There are three major rubber-producing companies with head offices located in Kurume, so the city has come to be associated with rubber manufacturing. We'd like to introduce the most famous of these companies: Bridgestone.
Bridgestone was a founded on March 1, 1931 when the tire division of Nihon Tabi became independent. The new company was named after the name of the founder, Shojiro Ishibashi (Ishi = Stone, Bashi = Bridge).
Rather than depend on western technology, the Bridgestone Tire Co., Ltd. set its eyes on manufacturing tires based solely on Japanese technology. The foundling company experienced many difficulties in the areas of technology, production and sales in the early days. Eventually, improvements were achieved in quality and manufacturing processes which led to the business rapidly expanding on both the domestic and overseas markets.
As Japan's automobile industry grew, Bridgestone expanded its business, becoming Japan's largest tire manufacturer. The company also actively expanded overseas, particularly in Asia. In 1988, the company acquired The Firestone Tire & Rubber Company, transforming Bridgestone into one of the world's largest tire and rubber companies.
We'd like to say a word about the traditionally Japanese footwear known as tabi, which is how the Bridgestone Group got its "lowly" start.
Tabi were, in essences, a two-toed sock originally made entirely of cloth. Early in the Meiji Period, Unpei Kurata, who would go on to found Moonstar, started to produce consumable tabi while he was still an apprentice kimono tailor. In order that the tabi be worn not only in inside but outside as well, he added a rubber sole to the bottom, creating the first rubber-soled tabi, which he called tsuchiya jikatabi. They sold very well and were soon mass-produced throughout the whole town.
Ishibashi's Nihon Tabi and Asahi Kutsu would soon join in the action further strengthening Kurume's relationship to the rubber industry. For more on this history click.
Written by Glow Girls, edited by Aonghas Crowe