Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2017

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MUJI Flagship Yurakucho New Interior

loft-muji-1

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).

loft-muji-2

loft-muji-3

 

Lunch at Meal MUJI

Lunch at Meal Muji

When I have time there’s nothing I like more than strolling over to Muji Yurakucho (the Tokyo flagship store) and going into Meal MUJI and grabbing some lunch. The lunchtime and dinnertime offerings mainly consist of a 3 or 4 option deli plate. You can get a combination of hot and cold dishes cooked on the premises. In fact, you can see the chefs at work in the kitchen through large glass windows. They also bake bread and cakes which are sold in the bakery area, which I also highly recommend over any of the Japanese supermarket offerings or the overpriced department store boutique bakery products.

The food is pretty simple and perhaps portion size is a little small, however everything tastes good and is really nutritious and healthy made with organic produce and quality ingredients. I usually get the 4 option plate with the homemade miso soup which you can see above and that comes to ¥1080, which is reasonable. The plate above consists of tandoori chicken, green pesto ratatouille, pumpkin mash and vegetable curry; rice and miso soup.

 

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.

 

MUJI Book

MUJI Book

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!

MUJI Book

 

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.

 

Muji Village

Muji Village

I’m pretty excited about the new housing development about to open on schedule (of course) in Funabashi, Chiba (30 min from Tokyo). Muji Village is, as you’d expect, a housing development designed by Muji, the Japanese lifestyle ‘no-brand’ brand that embraces Japanese minimalist and practical product design to create extremely affordable and yet stylish clothes, furniture, stationery, and practically anything else you can think of. Personally, I can’t get enough of Muji, so I’ll be taking an architectural sightseeing trip to the site some time before Christmas. The chance of living in one is probably very remote at this present time as waiting lists will certainly have been filled.

The project is a collaboration between Muji and Mitsubishi Jisho real Estate Co., one of the largest in Japan. Muji will be designing everything, Mitsubishi will only be responsible for construction. The concept is thus: Green, Plain, Community. Sounds less than inspiring, but you could transliterate it to Nature, Simplicity, Community which maybe sounds more inviting! Anyway, this means plenty of foliage, a timeless aesthetic and airy communal spaces where residents will be able to mingle.

 

Tokyobike

Tokyobike

The people of good taste at Tokyobike sell simple, well designed and well made bikes via their website tokyobike.com. 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.

 

Uniqlo & Muji: Better in the UK?

Uniqlo & Muji

Before I came to Tokyo in mid January this year, I just happened to be in London for the grand opening of the new UK flagship Uniqlo on Oxford Street. Uniqlo had already branched out into the UK a few years before, but despite flash interiors, was met with mixed feelings from British shoppers, due to the fact that they insisted only on selling fleeces and simple trousers of various colours. A specific line of products had not been created to target the British market. That was the case, until they re-launched in London.

When I went in there, on the second day of the launch, the stuff on the racks was a mix of graphic design T-shirts (the famous UT range), brightly coloured ultra modern stuff, and classic fashion (suit jackets, scarves and neckties). I personally loved it. The shop was huge, and the upper floor had a winter range in consisting mainly of the Japan-imported fashion for shiny puffy coats (the ones containing down). I could have bought a lot of stuff and was happy because I presumed this was the ‘genuine article’ lifted straight from the Tokyo stores. Knowing that I would be living in Tokyo shortly, I was pretty happy that I was going to have somewhere to shop for clothes that I knew I liked, plus I always liked the brand ever since Kashiwa Sato took control of it during Uniqlo’s resurgence.

I was also an avid shopper at Muji. I was always in the store in Birmingham when I visited the city, normally buying clothes (until last years summer and autumn seasons came along, which were a little bit weird). You could get good stuff from there which wasn’t expensive, and although it was fairly simple, it was good for work.

How shocked I was then, when I visited both the flagship Yurakucho Muji Store and the (presumably) flagship Uniqlo store on Ginza’s main strip. Uniqlo was the most disappointing. Probably because it had the most to measure up to. The equivalent UT project T-shirts I saw there weren’t great, and there was a section which was unfamiliar to me, that sold American College apparel and slacks (most of which was very kitch) a la mid-90’s Gap! Gone was the quality outerwear I had set my heart on upon seeing it in the UK, and this had been replaced by a much smaller, and much less appealing range of coats and jackets.

Muji wasn’t so bad. The stationery was still there and, in addition, you can get Muji food, Muji kitchen appliances, and loads of other Japan exclusives, not to mention the Muji bike. However, I’m talking about the fashion, and that wasn’t as good I didn’t think. There were suit jackets and long sleeved tops, but they looked cheaply manufactured in comparison to the UK range, and they have to lose the French folk music (it sounds more like fairground music). Most notably absent were my two favourite products of theirs: The two tone watches (the white one rules; it has a perforated strap. I have one, but it’s on it’s way out), and the Muji flip-flops. They have flip-flops at the Muji in Japan, but they are no way near as cool. The one’s in the UK have a transparent ‘thong’ and come in more colours and prints. The ones I just bought in Japan ready for summer, I don’t like so much.

Does this mean that Muji and Uniqlo are actually better in the UK? Maybe it’s just because my tastes are different. I tried to be subjective and judge it properly, but that’s definitely what I think. If I come back to the UK at christmas, I’ll go shopping there before I come back to Japan, get one of those sweet coats.