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5 ways to tell if your Tokaido Karate Gi is really from Japan

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There are a number of Tokaido uniforms not made in Japan. Most traditional karate practicioners are seeking the authentic Tokaido gi that their instructor wore in Japan, or are looking to replace a Tokaido gi they themselves purchased in Japan - decades ago. Unfortunately, the marketplace is full of uniforms with the Tokaido name but many of these are not the authentic version of Tokaido's karate uniform.

Why is a Tokaido Gi so special?
Tokaido (Tōkaidō) is a Japanese company that manufactures karate uniforms, belts, makiwara and fist guards. Some say it is the world's oldest manufacturer of uniforms specifically for karate training, with a reputation for both high quality and high price. Tokaido is based in Nagoya, Japan, and is owned and operated by the Sugiura family. The company started when Mr. Shizuo Sugiura used his expertise in the garment industry to create uniforms for his friends and acquaintances. Using their (sometimes harsh) feedback, he developed a uniform that became world reknowned. Before the Tokaido gi, many karateka were wearing pajamas, judo uniforms, or other clothing.

Tokaido uniforms have always been known to be of premium quality, and are well worth the price:

  • Special "number 10" cotton is grown by Tokaido and used to make the comfortable, extremely durable cotton canvas that Tokaido gi are known for.
  • The Tokaido Gi "Ultimate Canvas", it is said, is the only canvas that the Japanese Government allows to be called "Ultimate canvas".
  • Each uniform is hand stitched by seamstresses in Tokaido's Nagoya factory.


Here are a few ways to spot the original Tokaido Gi, made in Japan:

1. Is the Tokaido Gi available in Black?
Only the Tokaido Gis made in Japan come in Black. If your karate uniform supplier does not have Black available, they may not be getting their uniforms from an authentic source.

2. Is the Tokaido uniform available with the JKA logo?
Authentic Tokaido uniforms from Japan are available with the JKA logo in addition to Tokaido's "Red Fist" logo and the ISKF logo.

3. Does the Tokaido Gi also come in Tournament Cut?
Many martial artists purchase a Tournament Cut Tokaido Gi for Kumite or Tournaments. They might save a traditional cut uniform for their karate training, or to wear when serving on belt ranking promotions.

4. Is the Tokaido Gi made from special #10 cotton?
The special number 10 cotton used in Tokaido uniforms is actaully grown in Japan under very special conditions. This cotton is what makes the uniform very comfortable, but it is also much stronger than other canvas materials. Rumor has it that the Tokaido Ultimate cotton canvas is the only canvas the Japanese government allows to use the word "Ultimate" with. This is why these uniforms last decades. They're stronger uniforms, but you'll enjoy wearing it.

5. Is the Tokaido Karate Gi rated as 14oz?
Surprisingly, Tokaido Japan's uniforms are never rated as 14oz. Truly, they are a step above competitors that rate their uniforms this way. If you see "14 ounce canvas" with the karate gi details, it is probably not the authentic Karate Gi.

As you can see, purchasing a genuine authentic Tokaido Japan uniform is a little more complicated than you might expect. And here are a list of so-called Tokaido gi that are NOT made in Japan:
- Tokaido Arashi is made in China. The canvas is not as comfortable.
- Tokaido Tsunami is not made in Japan. The canvas doesn't seem as strong.

Others you've run across? Please let us know!

Oh, and how do we know so much about authentic Tokaido Do-Gi? We've been selling them online since 2004, and one of our customers "educated" us early on that the Arashi gi we were selling was not the authentic Tokaido gi he was looking for!