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The meaning of 'Made in Japan'

Weaving machinery
At present, less than 2.7% of the clothing worn in Japan is actually made here.
For perspective, that is only 100 million of the four billion garments in circulation.

The import of foreign garments into Japan is nearly 4 billion, yet only 60% (2.3 billion) of those are sold at their listed price. The remaining 40% end up in outlets. If only 60% of what is produced can be sold at listed retail value, any given company must limit its cost rate to 20% of the said retail price to turn profit.

Once lowering the cost of production by any means possible became the standard, it became difficult to make things in Japan.

The movement for Japanese businesses to build factories overseas, in search of cheap labor, began at the turn of the 21st century. Cheap labor can prolong the life of a company temporarily, but to guarantee such low rates, the company must order in bulk, often a year in advance. Production must proceed based on the initial order. Given the fear of only being able to sell 40% or 50% of what is produced at the listed price, companies are driven to lower the cost rate as much as possible. This sometimes limits the cost of production to only 15% of the price they set for the final product.

Indeed, adequately paid factory workers are scarce in comparison to underpaid workers.

We could have easily opted to follow this outsourcing model. Instead, we choose to make our shirts in Japan, and pay our factories respectable wages. In addition to the cost of labor, there is of course the cost of the fabric, packaging and freight charges - especially selling abroad. Even when it comes to materials, we refuse to disrespect the beauty of quality. Our shell buttons cost ten times more than those made of plastic. By making in small batches and aiming to sell 99% of what we make at a fair price, our company has been able to survive without outsourcing cheap labor. We believe in high-skilled craftsmen, and we pay our factories in cash – we do not use promissory notes like other businesses, which often go unpaid.

These odds put us at risk in comparison to the average retailer, but we value our morals.
Further, we value the inherent goodness of a well made shirt. 

The 27 years that Kamakura Shirts has been able to exist proves that “Made in Japan” is still possible. Short distance logistics and the assurance of quality aside, there are plenty of advantages in basing production at home, in Japan. Yet, the proportion of domestically produced goods in comparison to imported goods has continued to shrink around us, since we began all the way back in 1993.

“Manufacturing” and “Craftsmanship” were said to be Japan’s specialty. To keep such fine craft alive, we must reevaluate our lifestyle to reflect culture, sensibility and emotions: an approach that promises a better standard of living and self-actualization through the joys of clothing. We want to believe that people can grow by coming into contact with what is inherently good. We firmly believe "Made in Japan" is good, and hope to share this with you.


— Yoshio Sadasue, Founder, Kamakura Shirts