Bogu Buying Guide 2 - Machine VS Hand Stitched

A Topic of Much Debate: Machine Stitched vs Hand Stitched Bogu

In part two of this Bogu Buying Guide I will take a look at the different methods used to sew the Futon of the Kendogu.

For many the idea of owning a set of hand-stitched bogu is the ultimate dream, but does a bogu set being hand stitched really mean that it is the best choice?

Not necessarily. Lets take a look at some of the differences between the two types. The difference is very simple.
  • Machine stitched bogu features a futon which is stitched using a sewing machine. 
  • The futon on hand stiched bogu is stitched... by hand. 
Ok so that's pretty simple. Like really. So what else is different?

Note: Machine/Hand Stitched in this article refers to the futon or padded cushion of the Bogu found in the Men, Kote and Tare. Please don't confuse it with "hand made". Most bogu sets do require assembly by hand at some stage, but in this article I am talking about the stitching on the futon only

Stitch Width 

Stitch width refers to the distance between rows of stitches on the futon. 

Hand stitched bogu is made using a unit of traditional Japanese measurement called Bu. This is approx 3mm in length. Hand stitched sets are sold in a variety of stitch widths such as 1-bu, 1.2-bu, 1.5-bu, 2-bu etc. with 1-bu being the tightest. 

Machine stitched sets are sold in sizes measured in millimeters. Typical widths are 2 mm, 3 mm, 4 mm etc up to around 10 mm.  

Production Time

As I said above, hand stitched bogu is made, by hand. Every stitch is accurately made using a needle and thread. It is an extremely labour intensive and time consuming process and requires a lot of skill. 

Machine stitched sets on the other hand can be produced much quicker than hand made equipment. Using a sewing machine a skilled worker can complete multiple futon in the same time required to make just one by hand. 


Generally speaking hand stitched bogu costs more than machine stitched. It takes more time and effort to produce, and may even require a person with more skill to make it. For this reason, labour costs are higher. 

If we take two futon made from the same materials, the machine stitched will likely be cheaper to produce and thus cheaper to purchase. 


  • The stitching on hand stitched bogu sets is usually only visible from the reverse. Only a very small pinpoint of thread is visible on the outside of the bogu. The futon is distinctively marked with a crisscross pattern which the sewer uses as a guideline. 

Example of  Tezashi (hand stitched) Kote from Tozando. Note the pinpoint of thread and square pattern.

  • Machine stitched on the other hand has the stitches visible on both sides. 

Example of  regular machine stitched futon. Note the thread being more visible on the outside of the futon.

Photo : Aoi Budogu FD-4mm Men

Of course many bogu shops are now making sets with pitch stitching, as well as square stitching to resemble hand made bogu. 

  • Pitch stitching has a longer space between where the thread enters and exits the futon. It makes the futon more flexible and slightly more padded than regular machine stitching. 

Example of a Pitch stitched bogu set. The stitches pierce the futon at longer intervals, making the futon more flexible.

Photo:  All Japan Pitch Viper Bogu Set

  • Square stitched bogu is being marketed by a few places at the moment. The futon is machine stitched along the length and width of the fabric, creating a square pattern that looks rather like hand stitched bogu. Its claimed that this type of stitching adds more flexibility in different directions. 

Example of square stitching "Cross-Pitch"from All Japan Budogu

Photo : All Japan Pitch Assassin Bogu Set  

Probably the most important thing for many is the appearance of their bogu. With hand stitched sets offering that traditional look and feel, it is hard to deny its appeal!

So which is better?

Difficult to give a definitive answer!

This can be a difficult topic to speak about. Is machine stitched less durable because it is made quicker and in more volume? Is hand stitched the best quality available? 

I honestly think that a lot comes down to the retailer and manufacturer. Realistically, no one is going to sell you a poorly made set of bogu.

However, some retailers are more concerned with offering higher end sets, while others offer a more basic range. This in no way means the basic bogu is of poor quality, it is simply more afforable due to the materials used.

This brings me to what I think is more important than nit picking over which is better.

Materials and Budget


Apart from budget, this to me is more important than trying to decide between which stitching method is better. 

(I don't want to go into too much detail, as I plan on writing a separate post about the different materials used.)

These days, most of the big brands are making machine stitched sets using top quality materials and better sewing methods than even only 10 years ago. To someone on a budget the idea of paying much less for a machine stitched set made using the exact same materials as a hand stitched one, is far more appealing.

In my opinion (and unless money is no object) you would be much better off investing in a similarly priced set of machine stitched bogu which uses higher quality materials.  

Some people may still be swayed by the term hand stitched, but machine stitching methods seem to have improved and companies like Zen Nippon Budogu (AJB to us English speakers) are constantly innovating new methods and techniques to bring machine stitched sets ever closer in quality to top of the range hand stitched sets.


Choosing between machine or hand stitched can sometimes be made for you, by your budget. If you are looking for a cheap set of bogu, say under €500 then you are most likely limited to machine stitched sets. 

If your budget is starting to get over €1000 then you can begin to start making comparisons between different stitching options. weighing up whether it is better to sacrifice materials used for the look and feel of hand stitched bogu. 

To that effect, some places offer "cheap" hand stitched bogu sets. Personally, having seen what is available in the market in Japan, I would not invest in a set of hand stitched equipment that is costing less than €1000. 

There is no way you are getting quality materials in this bogu set especially if they are advertising it as genuine deer leather. A corner has been cut somewhere, and labour costs have been reduced by using lesser quality fabrics and leathers. 

