by Bryce Marley
Today Japlanning are looking at two must stop stores in Japan, Muji and Uniqlo. Both these stores are uniquely Japanese, and have become so successful they have expanded to have stores all over the world, with Muji recently opening their first Australian store, and Uniqlo opening theirs in Melbourne within the next few months. Let's take a look at what these brands offer you, and why they are a must stop shop while visiting Japan.
Both stores started small in Japan and quickly expanded. They both offer quality products that have what you would expect from a Japanese company: great design and quality craftsmanship. But the best part is both also provide great value!
Lets start with one of the most loved clothiers in the world, UNIQLO
Uniqlo came from humble beginnings, starting out in March 1949 in the southern Japan town (or was it a city?) of Yamaguchi. They first expanded by opening a unisex casual clothing store in 1985 in Hiroshima under the name "Unique Clothing Warehouse", which is when the name "Uniqlo" was born. The expansion was slow, and by 1994 they had expanded to 100 stores across Japan.
Known as the "Gap of Japan", they adopted a similar strategy of producing their own clothing designs and selling it exclusively in 1997, while Japan was in a recession, their standing as a cheap casual clothing store was appealing, and their popularity grew rapidly. With profits soaring, and expansion happening rapidly, they were quickly at over 500 stores across Japan by 2001. In the 2000's, they began their expansion overseas starting with China and England, and are now all over Asia, Europe, the USA, and now entering the Australian Market. As of today there are nearly 800 stores across Japan, with more than 100 in Tokyo alone.
Uniqlo is know for its clean, minimalist stores, with an abundance of white used in their design, and using the clothing to do all the talking. With a rainbow range of colors throughout all their lines, it's a refreshing take on the casual everyday clothing, showing that you really can have more than 3 shades of black to choose from.
Even if you have a Uniqlo store near your home, you must stop into one -- or five -- stores whilst visiting Japan. You will find the newest fashions, months before they hit your home store, and simply put, in Japan, Uniqlo is CHEAP! All their clothing is of a high quality and an absolute bargain. When you can pick up basics by the bunch for under 1000 yen, to winter coats for under 10,000 yen, you'll be needing an extra suitcase to take home your new threads fast.
Uniqlo have a new stock arriving all the time too, with fantastic limited runs of designs, especially graphic tees and underwear with great lines from great pop culture icons, like Disney, Atari, Japanese Anime and more.
Keep in mind however the clothing is designed for a Japanese audience. By this we mean if you are built a bit larger than most in Japan, a lot of the clothing may not fit. However if you are average build and not too tall, come to Japan with an empty suitcase and pick up all your clothing at Uniqlo, you will go home with a fantastic new wardrobe, for a fraction of the cost that you would pay for the equivalent items back home.
Uniqlo has now become one of the top 10 clothing retailers in the world.
Now lets take a look at the wonder that is the Japanese lifestyle store - Muji
Muji is a truly Japanese company that puts an emphasis on minimal waste and recycling in their products production. The name Muji is from the first part of "Mujirushi Ryohin" which translates to english as "No Brand, Quality Goods"
The company started out in 1980 as Mujirushi Ryohin, they were a brand of products originally made to sell at The Seiyu supermarkets in Japan. They were produced to offer cheap, high quality products for the Japanese. They all came in clear packaging, with a plain brown paper bag label with red writing (the same design used today for their labels). In 1983, the first Mujirushi Ryohin store opened and expanded across Japan. In 1991, their first international store opened in London, and they have expanded rapidly since then. The current shortened name "Muji" was implemented in 1999.
From small beginnings with a product range of just 40 items, Muji has expanded to over 7000 products. They cover stationary, furniture, groceries, clothing for men, women and children, kitchen appliances and storage solutions. They even had a Car in the early 2000's (in partnership with Nissan).
The stores have expanded and come in a variety of forms, from standards retail stores, to ones with built in cafés and restaurants. They have several "Muji to Go" stores at airports across Asia that specialise in selling Muji's traveller focussed products, so you can pick up those items you forgot to bring along. Muji now have campsites in Japan, florists, and have even engaged in housing projects like the "Muji Houses" in Japan.
Although you may have a Muji near you in your hometown, you must visit them while in Japan. You will soon realise that there are hundreds of amazing and innovative products just for sale in Japan. If you're a stationary fanatic, you will spend a lot on amazing, high-quality pens, pencils, sketch pads and organisers! You may need a suitcase just for your Muji purchases!
Muji uses minimal design traits in their products with little-to-no branding, and a uniformed plain logo and labeling across all products. It's this design that had gotten the company massive fans across the world, with their first Australian store opening in Melbourne at the end of 2013.