darts in the USA
The Japanese Influence

Hello everyone! Before I get started on the first topic for Darts in America, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Anne Kramer and I have been playing competitive darts off and on since 1981. I love the game, I love the people and I love to spend my spare time promoting the game on any level that I can. I am also the person behind the darts website SleepyKramer. “Sleepy” is a nickname someone gave to me a long time ago. I used it a lot when chatting in online forums and for instant messaging, so when I decided to do my own site, the name just stuck with me. Somewhere along the travels on the internet superhighway, I met up with Lee here on DartsMad. I think it was because he had a player bio for my husband John, who has been playing since 1975.  Lee has since asked me to contribute some articles for DartsMad on things going on for Darts in America. And so here we are!

I would have to say the biggest thing going on for darts in America these days is the influx of promotion, sponsorship and products from Japan. The two main companies involved are Cosmo Darts/Fit Flights and L Style. While these companies have developed themselves initially in the Soft-tip darts market in Asia, it appears that their cross-over to steel-tip darts was fast and furious. The players snapped up these new products and appreciated the innovative ideas of their design.

Cosmo Seiki, Co. LTD is the parent company of Cosmo Dart/Fit Flights.  The owner of the company, Mr. Masahiro Matsubara formed the company to make precisely engineered plastic products, molds, agricultural applications and metal products. Cosmo Seiki, Co. LTD has contracts with Toyota, Nissan, Canon, and Mazda’s Race Division.  Cosmo Seiki is headed by Mr. Matsubara and his two sons, Masayuki Matsubara and Hiroaki Matsubara. Three years ago, Hiroaki developed and had patented the “FIT FLIGHT” system worldwide. Hiroaki is player himself, and wanted a flight system that was durable and would not pop off like other typical flight/shaft systems.  After development, Mr. Matsubara then made the “Amusement Division” of Cosmo Seiki, Co. and Hiroaki became the managing director of the Cosmo Darts line. With the assistance of Robert Heckman as their North American representative, Cosmo Darts began its venture into the North American darts market.

L-style has started over eight years ago and has now become the largest dart accessory manufacturer in Asia. At that time, although darts was booming in Japan and dozens of barrel manufacturers started becoming extremely successful, Jinta Serizawa, owner, founder and designer of L-style products, found a lack of quality in the accessories on the market. Few manufacturers focused on the accessories, as the interest was more in the barrel design and manufacturing. Against everybody’s suggestion, Jinta started manufacturing plastic tips for the soft-tip darts game. The Japanese made Lippoint tips were designed not only for durability, but were precisely molded to stick and remain on the board as straight as could be. Immediately, the tips became very popular and within a couple years, Lippoint owned over 70% of the market share in Japan. Later, Jinta moved on to create the Laro line of shafts. The shafts are designed the same way as a regular nylon shaft, but are more durable and Jinta focused on the looks of it. The flight insertion is made easier through a special design at the fingers of the shaft. Again, he went against everybody’s suggestion and made his point by dominating the sales of the Laro line of shafts. Finally, the Flight-L line was created. Using the precision technology that the Japanese factories are famous for, he designed and created the world’s first perfectly thin, one piece molded flight, weighing the same as a regular flight, but with the advantage of keeping a true 90 degree angle. After creating Lippoint, Laro and Flight-L, Jinta decided to regroup those 3 brands together under the L-style brand and L-style was created. Against all odds, an accessory only company has become a leader in the Asian dart industry and intends to do so in the rest of the world.

To date, both companies have extended sponsorships to many American and Canadian players. This not only includes many of the top players, but many other players who support the game and the events that may not otherwise be recognized due to the lack of sponsorships available.

Up until the influx of these two Japanese companies into the American markets and the American darts scene, it was always pretty safe to say that unless you were one of the premier top players in the country, there was hardly any chance, to no chance at all of your obtaining any type of sponsorship to help your darting career. Now the country is being inundated with newly sponsored players breathing new life into the game. Players are excited to see manufacturers finally getting into promoting the game and its players, and taking things to a higher level.  These new products can be found at tournaments all over the country now and are adding exposure to up and coming players through this, and through website marketing and social network marketing, such as FaceBook, which has opened up a whole new genre of product and player marketing globally.

It will be interesting to follow the progress of this. Will more companies based in Asia join in to bring their products to North America? Will this trend then inspire other manufacturers all over the world to do the same? Only time will tell. There is a broad market base and many opportunities for companies to promote their products, but will they follow the same trend and promote more players and events? Only time will tell. Perhaps 12 months from now, I will follow-up with another article to see where the trend has landed.

Until next time….all the best darts to you and see you on the oche!