Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2018

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MUJI Flagship Yurakucho New Interior


Two MUJI posts in a row? Bear with me, this is important. Well, the interior is not completely new but it’s a major refurbishment with a lot of new sections/features. As well as the entrance area on the first floor being completely changed, and the layout altered, there’s also a new MUJI Megane (glasses/spectacles) department, Atelier MUJI has been updated, MUJI house has been completely changed plus loads of other cosmetic changes. All this via MUJI’s Facebook page. I’ll be there tomorrow to take a look and to see the new Loft store in the same building. That opens tomorrow (1st September).




Tokyo Bike GET!

Tokyo Bike Get!

I’m now the proud owner of the Tokyobike I’ve been planning to buy from pretty much as soon as they were introduced. I decided on the SS model. Not only are they my initials, but also it’s cheaper and lighter than the Sport 9S. It doesn’t have gears which makes it a little tough up hill, but the way I look at it is, it’s better exercise. Currently going everywhere on it, and loving the fact that you see stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise see riding the metro. You don’t have to squeeze onto packed trains, you save money on tickets and you’re free to return home whenever you like. I definitely should’ve done this before!


Muji Notebook App

Muji Notebook App

Could the new app from Muji entitled Muji Notebook be a success? And more to the point, could it be useful for web designers? I actually think it might. At least it’d be good for notating wireframes and draft layouts on an iPad. You could even use it when doing so in the presence of the client. Moreover though, this app is a good idea for anyone who wants an electronic version of what Muji sells in their stationery section – plus a lot more besides: see the promotional video on YouTube for more info.

Available on the App Store.


Tokyobike Gallery

Tokyo Bike Gallery

I finally made it down to Tokyo Bike Gallery in Nezu/Yanaka, Tokyo this past Tuesday and it was a really worthwhile trip. The place is pretty small and really serves as a showroom for their current line of bikes which can be found on their site here. You can also rent bikes for the day, although not their sporty range, only the town cruisers. When I entered the shop a young guy wearing a hat came out from the back and I asked him if I could take some photos and he said it was OK.

Tokyo Bike Gallery

As you can see from the photo, there are bike frames and hanging on the walls with some built bikes on display. There are wheels hanging from the ceiling and you can pick and choose what components you want on your bike, but you will pay more. The pre-built standard colourways currently in stock work out cheaper. They also sell accessories such as bike locks, pedals, clips, keychains, etc.

After I had finished snapping the interior I asked if I could rent a bike, but it wasn’t possible to rent the kind of bike I wanted to try out, so the guy let me test-ride a couple of versions for 10 mins each. It suffices to say I fell in love immediately flying down the narrow streets and downhills towards Ueno. That was until I got a wave of paranoia as I approached a stern-faced policeman outside a Koban and it was then I decided to stop and take a picture for this blog.

Tokyo Bike Gallery

When I came back to the store the guy was waiting for me with a set-up bike from the other range. This one has gears and is quite a bit more expensive. The geared version was great, but the bike itself doesn’t look as cool, and it’s expensive. The simplicity and style of the first bike appealed to me more.

Tokyo Bike Gallery

Anyway, I’m going to pick up my new bike next week from Tokyo Bike HQ. People in the UK and Australia you can get these bikes at home too. I’m still thinking about which colour to get though. Red, purple or black?




Whilst out in Yurakucho I spotted this MUJI Book on sale in their Tokyo flagship store. The book has been released to commemorate MUJI’s 30th anniversary and offers an insight into the history of this unique ‘brand’, covering the products and the philosophy behind them. It also includes input from designers including Naoto Fukasawa, Kenya Hara and Takashi Sugimoto. Lots of great photography and whitespace throughout!



Enter The Void – Opening Credits

Although the actual film itself is horribly acted, farcical and depicts Tokyo in such a way as to miss the point entirely, the opening credits of Gaspar Noe’s new movie Enter The Void are worth the price of entry by themselves.


Visit to Muji Village

Muji Village Gallery

This has actually been on the back burner since early Spring this year, and it’s only now that I came across the great brochure pictured at the bottom of this post while rummaging through my bookcase which finally reminded that I should post this information as a continuation of my previous post on Muji Village from last year.

Well, by now, some of the new tenants should be settled into their new Muji apartments on the east side of the city. The apartments went on the market at about the same time as I visited the show homes based off-site in the gallery building you can see at the top of this post, which would have been around late February this year.

I was shown around the show home by a guy from the real estate firm collaborating with Muji on this project, Mitsubishi Jisho, and he didn’t fit the role at all. Sporting a dark blue, double-breasted suit jacket with large gold buttons, he jarred with the Muji brand image and was the picture of the slimy salesman. I wonder if he had realised that I wasn’t really planning to buy an apartment and was only there as a sort of architecture tourist?

Muji Village Model
A model showing the layout of the common space

The show home was impressive though, but the Muji aesthetic seemed to have been watered down by Mitsubishi contributing to the interiors and the furniture. This said, I still would’ve taken one in an instant should I have been in the market for a new apartment – the kitchen by itself was enough to sell me.

After the gallery visit I declined the salesman’s offer of accompanying me to the actual site and took a walk there myself to see the exterior. What I saw was nothing different to any other new apartment building in Tokyo, except it had been left plain white with patches of grey (no doubt at Muji’s request). The complex was still deserted at this time but the building work was finished inside and out. Muji Village banners were draped on the fences surrounding the grounds.

Muji Village
The fairly dull facade to the complex

Muji Village Banner
A banner on the perimeter fence

As I left the Muji Village Gallery I was given a buyers’ pack containing various goodies in a typical Muji mini tote bag – the kind of canvas ones you get in their stores. Inside was my free bottle of chilled green tea, various small pamphlets, salesman Tony’s eyesore of a business card and this great brochure (pictured below). It seems like they spared no expense printing this hard-bound, thick-spined, full-colour photo book:

Muji Village Book
Muji Village Brochure

All in all, not a bad day out.


