This is the "Shoeshiner's Explorations" series. There are many wonderful shoeshiners in the world! In this 8th installment, we introduce Naoki Hayashida, owner and shoeshiner of Brift H sapporo, who recently won the shoeshine world competition.
The shoeshine world competition in London started at 23:00(JPN) on May 13, 2023. Naoki Hayashida, owner and shoeshiner of Brift H sapporo, competed in the final of the three-person competition and won the competition with flying colors.
The shoeshine industry is abuzz with excitement as the first Japanese person in four years has become the world shoeshine champion. To commemorate the event, we conducted an urgent online interview with Mr. Hayashida in London, where he was still in a state of excitement after one night of the competition.
But first, let me (Hasegawa) introduce Mr. Naoki Hayashida.
I first met Mr. Hayashida when he was operating Brift H sapporo as a shop-in-shop as Brift H's first franchise store in Sapporo under the name "The Lounge by Brift H," which was a precursor to the current store. That was about seven years ago. I first met Mr. Hayashida when I went to conduct a shoeshine workshop event and he participated as one of the customers.
He came all the way from Asahikawa, where he lived at the time, and I was impressed by the fact that he was learning shoe polish more enthusiastically than anyone else. He was more than eager to learn shoe shine and his enthusiasm and personality left a strong impression on us. I had been following his activities on Instagram and other social media.
And it was during this time that we decided to hold the Japan Shoeshine Championship for the first time at Ginza Mitsukoshi in 2018. As the promoter of this competition, I worked with Isetan Mitsukoshi, the organizer of the event, to help launch the competition. We decided to hold the qualifying round at Brift H to select the contestants.
For the first tournament, we decided to limit the competition to professionals only, so out of the 12 contestants, 6 were selected by recommendation from sponsors, and the remaining 6 were selected by me after a preliminary round was held at Brift H. The contestants were all fierce competitors from all over the country, and they all came to our narrow shop.
I still remember the strange atmosphere that prevailed as the fierce competitors from all over the country gathered in our small store. Among them was Mr. Hayashida, a shoe polisher from Asahikawa. The preliminary round ended without incident, and the top six winners, whom I had chosen without any discovery, were decided. I had ranked the participants from 1st to 10th, including alternates, just to be sure, but Mr. Hayashida came in 7th place!
When I informed the tournament management that we had decided on the top six, Mr. Hirokawa, the president of Scotch Grain, said, "We don't need a recommendation, so you can choose one more person, Mr. Hasegawa. Mr. Hayashida, who came in 7th place, was moved up to the next round, and I remember calling him to tell him that.
In retrospect, the goddess of shoeshine may have started smiling on Ms. Hayashida at that time.
After that incident passed, I received a phone call from the then franchise owner of the Sapporo store, who told me that he was thinking of quitting The Lounge by Brift H because the current manager was quitting. I was thinking, "I guess it can't be helped if Manager H, a good-looking guy who had trained with us for three months and worked hard, quits, since there is no one to take over the job. I was thinking about this when Mr. Hayashida's face came into my mind.
I thought to myself, "Wait a minute, can you give me a minute to find the best person to take over the job?"
I hung up the phone and immediately called Mr. Hayashida and told him about the situation.
I called Mr. Hayashida and told him about the situation.
At first, Mr. Hayashida was puzzled, but I told him I would seriously consider it, and he hung up the phone and later responded with his approval.
It took a lot of courage for him to leave the city where he and his family had moved to raise their children and where his shoeshine business had been steadily increasing with the support of many people in Asahikawa.
In 2019, he took over as the second manager of The Lunge by Brift H, and with his natural earnestness and ambition, he steadily increased his skills and fans, and in December 2021, he moved from his previous location to open his own store, "Brift H sapporo".
Mr. Hayashida, at the age of 42, which is not a young age in the shoeshine industry, continues to take on challenges, and has now earned the title of World Champion!
Well then, let's have an interview with Mr. Hayashida the day after the competition! Let's have an interview with Mr. Hayashida the day after the competition!
Congratulations on your victory. How do you feel now?
Thank you very much! The most important thing is that I am happy, but I am also relieved. I came to London with the support of many people, and I was also determined to win and put a lot of pressure on myself, so I am really happy.
I was really happy to see so many customers cheering me on and so many people commenting on my Instagram live. Unfortunately, I couldn't see the comments in the archive (laughs), but I was very grateful to see many things in your screencaps, and I'm so thankful for that.
Also, my family was happy. My wife said to me, "I can't believe this is happening in my life..." She also watched the video in real time and was very touched that so many people were cheering for me. My daughter and I had a video call before the competition, and my wife asked my daughter, "Do you want the best medal? My wife even asked my daughter if she wanted the best medal, and I strongly wanted to bring home a medal for her.
How did you get up on the day of the competition?
I woke up at around 6:00 a.m. and practiced for the last time in the hotel room. I borrowed Mr. I's shoes from the Columbus Overseas Department and started practicing in the morning. I imagined that the heat at the venue would be incredible, so I turned up the heat in the room and practiced while sweating (laughs).
I arrived at the venue before 1:00 p.m. I took a quick look at the Super Trunk show (a general exhibition of men's shoes where shoeshine competitions are held) and then just hung around, not doing anything in particular. The patina competition was already underway when I arrived. Unlike the shoeshine competition, the patine competition took quite a long time. The shoeshine competition started at 3:00 p.m., so I was dizzy waiting.
