I've recently returned from a trip to Japan, and had visited bespoke maker Eiji Murata (Main D'Or).
Murata-san has been previously introduced by @nutcracker
and I'd like to really thank him for sharing his contact information.
He is a relatively lesser known (globally, at least) maker compared to the likes of Yohei, Hiro, Marquess, but is a great maker nonetheless. He's honed his skills and craft entirely in Japan and splits his time in between making shoes and teaching shoemaking.
He doesn't have much of an internet presence, and none whatsoever on social media, which does make him a little less accessible. But trust me, it is worth any effort made to track him down and meet him.
I'll try to write an account of my experience in as much detail as possible.
Prior to meeting:
Murata-san is contactable via email and responds very promptly, typically within a day or two. Do note however, that he doesn't speak much English and email correspondences will be in Japanese. For this purpose, I had a Japanese friend translate all my emails into Japanese as I feared Google translate would not be adequate. It would be a good idea to iron out most of the details through email prior to meeting him, which would make the ordering process much easier.
I had initiated contact with him about 2 to 3 months before my trip to Japan, and prior to flying over, I'd emailed him again with my confirmed date / time of my appointment with him.
Main D'Or is located in Chiba, a neighbouring prefecture to Tokyo. Yes, it is located right smack in the middle of nowhere.
The good news is, Google maps gives you very good directions on how to get there. The pin drop was bang on correct to probably within 20m.
The closest JR train station is Matsudo.
The JR line is an extensive train network that links up most of Japan and is very easily accessible within Tokyo. I had stayed in the Toshima area (about 20mins from Shinjuku station) and the train journey from there to Matsudo Station took approximately 30mins and set me back by a mere 300 Yen or so.
Upon reaching Matsudo Station, you will need to exit and descend the stairs to street level, where you will see a small bus terminal and a taxi stand. If you are feeling flush with cash, you can take a taxi there. The journey will probably take 10 to 15mins.
If you decide to take the bus (as I did), you need to look for this bus 宋 1-1.
Murata-san's place is 10 stops away (15mins). If you have lost count of the number of stops, each bus stop is named, and the Japanese characters show up on the display at the front of the bus. You just need to ensure the name of the stop corresponds to the characters shown on Google maps.
After getting off the bus, you need to back track approximately 200m and take a right turn, then walk straight on ahead.
Meeting Murata-san and order process:
I arrived at Murata-san's place at 11.30am. The place appears nondescript and easy to miss from the street so you need to be alert. I knocked on the glass door and was met promptly by Murata-san who let me in.
It seemed Main D'or is an entirely one man operation as there was absolutely no-one else around in his shop (which also appears to be his house).
The "reception" area is a small area right inside the main door, that consists of a small display cabinet showing his works, a shelf with all his lasts, and a small coffee table and a few chairs.
Murata-san looks to be in his 40s, and is a friendly, very polite guy (I can also probably say this for almost every local I've met in Japan). He made my girlfriend and I a cup of tea and sat us both down.
I was given a printout in English that explained the order process and what would happen from now till the shoes were completed. This was really helpful and I was impressed how much effort Murata-san went to, to cater to his non Japanese-speaking clients. Yes, the grammar isn't perfect, but the meaning / general ideas are easily decipherable.
I had a translation app ready but through the entire process, did not require its use at all.
Murata-san DOES speak some English and knows most of the relevant shoe terms in English, and I feel that between the printout, Murata-san's English vocabulary and prior correspondences through email, the order process is really not daunting at all.
Leathers, designs and details:
For calf, Murata-san uses Zonta, Ilcea and Du Puy. Swatches are all neatly organised.
For suede, he uses CF Stead.
He also has a selection of leathers from Japanese tanneries, though the choices are relatively limited.
I did not ask him about exotics as they do not interest me for this pair.
I chose a balmoral wingtip oxford as my design.
Of note, Murata-san does not do bespoke boots. However, I did not ask him if he does chukkas.
