Muji is a company that sells many kinds of products from food and daily necessities to household appliances and more. Doing everything from research and development to production, distribution and sales, they have 284 stores in Japan and 301 in foreign countries (as of February 2015). In other words, Muji is very much a global company.
With the opening of the new the Muji store at the Aeon Mall near Okayama Station, they started a new customer experience in November 2014.
Muji has a tremendous global presence, but in Okayama they are also working hard to develop local communities and products, and through a collaboration with Nishiawakura Morinogakko『西粟倉・森の学校』, which develops the forest industry in northern Okayama, they have started developing products made from local timber. They call this dochakuka (indegenization).
The design philosophy of Muji products is known as yohaku (a Japanese art form of leaving a blank space for viewers/users to imagine/create for themselves). This means they are simple in design and hard to tire of, which makes it easy for customers to arrange the products in any way they like and create any kind of design they want. Dochakuka then is a way of being able enjoy local products in the same free fashion.
Through selling the timber products at their store, more and more people are getting to know about the project with Nishiawakura, and trips to the village and workshops have also been organized.
This is one of the new products: the Hitotema Kit (lit: single-labor kit). It’s a kind of build-yourself (wooden) model, and just by sanding it a little you get your own original cutlery. This product is the result of dochakuka, and at the Muji store there have been workshops and lessons on making this.
A year after the start of the project with Nishiawakura, other projects were started and continue to be conducted as well. We at kokohorejapan have been fortunate enough to be invited to participate in events and meet and talk with customers about Muji products and local communities.
The above is a photo of a food sampling of Muji’s bagna cauda pasta. The chopsticks were made from offcuts of timber from Nishiawakura.
The store manager, Mr. Yashiki, says, ”We want to offer a way for customers to enjoy and experience Okayaman yohaku through Muji products and various activities.” Once a month, the Muji at Aeon Mall Okayama arranges a workshop where customers can experience this Okayaman yohaku through various activities.
The next time you come to Okayama, make sure you have time to visit Muji at Aeon Mall Okayama and experience this for yourself. You might also find other ways of enjoying Okayama that are not written in any guidebooks.
Aeon Mall Okayama
Address: Aeon Mall Okayama, 1-2-1 Shimoishii, Kita, Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Asami Asai (kokohorejapan)
Katsutoshi Asai Producer and member of the Setouchi Regional Revitalization Association. Born in Yokohama in 1974, Katsutoshi is married and has a young son. Although he started his career with an advertising agency, he went to join the Tower Records team. Katsutoshi was involved with brand management, sales campaigns, collaboration work, and live events. Through his career, he experienced being the Sales Promotion Manager, and the Manager of the Live Entertainment Department. However, in 2012, Katsuyoshi retired from Tower Records and moved to Seto city, Okayama prefecture - a place where he had no prior friends, connections or relatives. Soon after moving, he joined the Setouchi Regional Revitalization Association, and in July 2013 founded Kokohore Japan and began a number of projects to re-task old traditional buildings, invent new specialty products, and work on regional branding. Website: Kokohore Japan http://kkhr.jp/ Asami Asai Editor & Writer I mainly write about social news, music, and lifestyles. I was born and raised in Tokyo, but in 2012 I decided on a whim to move to Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture. I contribute to magazines such as Liniere, Inakagurashi no Hon, and ku:nel. I publish books for my 'interesting' friends, too, and direct and write for programs at FM Okayama. Everyday I write about people and things for both readers and listeners. Website: Kokohore Japan http://kkhr.jp/
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