Shoeshine Artisans in Japan part17 Mr, Koya Inada (Brift H)

This is a series of "Shoeshiner's Quest". There are many wonderful shoeshiners in the world! In this 17th installment, we would like to introduce you to the manager of Brift H AOYAMA, Mr. Koya Inada. He went from being a sales representative for a food manufacturer to a shoeshiner with a single-minded desire to see his customers smile. Inada insists that he is not dexterous by nature, so we asked him about his passion for shoeshine, so please read on.

How did you become a shoeshiner?

The reason I became a shoeshiner is the same as the reason I decided to change careers. I was working in sales, getting retailers, mainly supermarkets, to put their products on the shelves of their stores. I enjoyed the work itself, but I could only see the results of my work up to the point of delivery, and I wanted to see how the people who bought the products would react to them.

One reason was that I wanted to do a job where I could see the customer's reaction to my work, and the other was that I wanted to be able to look back on my life in a few decades and think, "That was fun. I wanted to do something that I liked and that would be rewarding.

It was with this in mind that I began my job search. I searched for a job while thinking about what I would like to do and what I would be able to see the reaction of customers in front of my eyes. I thought about working at a curry shop or a vintage clothing store, but I thought that would limit the number of customers I could meet. I thought, "If I'm going to do this, I'd like a job where I meet all kinds of people," and I realized that there are almost no people who don't wear shoes! Shoeshine! I thought, "Okay!

I used to work in sales, so I thought it was better to have clean feet, so I polished my shoes in an amateurish way. However, I didn't know anything about mirror polish at the time, and it was just something I did to take care of my shoes. I was enjoying taking care of old shoes I bought at a thrift store. I was a member of a soccer club when I was in school, so I thought it felt good to polish spikes and shoes, and I liked doing it, so I think that's where my real roots are. That is also why I became interested in leather shoes when I entered the workforce.

When I was in sales, I wore Regal, Allen Edmunds, and US Navy service shoes. Looking back on it now, I think the sizes were all messed up, but it's a good memory.

I was looking for a job when I found a job offer at Brift H. I still remember that the job offer was for the end of November. I remember that I stopped by a bookstore on my way home from my last day of work at my last job of the year, bought a resume, and filled it out over drinks (laughs).

I had an interview with Brift H, but I failed the first time, and I thought I would stay with the company if I didn't get the job, so I continued working there until one day I got a call from Brift H asking me if I wanted to work for them. However, it was the end of the fiscal year and I had just taken over a large client, so I couldn't change jobs right away, so I gave myself a few months to make sure I had a good handover before changing jobs.

I started to polish shoes in earnest after joining Brift H. At first, I was not very good at it, so I was always struggling in the atelier on the second floor, with senior staff teaching me how to do it. I'm not that dexterous with my hands, so at first I thought shoeshine was very difficult. If I like doing it, it is fine as long as I am satisfied with it, but when it comes to shoeshine as a paid job, I realized how difficult it is.

One of the points that made me very confused was that I had to adapt to the fact that shoeshine at the counter is completely different from shoeshine in the store. Shoeshine at the counter has to be done efficiently. Counter polishing requires beautiful shoe polishing, including gestures, while serving customers. I am not a dexterous person, so it was very difficult for me to learn to polish shoes at the same time.

However, I had to inspire myself every day to work hard because my dream would not come true if I did not receive a passing score on Mr. Hasegawa's test. I was angry with my seniors every day and worried, but I knew I had no choice but to be determined because this was the company I wanted to work for and the job I wanted to start, so I asked Mr. Araida, "I really want to do my best, so please give me a serious push. That was a big turning point for me.

From that point on, I received detailed and strict guidance on a daily basis. I was prepared to accept his advice, so I took it all in stride and did my job. I was disciplined quite a bit, and although I felt that I had been naive to think that I had made a job just because I liked it, I was completely turned on thanks to the advice (laughs).

I made my debut at the counter about six months after I joined the company, and the first customer I still can't forget was Mr. Smiley Kikuchi, who let me polish his PRADA light brown sneakers, but I was so nervous because it was my first fight that I hardly remember it (laughs). After I finished, I felt a great sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, and I felt like I had finally made it to the starting line.

Please tell us about your passion for polishing.

I think most of all about making the customer enjoy the experience. Since they have gone to the trouble of coming to the store, I polish with the utmost care so that they leave absolutely satisfied. I hope that I can build a long-lasting relationship with them, and not just for the moment. For example, when I polish the shoes of customers before their weddings, I polish them with all my heart to make their weddings even better.

In terms of technique, my personal preference is not to apply a lot of wax base with my fingers, and I wonder if it is fun to watch from the customer's point of view. If that is the case, I think it is fun to wrap a cloth around the finger and gradually make it shine, so I polish that way. I like the luster of the finish with the cloth, which gives it a classy, not too glarey luster. I like a mirror surface that has a natural feel to it.

Also, recently I have been moving my hands in various directions. If I am polishing normally, I would move clockwise, but I also move counterclockwise, and I intentionally polish in straight lines. That way, the mirror finish is more beautiful. If you polish in one direction all the time, the wax will be unevenly applied to the pores, so I think that by polishing in various directions, the wax is applied to the pores from all directions and the mirror surface becomes uniform.

Are there any customers or shoes that have left a lasting impression on you?

The first time a client named Mr. E came to the salon. I thought he was an amazing customer who took a lot of video (laughs). (Laughs.) He filmed the whole thing. He was uploading it to Instagram in small segments. I took a picture of him wearing the last pair of shoes I polished, and he still has it as a standby on his phone. It was a moment when I truly thought, "I'm glad I became a shoe polisher. I am very happy that he is still with us today because of that encounter.

I also received an order for all soles for Mr. Y's Stefano Branchini shoes, which were made using the Norwegian method. He had only been with us for about six months and didn't have much knowledge about shoes, so we had to go back and forth with him about the difficult repair work. It took a long time and it took us six months to deliver the shoes, but in the end, they were fixed perfectly and we were able to deliver them! It left a lasting impression on me, and every time I meet with Mr. Y, we talk about that time (laughs).

What are your ambitions for this year's competition?

I want to get revenge for last year's competition. I was so nervous last time that I wasn't able to do what I wanted to do at all, and I regret that very much. I was more nervous than a normal wedding speech (laughs).

When I think about why I was so nervous, I think it was because people were watching me and grading my polished shoes, and also because I felt responsible for carrying the store's signboard. But now that I have learned how nervous I get last year, I think I can take countermeasures.

My wife couldn't come to watch the last tournament, so this year she will come to watch from the second round, so I will win at least the first round (laughs). I will practice more than last year so that I will not be nervous. My goal is to make it to the finals!

Please tell us about the items you recommend among Brift H's goods.

I wonder - I would recommend all of them! If I had to dare to choose, I would say THE CLEANER for mirror shine and THE CREAM.

The cleaner is Miracle. It is gentle to leather and removes dirt properly. It is also easy to handle, and although it was designed for mirror-polished shoes, it can be used for shoes that are not mirror-polished.

THE CREAM has good ingredients, and after putting cream in, brushing, and wiping dry, it feels very good to the touch, making it easy to apply mirror polish afterwards. I also like the natural shine of the cream alone without using wax. I also recommend finishing with cream.

I recommend finishing with cream.

I recommend finishing with cream.


Although Inada is not a dexterous polisher or customer service specialist, his natural earnestness and his slightly unusual hobbies and interests give him an exquisite taste that makes him a great leader of the Aoyama store. I hope that he will continue to be a shoe polisher who impresses many customers.

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