Tokaido (company)

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IndustryMartial arts equipment
FounderShizuo Sugiura
Number of locations
Several offices and sales outlets in Japan, one office in the USA (2010)
Area served
Key people
Taro Sugiura (President)
ProductsKarate uniforms, belts, and related products
WebsiteTokaido Japan

Tokaido (東海堂, Tōkaidō)[a] is a Japanese company that manufactures karate uniforms, belts, and related products.[1] It is the world's oldest manufacturer of uniforms specifically for karate training, with a reputation for both high quality and high price.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][b] Tokaido is based in Tokyo, Japan, and is owned and operated by the Sugiura family.[8]


Tokaido's founder, Shizuo Sugiura, was a martial arts enthusiast who would watch demonstrations and competitions of many Japanese martial arts.[8] With time, he became increasingly interested in the art of karate.[8] At the time, karate practitioners would simply use judo uniforms or other clothing for training.[8][9] Judo emphasizes grappling, so training in that art typically requires a strong, heavy uniform; karate emphasizes striking, so training in that art does not require so heavy a uniform.[3] Sugiura was already working in the clothing industry, and decided to combine his work with his interest in karate by producing uniforms specifically for karate training.[8]

In 1958, Sugiura established the Tokaido company.[1][4][8] Its name means Eastern Sea Shop in Japanese, and comes from the name of Sugiura's home region on the east coast of Honshū island.[9] Sugiura began supplying sample uniforms to instructors of the newly formed Japan Karate Association (JKA), and used their feedback to improve the designs and manufacturing.[8] The JKA helped popularize the Tokaido brand amongst Shotokan karate practitioners;[7] the karate masters who appear in Masatoshi Nakayama's series of Best Karate textbooks were wearing Tokaido uniforms.[10][11]

Current status

Tokaido produces two main styles of karate uniform: a standard version used more for regular training and kata (patterns) competition, and a heavier version used more for kumite (sparring) competition.[9] The uniforms and belts are cut and sewn by hand.[1] Apart from uniforms and belts, the company provides embroidery of Japanese words (such as individual practitioners' or karate schools' names) and rank markings, and also produces badges and labels matching major karate organizations.[1] Tokaido has also produced custom-made uniforms made by master tailors Genzo and Waisetsu.[12] These items are available only to karate practitioners ranked 3rd dan or higher.[12]

The company is owned and operated by the Sugiura brothers, sons of the founder.[8] It has headquarters in Kōjimachi, a suburb of Tokyo,[13] and a factory in Nagoya.[1][8] Tokaido has an international office in the United States of America, and several offices and sales outlets in Japan.[9]

See also


a. ^ More completely, the company's name in Japanese is Kabushiki Kaisha Tokaido (株式 会社 東海堂, Kabushiki-gaisha Tōkaidō), which indicates that it is a specific type of company under Japanese corporate law.

b. ^ Others have attempted to profit from the company's reputation by producing fake Tokaido uniforms.[9][14] At least one retailer has published a guide to distinguishing between real and fake Tokaido uniforms.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Tokaido Japan Direct International (2009). Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  2. ^ Groenewold, M. A. (2002): Karate: The Japanese way (p. 13). Victoria, Canada: Trafford Publishing. (ISBN 978-1-5536-9845-6)
  3. ^ a b McDaniel, J. C. (2008): Karate gi reviews for Shotokan Karate in Phoenix, Arizona—During monsoon season! (September 27, 2008). Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Rein, S. (2009): Tokaido Uniform Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  5. ^ Adams, M. (2008): Tokaido Karate suits (January 18, 2008). Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  6. ^ Dragon Associates: A review of Meijin Karate uniforms (c. 2007). Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  7. ^ a b DiscountMAS: Review of high quality Karate uniforms (2006). Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Tokaido Japan Direct International: Dogi origin & history of Tokaido (2009). Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  9. ^ a b c d e Tokaido Japan Direct International: Frequently Asked Questions (2009). Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  10. ^ Redmond, R. (2005): Karate ranks Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  11. ^ Redmond, R. (2007): Links Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  12. ^ a b Tokaido Japan: Costom made (sic) (c. 2009). Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  13. ^ Tokaido Japan: Tokaido map (c. 2009). Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  14. ^ McDaniel, J. C. (2008): Karate gi review marathon; my 1968 Tokaido gi vs. my Meijin gis, part II (October 9, 2008). Retrieved on April 21, 2010.
  15. ^ 5 ways to tell if your Tokaido Karate gi is really from Japan (June 4, 2007). Retrieved on April 21, 2010.

External links