About Kazuki Unzei / 運勢一輝について

About Kazuki Unzei / 運勢一輝について

Hello, I am Kazuki Unzei.
I would like to talk about my career and the story until we started BUDOGU ZEN.


I was born in 1988 and started kendo at the age of 7. When I went to watch the practice, sensei let me hit senpai with a shinai. I still clearly remember the impact of hitting someone with a shinai and the excitement of feeling like a samurai. At that night, I decided to join the club.
It was only fun at the beginning. Once I started putting bogu on, strikes from senseis and senpais were painful. I was begging my mother that I want to quit kendo before every practice.
My kendo improved as my body grew at the age of 13. I lived in northern Osaka (in between Kyoto and Osaka), and I was very fortunate to have good teammates to be successful at competitions. I was able to enter a high school through kendo scholarship. I entered Tokai University Gyosei High School because I was admiring Naoki Eiga Sensei from Hokkaido Police; who is a graduate of Tokai University.
 Daily training in high school was different and intense. My kendo now was cultivated at this time. Unfortunately, I was not successful in competition so I couldn't join the university kendo team.

~Kendo Abroad in Canada~

During in university years, I went to Canada for a year through the connection of my dojo's sensei. I joined Etobicoke Kendo and Iaido Club run by Kamata Sensei in Toronto. My impression of kendo back in high school was "it's hard, tough and stressful". However, all the kendokas in Canada and USA were enjoying to practice kendo. It was very impressive how everybody was committed to the training even though they are all busy with study and work. Through this experience, I was able to truly enjoy kendo from the bottom of my heart. I also learned the fun to "go out for beer" after competitions at that time.
Etobicoke Kendo and Iaido Club (Toronto)

~Why I decided to become a craftsman~

There was a big competition near the end of my stay in Canada. There were several kendo stores opening up a booth during this tournament. When I saw their products, I realized there was an unique bogu that I've never seen it in Japan. When I asked the details, the staff only said "this is a special one", and I got no explanation at the end. I was also shocked when I later heard this store was owned by a Japanese owner. 
It was also surprising that bogu was cheaper than Japan. You couldn't repair kote in Canada or USA. Thus, many people purchased cheap kote and kept replacing it with a new ones once it's all worn out.
I thought those North Americans who love kendo are all having a difficult time maintaining their equipment. At that time, Japan already had a light weight bogu, or even a bogu specifically designed for competitions. However, neither players or kendo stores recognized the existence of those bogus in North America.
By the time I was returning to Japan, I met so many people through kendo community, and they all took a great care of someone like me who couldn't speak English well. Since then, I started to think I want to do something in return to those kendokas.
After the consideration, I decided to "start a kendo store in Canada that can provide equipment matching consumers' needs. To make this happen, I will return to Canada after learning not only to sell, but also learn how to make and repair bogu."

~Career to Become a Craftsman~

After returning back to Japan, I immediately researched how to become a craftsman. I figured there are two types of craftsman; a self employed craftsman and a craftsman employed at big factories.
Self employed craftsman tends to have a smaller business; thus, they do not often hire new people. It was common for their younger relatives to take over the business.
I've decided to focus on researching more about big factories. However, I could not find any job postings. There were some stores advertising bogus produced by a craftsman online, but most of them are not from their stores. They were only selling bogus that were produced by a craftsman that they have a contract with or produced in factories overseas.
After a long research, I discovered that craftsman works at the store called TOZANDO in Kyoto. Knowing that they didn't have any job posting, I gave it a try and sent them my resume. TOZANDO offered me a job at the bogu factory located in Iwate prefecture. This is where I started my career as a craftsman.
My first task was to machine sew kote futon (padding). In this factory, kote futons were sewed up with one single thread to prevent the thread from fraying. It was a time consuming task, and it required skills because there it was done by free hands with no guides. Producing 30 sets in one day were the maximize quantity. Factories overseas can produce double the amount. 
Kazuki Sewing Kote Futon

I worked at the factory 5 days a week. During my day offs, I visited Craftsman Hayashishita's work place to learn how to craft and repair kote. During this period, I invented the Tornado Stitch method and now it is one of the signature product, Shudo, of TOZANDO. Narrow stitching was considered to be good in the past; however, this results to have a lack of cushion and futon will be very hard. 
The Tornado Stitch was invented with the idea of making a bogu that doesn't hurt; and yet, maintaining the same amount of inner materials. Afterwards, TOZANDO obtained a copyright for this stitching method. 
Once I returned to the main office in Kyoto, I was doing sales as well as crafting and repairing bogu. Being able to communicate with kendokas in person to hear their requests was a great experience.
Providing repair service during TOZANDO

~Immigrating to Canada~

I immigrated to Canada after training in Japan for 6 years. I participated in competitions in Canada. I also had an opportunity to be the head coach for Team BC Junior as well. I am experiencing a very busy but exciting kendo life right now. Now in 2022, we started BUDOGU ZEN. After 10 years of preparation, I am finally standing at the starting line. I am hoping to work hard to return my favour to everybody in North America and hopefully I can contribute to the communities by providing knowledges that I've studied in this past 10 years.











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