9h Capsule Hotel Kyoto

9h Capsule Hotel Kyoto

The capsule hotel concept has been familiar to the Japanese for several decades, but still hasn’t taken off in the west. This may have been because of the often tacky and unrefined nature of the capsule hotels themselves, or an inbuilt response to unfamiliar concepts such as these as being weird and uninviting. Japan has never had any such problem embracing novel or strange solutions to everyday life, but when I was living in the UK, I certainly couldn’t have imagined them taking off. Even so, they would make great alternatives to expensive inner city hotels, could prove extremely useful in airports (as we saw during the recent disruption caused by the Icelandic volcanic eruption), and could even provide shelter for late night revelers in urban areas, maybe even reducing drink driving.

If it ever were to cross the continents and make it to the west, let’s hope it arrives in the form of Kyoto’s new 9h Capsule Hotel designed by Fumie Shibata of Design Studio S. The name 9h comes from the concept of having 1 hour to shower, 7 hours to sleep, and 1 hour to rest (a total of 9 hours), although you can actually stay anything up to 17 hours in one day. The thing that really sets this capsule hotel apart from all the others that have gone before are the futuristic minimalist interiors, excellent facilities and the technologically advanced features, such as the biorhythm-aware Panasonic pod management systems that wake guests individually with simulated dawns of controlled lighting instead of noisy alarm clocks. Really though, it’s the industrial design that I love about this project. It is perfectly aligned with the discerning tastes famous in Kyoto with sleek black, dark wood and brilliant white being found throughout. The design of the electronic elements, the shapes of the capsule windows and the tasteful graphic design further reinforce the Japanese feel and serves to firmly set this apart from the awful Yotel at London Heathrow and makes the Nite Nite hotels look distinctly average.

I’m thinking of taking a trip to Kyoto soon, so I’ll make sure I spend one night here. I’ve never been so excited about the idea of sleeping in any other type of accommodation. That means something, surely.


Metro Posters ‘Do it Again’

Metro Posters 'Do it Again'

Bunpei Yorifuji has illustrated a follow up series to the Tokyo Metro ‘manner’ posters that told passengers to ‘do it at home’, ‘at the beach’, ‘on the mountain’ and so on. This new series sends a different message of ‘do it again’, and depicts situations where passengers were considerate to others. I guess there were no more ideas for the original series as they seemed to have covered everything.


‘The Queen’ Doll by BEAMS

BEAMS The Queen Doll

Look what a friend came across when she was reading the new BEAMS catalogue. Yes, in other fashion/retail news, BEAMS have released a vinyl toy of The Queen, strangely entitled Gimmick Doll. It can’t be found online as of yet, but if you drop into a store, you can pick up a Spring/Summer 2010 catalogue free of charge. What I think is awesome is you can even get it in various colourways!


+J and Uniqlo Tunes

+J and Uniqlo Tunes

Some Uniqlo news now. I was in the newly expanded Ginza branch yesterday and had the good fortune to see the new +J line of clothing at the back of the new mens’ section. I tried on some of the outerwear, and I liked it very much. Although I didn’t buy anything (yet), I was taken by the fine tailoring and the details. This lead me inevitably back to the Japanese Uniqlo website where I saw the new Flash toy launched this Autumn – Uniqlo Tunes. It plays video in time with MP3’s, and you can even upload your own. As usual you have the option of integrating it into your blog. This new music toy joins a small collection of other Uniqlo Flash virals and microsites.


Hobonichi Techo

The Hobonichi Techo is a phenomenon in Japan. It’s a personal organiser built in the Japanese tradition of excellence in workmanship. The company’s forward-thinking marketing has it branded as as much a fashion accessory as a piece of boring stationery. With a community of owners, and idea books full the various ways they use them, it’s become a real modern design icon here. Many people seem to use them and about this time of year are usually in stationery stores such as Loft agonising over which one to choose from the multitude of different collaborations, material finishes and colourways. I’ve been browsing them also, and they look really nice. I’m getting one for 2010, but which one? Check the video above for possible options.

Sorry if this video is a little heavy, its native resolution on YouTube is pretty large.


Monocle Tote Limited Edition (exclusively for subscribers)

Monocle Tote

Monocle are now offering this limited edition tote bag for every subscriber. It’s made in collaboration with Porter, the legendary Tokyo bag company that readers may remember from a previous post. I personally love the design and everything about it. I haven’t subscribed yet, but I’m seriously considering it. That is, if they ship to Japan.




The people of good taste at Tokyobike sell simple, well designed and well made bikes via their website These bikes are somewhere between the fixed gear bikes that have such a strong ridership in Tokyo right now, and the kind of practical urban cycles that Muji used to stock in it’s Yurakucho store before the range changed to the meagre offering of mamacharis that it is now. Needless to say, it’s been added to my wants list.


Naoto Fukasawa at 21_21 Design Sight

Naoto Fukasawa at 21_21 Design Sight

Naoto Fukasawa is one of the most well renowned industrial designers in Japan. Most people will know his work through MUJI (Mujirushi Ryohin Keikaku), the Japanese lifestyle goods retailer, having been responsible for their famous wall-mounted CD player along with a raft of other products. Anyone wanting to get an overview of his output to date should get down to 21_21 Design Sight at Tokyo Midtown between October 16 and January 31 for an exhibition called The Outline, featuring approximately 100 of Naoto Fukasawa’s product designs in photographs taken by Tamotsu Fujii.