All Main D'Or shoes are made with a seamless heel. For balmorals, the seam is placed at the inner facing aspect of the quarters. This was totally ok with me.
Some of the details that were discussed included (but not limited to):
i) Stitching details: Number of rows of stitches at seams can be chosen. For brogues, the number of rows of stitches above and below the brogueing can also be chosen.
ii) Toe shape: Numerous, from round to square to chiselled, choose from his samples.
iii) Number of eyelets / blind vs metal eyelets
iv) Brogueing on tongue
v) Size of brogueing: choose from samples
vi) Medallion pattern: choose from samples
vii) Outsole stitching: All Main D'Or shoes are made with at least 14spi for the outsole stitching. You may choose 16spi.
viii) Sole details: Polished entirely vs polised only at waist etc, many options to choose from. Choose from samples.
ix) Fiddleback waist details: More rounded vs sharper / more angled profile. Like so
x) Shoe trees: 2 piece vs 3 piece (they cost the same). You can also choose if you want knobs / rings for the front / centre piece of the 3 piece shoe tree.
Some examples of his work:
After the details were all ironed out, we'd then proceeded to a room at the back of his workshop for the measurements.
I was given another handout that told me what to expect during the measuring process. Yet another nice gesture.
Murata-san took incredibly detailed measurements. In total, he'd taken 4 sets of measurements, and maybe 10 photographs of each foot.
One set of measurements for each of:
i) Sitting, barefoot
ii) Standing, barefoot
iii) Sitting, socks on
iv) Standing, socks on
Interestingly, apart from the standard circumference measurements at the forefoot (metacarpophalangeal joint area), just proximal to the medial arch, just distal to the medial arch, and anterior ankle to posterior tip of the calcaneum / heel circumference that I've seen other bespoke makers use, Murata-san measured these as well:
1) Height of foot above ground at:
i) Big toe, interphalangeal joint
ii) First metatarsophalangeal joint
iii) 5th toe, interphalangeal joint
iv) 5th metatarsophalangeal joint
2) He also made a marking on the paper of the position of the
i) Most proximal point of first webspace
ii) Most proximal point of second webspace
3) Width of heel at widest point - he used an instrument resembling a set of calipers for this.
After finishing up the measurements, I'd made payment.
The total cost would be 325K Yen (inclusive of price of shoe trees). The deposit is half the price of the shoes (145K Yen).
He accepts bank transfer or cash only.
There will be 2 fittings, the first fitting is approximately 6 months from ordering. The fitting shoes for the first fitting look like this:
The second fitting is a further 3 to 6 months from the first fitting. The fitting shoes for this fitting are more "finished" with a proper outsole and brogueing / details as such:
I think the second fitting shoes are hand welted. And will be worn for a duration of time prior to meeting Murata-san again.
I really enjoyed my experience at Main D'Or and found Murata-san really nice to work with. Despite the language barrier, I could certainly feel his warmth and sincerity, and I'm very much looking forward to my fitting and to seeing him again.
In other news......
I was at Yohei Fukuda for my fitting for my earlier bespoke order.
Here are pictures of my fitting shoes. They are hand welted.
The fitting went really well and there was not much modification that I felt would be needed.
Fukuda-san is a really great guy, he'd asked me about my experience at Main D'Or and was very cool about it. Didn't get any sense of rivalry whatsoever. He also gave me recommendations for good restaurants to go to for dinner (even gave me printouts), and engaged in small talk with my grilfriend as I ogled the shoes on display.
Well, the whole trip can't be just about menswear and shoes. My girlfriend is a total gem, accompanying me to faraway places, waiting patiently (the whole day, basically), while I got my stuff done, giving her input on what shoes she likes and what she thinks will look good on me. Never once complaining. All the while also performing photographer duties!
We'd visited a hedgehog cafe.....
A cat cafe.....
Maru's (a very adorable Shiba with 2.4 million followers on IG) shop....
And also saw Hachi in the museum.....
Edited by ThunderMarch - 6/6/16 at 11:45pm