I believe that a budget of €2000 and up would get you an exceptional (and I mean top of the range) set of machine stitched bogu. For this price you will get in at lower end of what could be considered upper quality hand stitched equipment. 

There is a reason that the top tier of machine stitched sets reach €2500 - €3000~, while top level hand stitched sets can run up to nearly €10000 and more.


To conclude, it is my personal opinion that the quality of machine stitched sets has improved so much in recent years, that depending on your budget it may be a better investment to go for a top of the line machine made set over a handmade set using lesser materials.

It is still a goal of mine to own a beautiful set of hand stitched bogu, but until I can afford to drop a significant wad of cash on one, I'll be sticking to machine made for the foreseeable future!

Thanks as always for reading, and thank you to the bogu makers for providing us with so many great options and hours of entertaining eye candy!

I plan on covering the different materials used in a separate post and will update the blog soon. 



  1. Hi John!
    I found your blog by chance while I was looking for advice in English about kendo gear stores in Tokyo.
    I've learned a lot about all the little details of stitching and the materials being used. It's fascinating. I was wondering if you had ever come in your kendo career through a shop named e-bogu. I bought my bogu through them when I was not yet in Japan and find the quality incredibly good for such a competitive price : I would venture into saying that the bogu I bought on e-bogu would have cost me twice to three times as much if I had purchased it from a Japanese shop.
    So, I was wondering if it's just because I didn't look at the details and got myself a decent but not exceptional set or if they are really competitive on the market. Id love to read your opinion about them.
    (I do not work for e-bogu nor am I endorsed by them in any way).

  2. Hi Dante,

    First off, thank you for your comment! I'm glad the blog was useful for you!

    Second. Yes I have heard of and shopped from E-Bogu. I bought a set of "summer" dogi from them a long time ago when I was living in Ireland. I still use the keiko-gi, but I gave the hakama to a dojo mate.

    To be honest, I didn't use them much after that, as there was a heavy customs tax on my order (since it came from the USA to Ireland, nothing to do with E-Bogu). I used companies based in the UK or Japan as there was no such charge with them, and then I moved to Japan and usually shopped locally.

    I think the popularity of E-Bogu speaks for itself, they have been very successful for many years supplying bogu all over the US and the rest of the world.

    I don't know if you were lucky, or got a great deal, but I imagine you would have been able to find a set for a similar price in Japan or from another supplier. There isn't usually that much of a disparity between bogu sets, and most places carry similar items.

    The main thing is, you are happy with your purchase, I think that is exactly what E-Bogu and the other online stores would want!

    Best of luck!

  3. Hi, have you had an opportunity to experience machine stitch bogu from Shogun kendogu? If so, what do you think about their bogu? Are they really made in Japan?

    1. Hi Anon, thank you for your comment!

      No unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to try their equipment in person yet. But if you look on their about us page you can find some information. (

      They claim their parent company has a workshop in Nara, Japan. While I think the reality for many bogu makers is that parts may be purchased from other companies, or even be made in other countries before assembly in Japan, I personally would trust them that some level of manufacturing is indeed done in this facility.

      I am of course open to correction!

      "- Established in 2013, Shogun Kendogu is proud to be aligned with Nara’s own Kazutaka Budō Kōbō (Workshop) – a purpose built workspace for the manufacture, supply and repair of kendo equipment.

      Nowadays, the number of Japanese craftspeople working in the kendogu (kendo equipment) industry is slowly decreasing. We believe this is a concern, and want to do our best to keep the legacy of quality Japanese made kendo equipment alive and well. Drawing on the skills of the craftspeople at our parent company, Kazutaka Budō Kōbō, we hope to continue to bring this level of quality to the international kendo community. "

  4. Hello, love the site. My name is Joshua Anzai Just wanted your opinion on what bogu set to get. I'm in Tokyo right now visiting family but never practiced kendo over here only in the states. Wanting to get a new set for around $800US or a little less. What store/brand/model..ect would you get if it was your hard earned dollars. Thanks in advance Josh

    1. Hi Josh, thank you so much for your comment.

      If you are in Tokyo. I recommend going to Eiko Budogu and checking out their Tonbo Bogu There is an 8mm set available there around your price range.

      I'm not sure if they have availavle it off the shelf, so it might need to be ordered and delivered to you overseas?

      Alternatively, All Japan Budogu (Zen Nihon Budogu) might have a
      stall at the All Japan Championships next week. It's taking place on November 3rd at the Nippon Budokan. You could check their stuff out there in person and then order online.

      You could also check out Mori Budogu, or Kenbudo.

      Good luck, and enjoy your trip!!!

    2. If you have Japanese family there(?), Bring them to the store and have them ask what options are available on the bogu. Shorter mendare, diagonal stitching etc.

      Good luck!

  5. Sorry, I'm not Josh but I can still give you mi 2 cents. I'm in Tokyo too. Prices here are a bit too exaggerated if we consider that most of the products are made in China, unless you want a hand stitched bogu, but the prices will be exceeding your budget quickly.

    I don't have a lot of experience with bogu sellers. For a simple reason : I bought mine more than a decade ago and it still is a very good condition. I bought a "Top Quality 2mm machine stitched" bogu from e-bogu. They're located in Canada and the US but have opened branches in Europe and here in Japan. Their website in Japan is (Japanese only).

    To be honest, considering the evolution of the market, for 800$ you should be able to afford a 3mm bogu or even a 2mm bogu (few sellers sell 2mm though, for some reason). Good luck!

    Unless you are looking for very specific gear,