Photo/IllutrationThe Latin message “memento mori” printed inside the crotch can be read “memento vivere” when upside down. (Provided by Zamila Inc.)

  • Photo/Illustraion

MARUMORI, Miyagi Prefecture--Two young entrepreneurs here have their customers seeing red, but it’s not out of anger.

Instead, they designed red briefs that are not only underwear, but a special garment to provide energy, encouragement and other kinds of emotional support to wearers.

Shinichi Takano and Takuya Toyoda, both 26 and originally from Kyoto, launched a company called Zamila Inc. that sells only red briefs in this sparsely populated town in northeastern Tohoku.

Released in November and touted as underpants for special occasions, the Memento boxer briefs are available only in red, a color that reminds customers of passion and victory.

The one-size-fits-all shorts, which use a stretchable fabric, can be worn both forward and backward, so wearers can “always face the front” just like the underwear.

While the briefs do not have any fashion logos on the outside, a Latin message “memento mori,” which means “remember that you will die,” is printed on the crotch in black, allowing only wearers to view the sentence.

If read upside down, the unusual logo can be read “memento vivere,” which means “remember to live.”

The brand logo was designed out of a desire to enable users of the underpants to relax before tackling a challenge by seeing the message when they pull their shorts down in a restroom stall.

The message tells wearers that life is limited, concentrate and just do what you really want to do, offering them encouragement and courage.

Takano and Toyoda described their product as not only a garment to provide support for the sexual organ but also the “energy to wear” and “cheering squad to put on.” They are looking to change the conventional concept of underpants to alter consciousness of people.

Takano formerly worked at a Web marketing company in Osaka Prefecture, while Toyoda was an employee of a business consulting firm.

Takano, who dreamed of establishing his own corporation someday, was reunited with Toyoda, his childhood friend, through Facebook last year, and began talking with him about their dreams.

Working part time at an underwear shop on Saturdays and Sundays to accumulate know-how for his plan to start a business, Takano came up with a brilliant idea one day in summer.

He thought, “Red underpants are popular as gifts to elderly customers (to celebrate their longevity). Cool red shorts would be welcomed by a wide variety of customers.”

Around that time, Takano learned about Marumori’s entrepreneur support program.

Under the project, the municipality commissions individuals who want to set up companies, create employment and lead a life in their own way there to engage in various local activities for three years.

A monthly wage of 200,000 yen ($1,769) as well as other types of assistance are provided for entrepreneurs.

Takano, who initially did not even know where Marumori is located, visited the southernmost town in Miyagi Prefecture for the first time with Toyoda in October last year.

Giving guidance, Toru Yokoyama, an official of the municipality’s commerce, industry and tourism section, told them "to found a globally renowned business in Marumori.” Takano and Toyoda spoke passionately about their plan to market unique underpants.


Marumori has a population of 14,000, of which 39.3 percent are elderly residents. Most young people leave the town.

The town was exposed to radioactive fallout when the triple meltdown occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011 following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Still, Takano said Marumori is the best place to start a business.

“It is important for us to take on a challenge in the country region on the front lines,” he said.

Yokoyama said he initially wondered “why underpants?” but that he now holds high expectations.

“I anticipate they Takano and Toyoda will inspire residents of the town who are losing confidence to make the first step,” said Yokoyama.

Takano and Toyoda quit their jobs to move to an old private home in Marumori in April this year. They established Zamila the following month.

Although having a big dream, it was not easy for the two young men to fulfill it.

Takano and Toyoda bought nearly 100 underpants for research. They sent e-mails to dozens of clothing makers and other corporations about their business proposals, but they were ignored and not taken seriously.

But the two finally found a well-established fabric maker in Kyoto Prefecture, which described their effort as “interesting.” They signed an original equipment manufacturing (OEM) contract with the maker to sell their red shorts.

Their underpants are produced by a sewing plant in China that makes products for an Italian brand.

Overcoming difficulties, the red briefs have gone on sale at 3,600 yen, including tax. While the product is available online at (, Takano and Toyoda are seeking retail shops to carry their underpants as well.

They said they were happy that the landlord of their home quickly made a bulk purchase of underpants.

The laundry instruction tag of the underwear states, “Designed in Marumori,” to express unlimited appreciation for the town residents who accepted and provided support for the eccentric young men.