasant to deal with. And if you end up ordering a pair, make sure you let me know how it is once you get it so we can learn more about this new shoemaker!