My sister loved Muji when she was growing up. An architect at heart, she wanted something textural, simple and made drawing fun. She found what she wanted in Muji, and almost turned the dining room into an ad hoc atelier. Now that she is grown up, she still can't help but go to Muji for inspiration.
Awhile back I was in the grocery section of Muji looking at bags of potato crisps. Plain salted crisps that were light and airy. Above them were all kinds of flavor sachets that you can pick and choose, and pop in the potato packets to create your own flavor. From mushroom to wasabi, I had a culinary adventure with my friend trying to pick what flavor sachets to go with the crisps. It brought out the food designer in all of us.
It is this sense of delight and playfulness that accompanies an experience at Muji. From games that build relationships between parent and child to do it yourself creativity, Muji is part of the reason that bricks and mortar stores are doing well in Japan and make shopping a social activity, any day of the week. The Kyoto store, like most Muji outlets, is open until 9 p.m. in the evening, just in case you would like some retail therapy after a sushi or doll making class.
While Muji shares the same city of Kyoto with Kiyomizu dera and Pontocho, it is a parallel universe away from the tourists and dress up geishas of those iconic locations. Here the locals meet and carry on with their everyday life, catching a coffee with friends, or going to the movies. In the midst of their milieu is Aeon Mall, a gleaming cube building that houses Muji. You can also find a Muji branch in Minakuchi.
Founded in 1980 by the Seiyu Group, Muji (short for Mujirushi Ryōhin) eschewed the glitz and showiness of that era and instead led the way in natural, minimalist designs. Over time, these utilitarian items with a clean, earthy look became an iconic must have by graphic designers and office works alike. From bicycles to smart Jersey skirts, there is something for everyone, including items not available in Muji outlets overseas. There is also a simple cafe serving light meals.