I have previously written about the Tansu-Ya chain of used kimono shops. Tansu-Ya was the dream child of Nakamura Kenichi, whose family had a kimono business. He went into a Book Off used book store, and thought it would be wonderful to have a similar system for kimono.
Inspired by that model, he created a chain of kimono shopsーover 100 shops throughout Japan at its peak. The chain sold mainly used kimono that people no longer wanted, pieces which were just sleeping in their closets at home. The model was a huge success, and later went on to have a franchise system too, where people could have their own store with Tansu-Ya backing and sell the kimono that they liked.
Over the years however, the supply has become smaller, and business has become tougher. The chain announced its closing in April of 2020, with no doubt that the pandemic had a part to play.
This greatly saddened the kimono community, as Tansu-Ya was a big player in making reasonably priced kimono available for the masses. The chain was also a part of the everyday kimono revival. It had a huge following, and many faithful customers.
In a surprise move, Tansu-Ya has been bought by Maruyama Shinichi, of Maruyama Kyosai Group. Maruyama, like previous CEO Nakamura, is a man of ideas.
Maruyama’s father, Minoru, started in the kimono business more than 50 years ago, in Jiyugaoka. He didn’t even have a shop. He carried kimono to his customers’ houses. Minoru built up the Maruyama Kyosai Group, and Shinichi worked there for 20 years before taking over as the leader of the enterprise.
Business has been hard for him in the age of COVID-19. Many kimono businesses have had to close. Maruyama had many a sleepless night before finally making the decision to buy out Tansu-Ya. He knew that one small slip could take out Tansu-Ya, and his own business too.
It was a huge risk. But his business has always been about overcoming hardships and taking risks. Maruyama recognized the importance of what Tansu-Ya has done over the years and he really wanted to continue it and make it even better. He made an offer to buy the business because he saw the importance of keeping Tansu-Ya alive for the key role it has played in the kimono revival.
As a result, 41 of the shops have survived, including about half of the franchise shops. But, as the business manager told me, some of the shops have gone independent or are now online.
He is proud to say that Tansu-Ya has not only helped kimono wearers, but also spawned new independent kimono shops. Many of the staff have remained in Tansu-Ya, including the cousin of the founder. They bring a lot of business expertise to the new venture and are excited to be working under new management.
Maruyama plans to make sure that each shop and business is run by forward thinking young managers, and he is excited about seeing the company grow in the future.
Join the Celebration
To celebrate the renewal of Tansu-Ya the company will hold a big bazaar for 4 days from Thursday, December 10 to Sunday, December 13, at the Daimatsu company, Tomizawa-cho Green Building, 9-8 Tomizawa-cho in Nihonbashi.
The company will be selling used kimono from their storehouse starting at the bargain deal of 3 pieces for the price 10,000 yen. Finer kimono, kimono coats, obi, bolts of fabric and many accessories will be available. There are also special prices on cleaning, waterproof coating and tailoring kimono from bolts.
Kimono lovers will welcome back Tansu-Ya, and even if you are just curious, the bazaar is a great place to browse and look at kimono. I will be there in person on December 10 from around 4 P.M. and also all day on December 12, helping to coordinate and doing a chat show or two on Saturday afternoon.
Welcome back, Tansu-Ya.
Find other columns on kimono by author Sheila Cliffe, here.
Author: Sheila Cliffe