Circles – Shop Visit
I first met Shinya Tanaka, the owner of Circles at a trade show years ago, and ever since that first meeting I’ve been looking forward to visiting his shop in Nagoya, Japan. Nagoya isn’t a tourist destination, it’s a hard-working city with just under 9 million people in the metro area. It’s home to Toyota motors and miso nikomi (which I’ve heard described as Japanese soul food). What makes Nagoya special are its people, and Shinya is one of the best.
At first glance you might only notice that Circles is a cool bike shop. It’s filled with many of the latest parts and accessories, and there’s a busy service area that’s also visible from the café. A closer look will reveal a carefully selected stock of merchandise that speaks to Shinya’s business philosophy. He prefers steel bike frames because they’re durable. Beginners can crash them and not worry that they’ve compromised their investment. High end bikes from the likes of Cielo, Hunter, Retrotec and Breadwinner are available, but Shinya steers first time buyers towards bikes like Surly.
Upstairs you’ll find the wearables in a separate boutique, called Circles Tailored, that looks and feels like a conventional clothing store. Not only are there amazing offerings from select, high-quality cycling brands, there are a number of items from non-cycling companies who offer suitable products. Think base-layers from Scandinavia and skiing gloves (Shinya was once a competitive mogul racer).
You probably won’t be waited on by Shinya himself if you visit, he’s typically in his third-floor office working on his components and distribution company, Sim Works. Or he’s spraying frames in the on-site paint shop. But rest assured, you’ll be helped by one of the finest employees in the world. I’ve met nearly all of them, and they’re a passionate group. Shinya’s philosophy has roots in traditional Japanese apprenticeship culture. While his employees might not have to spend three years learning to make sushi rice, they do have to be highly educated and immersed in cycling culture in order for him to achieve his goal of creating a bigger, better cycling community in Nagoya.
Check out circles-jp.com