KYOTO — A shop where people can go to have their shoes shined that employs people with disabilities opened in late February in Kyoto.
Situated among the office buildings on Oike-dori street, the shop is called Kawagutsu o Haita Neko, a pun on the Japanese title of the children’s tale “Puss in Boots.”
Kota Uomi, 24, who graduated from Ryukoku University last spring, opened the shop so people with disabilities could “hone their skills and work with a feeling of fulfillment.”
Uomi promotes the store’s services, saying, “We’ll take any pair of shoes and make them look better than they have ever looked.”
At university, Uomi worked alongside young people with disabilities at a cafe on Ryukoku’s campus. His experiences there gave him an interest in employment assistance.
While helping run the cafe, a concern began growing in his mind. “I thought, merely increasing sales might not provide a fundamental solution,” he recalled. With these thoughts in mind, he decided to start his own business.
He chose shoe shining because it was a job that, once learned, could be done anywhere and could help disabled people become more independent.
First, he needed to acquire the skills himself. During his third and fourth years at university, he worked up to two or three times a week at a shoeshine shop in Osaka called Burnish. He took what he learned there and taught it to his coworkers at the cafe.
With capital raised from friends, parents, academic staff and others, he set up a business around the time he graduated that sent shoeshiners to customers.
He named the company after “Puss in Boots,” substituting nagagutsu, or high boots, from the Japanese title, for kawagutsu, or leather shoes.
In the story, the cat uses his guile to support the protagonist. Kawagutsu o Haita Neko employees see themselves as using their skills to improve the look of their customers’ footwear.
The company receives orders to visit businesses and hotels. It mainly provides shoeshines while customers are in meetings, and has so far visited more than 20 companies.
In sales, dealing with customers and other aspects of running the company, Uomi has found that the staff have different strengths and weaknesses.
“I had a hard time before realizing such an obvious fact,” he recalled.
Thinking he wanted a place where staff could communicate more with customers, he found a street-level space on Oike-dori and opened the shop on Feb. 25.
The store started with five part-time employees in their 20s and 30s, two of whom became full-time members of staff this month.
“We want to greet a lot of people with a smile,” said the store’s manager Takuhiro Fujii, 27.
“The staff work based on an understanding of the areas each person is good at. We try not to rush to help, but just watch over them,” Uomi added.
The store is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Shoeshines start at ¥1,080 per pair, tax included. Services for other leather goods, such as handbags and wallets, are also available.
Resource - By Yuto Yoshida / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer April 24, 2018 / http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004329907