The Manufacturing Steps
A journey from the reel to the mats
The production steps of a Judogi can be quite complex for non-specialists. With a century of experience in the conception of martial art pieces of equipment, KuSakura always strived to have a transparent and ethical production. As we explained in our anniversary article, KuSakura has been the very first company to modernize the production of the 'Sashiko' fabric after the Second World War, fabric entirely handmade before then. Take this article as a guided tour through KuSakura's workshop, the only one in the world to master the entire production line!
Introduction to the 'Sashiko fabric'
The ‘Sashiko’ fabric is a type of decorative stitching that finds its origin back to the 6th century but democratized during the Edo era (1615-1868). This fabric was known at the time for its traditional pattern consisting of a succession of ‘rice grain’ stitching said to recall snow falling around farmhouses giving it its typical appearance and offering enhanced durability to clothes. This weaving process was then mainly used to patch pieces together, to repair ripped clothes or for decoration. Although several patterns could be woven, the rice grain pattern was one of the most used and is widely known around the world nowadays. The functional properties of this type of traditional weaving brought it to be widely used among Japanese society and by the Meiji era (1868-1912) evolved into winter clothes for farmers and functional clothes for firefighters.
Therefore, the great strength of the ‘Sashiko’ weaving was perceived as an undeniable asset in martial art. As one of the most famous martial arts then, Judo was the first (with Kendo) to adopt this kind of fabric meeting perfectly the needs of such practice providing comfort during falls, durability considering its enhanced resistance specificity during grappling technics and it turned out to be particularly efficient at absorbing sweat.
Several other martial arts have been deeply influenced by Judo, as we explain in our article about the Iconic Judogi. Indeed the ‘Sashiko’ fabric was highly recommended to Morihei Ueshiba Dojo by Aikidoists having a past as Judoka, making it the main traditional weaving used today on Aikido Keikogi.
Eventually, KuSakura brought its stone to the democratization of the ‘Sashiko’ fabric by inventing the first machine capable of weaving this type of traditional stitching until then fully handmade, giving the company a certain competitive edge over its competitors. Nowadays, the ‘Sashiko’ fabric turned out to be the main standard for Judogi and mastering its conception from the beginning to the end is rather to be a competitive issue for companies in the sectors thriving to deliver top-quality equipment for Judoka.
The composition of a Judogi
Overview of the composition of Judogi
The major part of Judogi are double-layered, meaning that the threads are woven on two levels, giving a thicker layer of fabric. This technique, in Japanese called ‘Nunokiji’, became rapidly one of the standards in some martial arts and especially in Judo where Judogi's sturdiness is key.
Generally, Judogi are composed of 3 different fabrics:
- The ‘Sashiko’ fabric on which we gave a brief introduction above.
- The ‘Katsuragi’, present on the collar and the pants of Judogi
- The ‘Susokiji’ present on the lower part of the vest, woven with the Hishisashi (diamond weaving) traditional stitching technique depending on the model.
KuSakura is the only company in the sector to have full control over the production chain of its Judogi from weaving, sewing to the sales. And even though the cotton production is extremely low in Japan, resulting in a shortage of this essential material in most industries, most of KuSakura's top-of-the-line Judogi are 100% made from Japanese cotton, justifying the high-end nature and quality of these made in Japan Judogi.
Nevertheless, in order to meet the IJF standards, KuSakura’s engineers had to include some polyester in the production process, increasing the strength and the flexibility of the Judogi while maintaining its relative lightness.
After having successfully passed all the highly restrictive quality tests, cotton and polyester yarn spools are assembled separately to make one big roll that KuSakura will be able to weave using two of the most powerful looms in the world to weave ‘Sashiko.’ These two machines were made in Switzerland exclusively for KuSakura, being now the only company in the sector to possess such equipment.
The rolls are then piled up on each other for approximately 45 days in a room specifically dedicated to this process. The aim here would be to lay as much weight as possible on the rolls underneath in order to limit the shrinking rate at the end and increase the accuracy of the final measurements given to final customers.
Thus, the rolls are tested, selected for their quality, their resistance and sent to Saitama Prefecture to undergo the coloration process, during which they will be either bleached or colored in blue for some of our models such as the JNV or the JNF Judogi. During the process, the rolls are immersed in bulk into huge coloration tanks to be sent back thereafter to Osaka to proceed to the final steps of the conception of a Judogi.
Once the rolls are back to our workshop in Osaka, we can finally start to design the shape of the Judogi. The rolls are cut with a state-of-the-art printer, following a pattern defined according to the final model and the size. Moreover, the fabrics are checked for the first time to ensure the quality and the fineness of the cut.
Finally, all parts are assembled with sewing machines by highly meticulous seamstresses with a keen eye for details.
The Final quality check
KuSakura certainly gained its reputation on the importance put on quality and the finishing touch of its products. As such, the final step of the production process, the quality check is one of the most fastidious tasks.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, a Judogi is made of 3 different kinds of fabrics. In order to ensure the harmonization of the color and the overall quality of the product, KuSakura’s employees in charge of the quality check use 2 kinds of light. A yellow one, showing the color of the Judogi under a near-natural light and a white one, revealing it under a light close to the one we can find in dojos, during practice. To keep this high standard quality of products, any conception default is naturally disqualifying at this stage of the production and considering the price as well as the time needed to make these high-end masterpieces, we can understand why KuSakura’s employees are meticulously selected among the best ones in their fields.
Considering this long and demanding production process, KuSakura definitely decided to emphasize on the quality of its products instead of the quantity as opposed to some other brands within the sector. Although this choice may seem less profitable economically, it lies in the fact that as martial art practitioners ourselves, we truly believe that Judoka are also looking for quality high-end products embodying their values as well as those of their art. And as a matter of fact, highly demanding customers can only be driven by a highly demanding brand.