A Japanese Umbrella Story

A Japanese Umbrella Story

The Plastic umbrella has a connection to Japan!

Throughout the years we have seen many pictures of geisha carrying an umbrella; we have also seen martial arts movies where (Chinese and Japanese) the hero wields an umbrella as a weapon. We have even seen umbrellas in anime. In the anime series Another, Yukari Sakuragi dies in a ‘freak umbrella accident’ and in Pokemon in the episode ‘For Crying Out Loud’ the character Wilhomena had an umbrella. But what do we know of plastic umbrellas and its connection to Japan? The best way to start is to tell you a Japanese umbrella story.

We know that plastic umbrellas are easy to come by at kiosks, konbini as such. Back in 1949 when Mitsuo Sudou returned from Siberia, Sudou was the owner of an umbrella store but it was four years after World War II and the market for umbrellas were overtaken by bigger manufacturers, and now Sudou was juggling against the newer big fishes in the industry to keep his business open.

Instead of giving up, he started to look for new designs and into manufacturing more unique and original products. With most umbrellas back then, they used cotton in umbrella production, (which lost its colour thanks to the rain) and he found a tablecloth the American army left. That tablecloth sparked an idea in his head… what if he can cover the umbrella with a waterproof sheet? After working on his designs and covering problems like how to stick the waterproof sheet to the umbrella’s rib he eventually sold his first idea as an umbrella in 1953.

By the late 50s, the nylon era struck the world, giving a solution to umbrellas losing their colours and people stopped buying his umbrellas. Sudou did not give up; he started to work on his next big umbrella idea – making plastic umbrellas. Thus in 1958 the first plastic umbrellas came out. He soon had another problem to overcome. Wholesalers, which still sold the generic fabric umbrellas, did not want to sell plastic umbrellas in their shops as plastic umbrellas where competing products. That caused the sales to drop. Sudou had to make a plan.

An American merchant visiting Japan because of the Tokyo Olympic Games, offered to sell Sudou’s products in New York, since New York is a very rainy city in the winter and the New Yorkers loved birdcage-style umbrellas which could cover both one’s head and shoulders and are transparent, making it easy to see where they are walking. It is no surprise that The New Yorkers loved the plastic umbrellas and Sudou’s dream received a huge boost.



Sudou’s dedication to making a success is an inspiration to us all. We all use umbrellas but we did not know the trails and errors the umbrella went through to evolve into the umbrellas we use today. It started with one man, in Japan with a dream and it shows us, if we follow our ideas and learn to change our ideas into something that fits the need of the people, our ideas can turn into something wonderful.

What do you get when you cross an umbrella and a gun? Follow this video link to find out! http://bit.ly/Gunbrella

Here is a beautiful dance with an umbrella from the movie ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’. Please follow our link to have a look: http://bit.ly/Snow-Dance

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