Kendoka from Canada!
Hi Imafuji Sensei,
First of all, thank you for creating a site dedicated to kendo!!! I was researching about tenouchi online and stumbled on your site. Thank you for the great advice!
I am a Kendoka from Hamilton, Ontario. There are a few sellers in Canada (normally you would see them at the tournament), but there is only one store where I will get my shinai from.
Aoi Budogu is a vancouver based company. They have excellent customer service (I will cover that later) and very good quality shinai. Since I read about your comment about some kendoka getting "fake" shinais, this would be a good place to start.
They carry a variety of shinais. For example, narrow grip/oval grip and thick grip, suited for kendoka with different hand sizes and style. They have different types and specialized shinai too. For example, women's shinai, tournament style, nito ryu etc.
My personal favorite is the Shoryu. It's a very durable shinai that usually keeps about 1-2 years of hard practice. Rarely splinters and are suited to the dry winter climate of north america. Of course, regular maintenance and oiling is require, but I find it does not needs as much as my other shinais.
They do have a showroom in Vancouver as well. Unfortunately, I haven't have a chance to go and check it out, but you can view it from their website.
The reason that I said they have excellent customer service was that, they are very responsive to inquiries and email. My old Keikogi was worn out and had to get a new one. Knowing that my keikogi is under $100 and does not qualify for free shipping, I sent them an email asking if they will be at the Ontario seniors tournament. Turns out they will be and they offered to bring me some sizes to try! I was very happy, as I can meet them there and save on shipping. They travel to Ontario yearly from BC to the tournament, so I would normally drop by to check out their new products.
Hope that helps!
Thank you for your great input!