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I went to Iwata budo supply store recently. The real name is Iwata Shokai.
In aikido we usually call the uniform a keikogi. In judo they call it a judogi - I suppose because they use the gi for other things (shiai and kata) as well as for normal keiko.
I used to buy my keikogis near Suidobashi station. Years ago there were many budo supply stores around there. The Kodokan (the world headquarters of judo) is close by. Most of those stores have closed down now.
My first keikogi from around there had a crazy-looking Daruma on the label but after that I usually went to Iwata. And I got my first hakama from there too. At that time they had a little shop right on the corner of the main crossing in Suidobashi.
That shop was knocked down many years ago. Now you have to go to Shin-Okubo, the next station to Shinjuku in Tokyo. It's a very cosmopolitan area. There are many ethnic shops and restaurants. You can buy photos of Korean pop stars there, or get dubious-looking phone cards cheap.
To get to Iwata you turn right out of the station and cross the street, then turn left down a narrow road towards the Lotte chewing gum factory.
Iwata is a small building on the left just before the factory. You slide open the door and step inside. It's very small - there's only room for three or four customers at a time. There is a rack of wooden weapons on the left and shelves upon shelves of keikogis and hakamas. There is the distinctive smell of new cotton keikogis.
The staff in Iwata have always been very, very kind. Years ago whenever I went there to order something they always chatted to me about Asoh Sensei or Arikawa Sensei. They knew lots of stories about the old days.
I still like Iwata white or black label keikogis very much for aikido. And Iwata hakamas are superb quality. I only wear Iwata hakamas now.
In Japan the relationship between a customer and a shop or company can have surprising depth. It isn't purely commercial. I remember a company president once explaining that in a severe economic downturn his employees worked for almost nothing so that they could keep giving a little business to small sub-contractors. Then when the economy improved those sub-contractors were still in business and the company could prosper with their help. So my relationship with Iwata, although it started out with me as an ordinary (and clueless) customer, has perhaps changed over the years into something a little more. I feel like a valued customer.
So thank you, Iwata, for my keikogis and my hakamas and your kindness and your smiles of welcome over nearly thirty years.
Doumo arigatou gozaimashita. どうもありがとうございました. Korekara mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu. これからもよろしくお願いします. Thank you very much. I hope we can continue our good relationship in the future.
This is the link to the Iwata home page in English: