Bridgestone Tires: From “tabi socks” to global tire empire


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The year is 1931 and the burgeoning automobile industry is mobilizing the world. Bridgestone, a Japanese company, is founded during this period of growth and weathers wars and global economic woes to become a true tire empire.

The company’s first tire was produced in 1930 in Japan, rolling out of the Tabi Socks Tyre Division (tabi socks are rubber-soled, split-toed Japanese footwear). There hadn’t been a tire industry in Japan before this, but Shojiro Ishibashi had big plans for the future of transportation in Japan. From Tabi Socks’ experience of putting rubber soles on streets, Ishibashi knew they could put tire rubber on the road.

A year later, Tabi Socks spun off their tire enterprise. The new company was named after the English translation of Ishibashi’s name: Ishi = Stone, Bashi = Bridge. Bridgestone was born in Kurume city, Fukuoka prefecture, Japan, and later expanded to Tokyo.

Bridgestone Headquarters in Tokyo

After World War II, Japan’s economy and infrastructure were destroyed. Bridgestone’s Tokyo headquarters was in rubble, and their overseas assets had been liquidated during the war. However, that didn’t stop Bridgestone from coming out of the gate as a strong global competitor for tires.

The Bridgestone plants were unharmed during the war and were able to resume production, helping to roll Japan into a new era. The company made new income streams by supplying motorcycle manufacturers with tires. Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha motorcycles all sported Bridgestone tires, driving the company into a more prosperous future.

bridgestone test car Ligier JS41

The prosperity of the post-war global economy helped Bridgestone grow between the 1950s and the 1980s. They sold the first rayon cord tire in 1951 and started selling nylon tires in 1959. By 1953, Bridgestone was on top of Japan’s tire industry and opening more plants by 1960. In 1961 they were publicly listed on the stock exchange, kicking off a decade of overseas expansion – including coming to America in 1967.

And then the Oil Crisis of the 70s hit, but Bridgestone managed to come out of the economic turmoil with new radial tires, including high-performance Potenza radial tires. It was only a matter of time before Bridgestone jumped into motorsports.

Bridgestone has been a supporter of Motorsports since the mid-1980s. First, they developed tires for Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula Ford, and karting, among other types of racing. They developed higher-quality, high-performance tires in lower series before jumping up to Formula One, where they supplied top drivers with tires from 1997 until 2009.

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In 1988, Bridgestone bought the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and continued to expand their tire empire. While tire technology has evolved over the years, Bridgestone’s dedication to automotive tire excellence has never wavered.

And their dedication to global events hasn’t flagged either. In 2018, Bridgestone is the Official Tire Sponsor of the NFL and of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

“Bridgestone is proud to further demonstrate our commitment to the Olympic Movement, to the world’s greatest athletes, and to improving the way people move, live, work and play as aligned with the company’s “Our Way to Serve” commitment,” said Asahiko ‘Duke’ Nishiyama, Executive Vice President and Executive Officer, Bridgestone Corporation.

Bridgestone is also partnering with the PyeongChang 2018 Education Program. This program aims to educate South Korean youth about the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as teaching them about the Olympic values of friendship, excellence and respect. The goal of the program is to ensure that the Winter Games leave a lasting, positive impact in the Republic of Korea.

Bridgestone’s reach spans product categories and the world – making the company a true global tire empire.

Interested in Bridgestone Tires for your vehicle? Check out the full selection of Bridgestone tires at

Photos by: cmonvilleYasuVinod Sankar, Morio, Don O’Brien (1, 2)

Video by: Justin Laem

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