I would like to begin with a complete disclosure: I’ve always been a raging Japanophile. Terms that I grew up obsessively researching now populate the ranks of popular culture: Matcha, anime, Godzilla, Kurosawa, izakayas, Gundam, Murakami (Takashi, not Haruki), origami, and an imminently forgettable dalliance with J-pop in the early 1990s—been there, bowed to that.

The only other worthy contender in the personal fixation department would be shoes. How fixated? Consider the blasphemy of saving the first 13 pay cheques of one’s career, not to buy the lady love something fancy, but to save for a pair of Edward Green Wingtips. It still boggles my mind as to how she’s stuck it out with me for this long (the now-wife, not the shoes).

You can only imagine my bliss when the Japanese decided to direct their Zen-grade attention to the fine craft of shoemaking. While I’ve had the pleasure of wearing the creations of a number of legends from the country, I would like to speak about Yohei Fukuda—the Master’s Master, as I refer to him.

Having formally trained in the craft and worked with a number of British shoemaking stalwarts, Fukuda-san initiated his private practice in 2008 following his return to Tokyo. His creations are offered in four lines, of which my preferred choice remains “Full Bespoke".

An order has to be placed in person in Tokyo. If you think being fitted for a suit on Savile Row is tedious, it’s a walk in Regent’s Park compared to the width, height, heel and position measurement tests Fukuda-san’s got lined up. His objective is to create an absolute glove for your feet—one that, Cinderella style, is solely yours.

He will ask you to select the preferred leather and style, but what makes it immaculately personalized are facets like the waist of choice (weight-watchers, anyone?), the heel’s taper and height, the welting, and stitch count. Fukuda-san will proceed to take a photograph of your feet, and then your face. Something to remember you with while biding the 150 hours that will go into meticulously crafting that pair of shoes.

It isn’t all smiles though. There’s the wait. It will be an estimated 24 months before perfection is placed at my feet. That’s a few steps further than the 15-month wait for my first classic pair back in the day. I’ve only, if anything, become more patient with all the Japanese influences in my life.

Arvind Vijaymohan is CEO, Artery India.

Close