Oh, by the way, the day before, I went to Loake (a shoemaker who polishes shoes for the shoeshine competition) to check the actual shoes at their store. There was a brand-new pair in the store, and the color of the toes was darker than I had expected, so I thought, "Oh, I like the color. I thought, "Oh, I like the color." I also thought, "Oh, they look good" when I touched them.
I was happy when the black clerk at Loake said to me, "I came here for a preview, so you can win!
We started to get ready and it was 3:00 p.m., so it was time to start the party, and 3 people gathered. And then it started. I met the other two guys for the first time before the match, but they looked very strong and had a big impact on me. To be honest, we didn't have much prior information about their shoeshine skills, so we weren't sure.
But I found out right before the Irishman's Instagram account! He was doing things like packing his shoes with dirt and beating them with a stick, then roasting them over a fire, ringing them with an iron, and applying sandpaper. It was a mystery, and it was like 0 or 100. (As a result, he was the least shiny of all.)
(I digress for a moment.) Then Jesper, the organizer, introduced the players one by one and the competition started.
Before the start, I thought, "It's finally here! I was more like Mr. Purgatory with full of fighting spirit than nervous (laugh).
During the competition, I hardly looked at anyone else, but was completely focused on my shoes. I believed that if I put forth the best I could while keeping Mr. Hasegawa in my mind, the results would come, so I didn't need to look at other people. Anyway, I thought it was a matter of how far I could make the ideal base at the finger painting stage, but it took me about 2 or 3 minutes in the beginning to reach the point I wanted.
As for the strategy this time, I wanted to make the color darker, so I first used a cloth to apply the DBRW so that it would not be uneven. I applied it in such a way as to destroy the leather as much as possible. From there, I mixed it with mirror gloss to create the base for 10 minutes. Then, when I wrapped the nerf fabric around my finger, I held my hand up high in a pose as planned. (*This is the rumor that I was slipping at the venue.)
I wanted to complete the base in about 8 minutes, but it took about 10 minutes. I wanted to put wax on the nellie afterwards, so I was conscious of moving my fingers as big as possible as in the training, and I attacked the nellie and then the kova. I also polished the lace stay part more than usual. Then, in the last 2 minutes, I wanted to use only water polishing without wax, so I used "KIEKO Nel". I used "KIEKO Neru" because it is the best for finishing.
The moment I was done, I felt so refreshed!
I didn't look at the other two, but I believed that I could win, and I felt that I had done my best, and I gave myself a score of 90 out of 100. I had been visualizing the moment when my name would be called by Jesper over and over again before the competition, so when the winner was actually announced, "Naoki Hayashida from Japan! I felt like, "Oh my God!
As a side note, I think it's very important to train hard, and it makes me feel less nervous. Nervousness is the enemy. So in order to eliminate it, I repeated the practice and rehearsal beforehand, because it was important. After the event, everyone called out to me, "Congrats! I took pictures with about 30 foreigners I didn't know! (Laughs) I took pictures of about 30 foreigners I didn't even know!
By the way, how did you prepare for the competition?
First of all, Mr. Sugimura of Y's shoeshine (the winner of the 2019 World Championships) lent me a pair of Loake shoes that would actually be used in the competition, so I started training intensively in April, polishing them in 20 minutes just like in the competition. I also practiced using the two types of Saphir waxes specified for the competition, testing them in various ways. I also watched videos of Mr. Hasegawa's world competitions and imitated his movements (laugh).
Also, when I had dinner with one of our clients, Mr. S, he asked me, "How many more pairs of shoes are you going to polish before you go to London? About 10 days before I left for London, he asked me how many more pairs of shoes I would polish before I went to London, and when I answered, "About 100 pairs," he promised to run 100 kilometers.
To be honest, it was quite a challenge to polish 100 pairs of shoes. I wanted to practice for the competition and I had various deadlines for client work, and to be honest, it was quite tough, but I decided to go for it, and I was able to make good progress. That's how I was able to make the 100th leg.
In addition, I did a lot of other things to bring good luck! I got an orange tie from Mr. I, our biggest customer, so I'll be fine. I'm okay because Mr. Hasegawa said I would be okay, and I'm okay because I polished 100 pairs of shoes. Anyway, I was trying to make everything sound like a good omen and implied that I would be fine. I thought that everything had a meaning.
Now that you are the world champion, what do you think about the future?
As for the future, I will continue to work hard. I would like to focus on the Japan Tournament.
Also, when I came to London, I thought that I genuinely wanted to be cool! London is full of stylish people (laughs), even Asians are very stylish, and I think that I can polish my game even better if I can show that I have a more flamboyant personality.
Unlike in Japan, I feel that there are many people in London who have their own style, and I was reminded of the importance of human power. Even the people walking around there have their own style. I saw a cashier at a supermarket with tattoos all over his body. They are so cool.
Finally, do you have a message for the Japanese people?
Thank you very much for all the support until the moment of victory! I am relieved that I was able to win the award this time because I prepared in my own way without any regrets, with the sole intention of responding to the feelings of everyone who supported me.
I would like to take this as a new start and continue to challenge myself in various things, and if you can look forward to that, that is what makes my life worth living.
It is no exaggeration to say that you all brought me to London, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you very much. Thank you for your continued support!