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Onitsuka Co, Ltd was established in 1949 with the ultimate ideal of bringing up a sound youth through sports. The company has held onto this approach to manufacturing sports shoes to this day.

Kihachiro Onitsuka’s first shoe was very different from the trainers today – and more resembled a straw sandal than anything sporty – and was met with mockery when Yukio Matsumoto had commissioned them to be made for the Kobe High School basket ball team.

Started as Onitsuka Co. Ltd in 1949, Mr. Kihachiro Onitsuka began his athletic footwear company by manufacturing basketball shoes out of his living room in Kobe, Japan.
Matsumoto believed Basketball to be the next big thing and Onitsuka was keen to improve on his designs. He watched the team practice whenever he could and observed the movements of the feet closely – keen to replicate the sudden stop-start movements of the players.

A random plate of octopus tentacles later, and Onitsuka had the idea of putting suction cups on the bottom of the trainers. Testing proved the theory a little too effective, but with some slight adjustments – Onitsuka had cracked it! He had developed a basketball shoe that enabled the wearer to stop and start without slipping...

By 1953 Onitsuka had broadened his interest towards running shoes
Onitsuka consulted with Top Marathon runner Tooru Terasawa about the most common problem long-distance runners suffered from – blisters. The air-cooling system of motorcycles inspired Onitsuka to use a loose cloth for the top of the shoes. This along with holes in the front and sides resulted in ‘breathable’ shoes. The final touch of a two-layered sole, and Terasawa was able to run 42km and 195 metres for the first time without getting blisters.
By 1966, the distinctive crossed stripes (now the trademark of the brand) come to life in the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 series. These shoes were worn by the althelets (not only by the Japanese, but also by the top foreign althelets of the time) at the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968.

When legendary Marathon runner Abebe Bikila won the Olympic Marathon in 1956 barefoot, Onitsuka was fearful of the future of his company. The following year, Bikila came to Japan to compete in the Mainichi Marathon. Onitsuka visited him in his hotel and asked why Bikila ran barefoot. He simply had no running shoes to run in. Onitsuka explained the dangers of running on Japan’s glass-littered floors and Bikila agreed give the Tiger running shoes a try.
Onitsuka hurried back to the factory and gave his technicians the order to manufacture the world’s lightest pair of shoes immediately. The next day Abebe Bikila won the marathon. He wore shoes ever since.

Preparations for the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics began and GTO (sportswear manufacturer), Jelenk (knitwear manufacturer) and Onitsuka built a regional sales office together.

In 1977, Mr. Onitsuka join-forced with two other contemporaries (GTO, and JELENK), and created Asics Sneakers.