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Passion and precision: Japanese artisans conquer the shoe world

How law and architecture students plus consumers reshaped a hot fashion trend

A leather upper fitted to a wooden shoe last: "Japanese shoemakers have a strong sense of curiosity, taking much time and effort to find prewar materials about shoemaking," a magazine editor says. (Photo taken at Orma, in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture)

TOKYO -- Wataru Shimamoto, a native of the historic coastal town of Kamakura just southwest of Tokyo, was studying law when a high-end fashion trend took him in a new direction.

With finely crafted footwear gaining popularity, Shimamoto decided to take a job in a shoe repair shop, a path that had nothing to do with law.

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