From Vibram soles to funky, avant-garde reconstructions, Japanese kicks are notorious for their out-of-this-world design and unique appearance. Prominent designers like Keiko Shimizu and Hiroki Nakamura, archival designers like Takahiro Miyashita and Jun Takahashi, and even lesser-known brands are constantly exploring different methods to capture the ethos of their brand in new and unique ways.
Using sneakers as a vehicle for projecting their individual tastes to the mainstream, Japanese brands have begun to emerge as a powerhouse in the sneaker industry.
Taking into account both sneakers that were manufactured in Japan and sneakers with heavy Japanese influences, here is a roundup of our favorites.
visvim's very own take on the boat shoe, the Hockney boasts a premium suede construction, leather laces and lining, and finally hand-sewn moccasin detailing on the toe. The upper rides on an ultra-lightweight and cushioned EVA Pylon midsole. Available at Berlin-based Firmament, the sneaker is optioned in brown, red and black variations.
Hender Scheme Manual Industrial Products 15 Natural
The Manual Industrial Products 15 is the latest addition to Hender Scheme’s “Homage” footwear collection. The MIP-15 takes direct inspiration from Reebok's Insta Pump Fury, a '90s staple that is a far cry from the relevancy of the brand’s Classics segment.
Similar to other “Homage” footwear, the sneaker’s athletic sole is replaced with leather and rubber tooling, and the silhouette is redone in natural un-dyed leather that develops a beautiful patina with wear.
Needles Asymmetric Ghillie Sneaker Purple
One of the more obscure offerings on this list, Needles’ Asymmetric Ghillie Sneaker reminds us why Keiko Shimizu’s penchant for deconstruction and reconstruction reigns supreme. The sneaker has a “ghillie” style of lacing and asymmetrical toe caps to fully distinguish itself from any ordinary canvas sneaker.
The upper also consists of high-quality dip dyed canvas and suede, placed on top of a chunky outer sole donning Needles’ inconspicuous branding on the heel. The brand’s eclectic aesthetic is perfectly captured in this unique, everyday sneaker.
COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT x Spalwart Special V Low
COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT has teamed up with Spalwart to introduce a limited run of military-inspired low tops. Like the rest of Spalwart’s footwear, the sneaker is manufactured using machinery and molds discovered in the 1950s. A durable green suede sits above a thick rubber sole, perpetuating major vibes from the Rockabilly era, a decade that both brands frequently look to for inspiration.
N.HOOLYWOOD 162-SE01 Shoes Black
In a refreshing attempt to comment on climate change from an industry standpoint, Daisuke Obana’s FW16 collection for N. HOOLYWOOD addresses the sporadic climate swings our planet faces as the result of global warming. Obana sought to create his first season-neutral collection in order to dispense the distinctions between fall and spring.
The 162-SE01 model is designed for frigid winter conditions and those occasional spring showers. An all-terrain Vibram sole and triple-layer construction-polyester upper make this the perfect sneaker for all conditions.
COMME des GARÇONS x Nike Air VaporMax
Following the recent success of the COMME des GARÇONS x NikeLab Dunk High “Clear,” CdG has once again teamed up with Nike to introduce the Air VaporMax to Nike’s burgeoning archive of technical footwear. The sneaker is composed entirely from Nike’s proprietary Flyknit material with the classic foam midsole being swapped out for a modern air unit. A monochromatic, branded tab is placed in the absence of laces, perhaps making these some of the most comfortable slip-ons in existence.
Kapital MA-1 Sneaker Khaki
This classic waffle runner-style comes with the signature flight pocket of a traditional MA-1 military jacket, along with all of the details that Kapital has become synonymous with. There’s the timeless orange accent on the midsole, resembling the contrast lining of an Alpha Industries bomber jacket. The runner itself is conventionally made from nylon with quilted accents and utility pockets for some quick-zip accessibility. The MA-1 sneaker is a beautiful reconstruction of an American staple, without having to sacrifice form or function.
Y-3 Kyujo Low
For 2017, the ongoing collaboration between Yohji Yamamoto and German sportswear brand adidas has brought us this take on the Kyujo low-top. The standout feature of this sneaker from Y-3 is surely the geometric outsole, creating a prominent silhouette. In classic Y-3 fashion, the colorway remains understated, with a largely black upper and tasteful hits of red on the heel.
COMME des GARÇONS Homme Black & Transparent PVC Sneakers
Proceeding their collaboration with Nike on a translucent Dunk High, COMME des GARÇONS Homme has released this wacky PVC trainer. The upper is made of polyvinyl chloride, complete with a clear window that comprises the toe box. Other notable details include a textured rubber sole, padded ankle collar, and a discrete tab on the sneaker's tongue baring the fashion house's famous branding.
NikeLab Gyakusou Zoom Streak 6
Inspired by Jun Takahashi’s love for exercise and the outdoors, his latest take on Nike’s only non-traditional running club, Gyakusou International Running Association (GIRA), is full of bold colors, whimsical patterns, and the latest innovation in fabric technology.
NikeLab’s Gyakusou Zoom Streak 6 is the epitome of engineered performance sporting a beautiful “aloha” pattern in colors inspired by Tokyo’s environment. The sublimation patterns are meant to aid athletic performance by helping the athlete clear their mind and letting the body run.
Japanese shoemaker Mythography knocked it out of the park with their Myth 147 knit sneaker. Following suit in the knit sneaker craze led by sportswear giants like adidas and Nike, Mythography offers its own reinterpretation in the form of a trail runner.
The sneaker incorporates unique technology to knit around the contours of your foot and the ground. Like others on this list, the sneaker has a Vibram sole, but the monotone color scheme prevents the sneaker from appearing too sporty.
GRP-027 Mizuno x Mountain Research Ring Moc
Woodman-inspired Japanese label Mountain Research and Osaka-based sportswear company, Mizuno, recently released their own take on the sneaker/moccasin hybrid in the form of the GRP-027 Ring Moc. The moccasin style sneaker has a removable inner sock and its own rubber outsole that can we worn separately.
In similar fashion to Cole Haan’s now-shuttered partnership with Nike, a Mizuno Infinity Wave sole unit supports the sneaker, creating a stark contrast with the grained leather upper.
Miharayasuhiro's take on the formidable creeper silhouette is thankfully eased by the label’s minimalistic aesthetic. The Chunky silhouette features a suede upper with contrasting rope laces and a thick rubber midsole. Finally, a pull tab on the heel adds a nice element of distinction to this otherwise very minimalistic shoe.
UNDERCOVER "We Make Noise Not Clothes" High-Top
UNDERCOVER utilizes one of its most well-known catchphrases for this high-top silhouette. The simple silhouette is elevated by a tonal skull print on the upper, rubber toe guard in black and printed text on the midsole.
TAKAHIROMIYASHITA The Soloist x Foot the Coacher
In collaboration with TAKAHIROMIYASHITA The Soloist, Foot the Coacher released a clean mesh and suede runner. The silhouette is quite nostalgic of the Number (N)ine x Converse Odessa, a former project from Miyashita. Asymmetrical laces call back to the quirky aesthetic represented in other Soloist pieces. Other notable details from popular foot the coacher modes are also present such as premium suede and mesh, and a Vibram sole.
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