May 11, 2011

Reasons I love Japan, Day 1: Muji

[ed.: this post was meant to be published on 5/11, but didn't go up until 5/14 due to a  glitch with Blogger, of which there have been a lot lately. let me know if you can recommend a more stable blogging platform!]

It's hard to imagine anyone can doubt the impact of global warming with the weather going so crazy on us lately; the cold, rainy spring here in New York has suddenly turned into hot summer, while hundreds of tornadoes have ravaged the American South — and then there have been the record-breaking earthquakes.

Two months after Japan's earthquake, tsunami, and ensuing nuclear meltdown, which have the dubious honor of being the most expensive natural disaster in history, there's still a lot of work to be done in rebuilding — and I still have a few of my Save Japan bias tee (featured lately, btw, in Time Out, Ecouterre, Magnifeco, the Dutch Biojournaal, and Luxist Japan!) to sell for the cause. In support of my friends and colleagues in Japan, and to remind everyone that the nation still needs help, this month I'm going to post 30 things I love about Japan.

Today's subject? Muji!

Since a friend tipped me off to Muji's wonders in London in 2000, I've been an avid fan of their clean, no-nonsense stationery and housewares. With a design team led by the ingeniously understated industrial designer Naoto Fukusawa, the Japanese no-brand brand issues one product after another in their deceptively simple, yet incredibly well-thought-out oeuvre. I've been loyal to their dot-grid notebooks since 2000, loving how the dots allow for writing in a straight line, but also for creating sketches without the distraction of those annoying horizontal lines.

But from the notebooks, my Muji collection has grown to encompass my slippers, bedsheets, bookends, folders, paper towel holder, wastebaskets, potholder — all the little details of daily life that work so much better when they've been thoughtfully designed. The paper towel holder, for example, is two separate ends with magnets on the back; assemble it on the fridge with a roll of towels in the middle, and the whole thing holds together and rolls perfectly without the large, cumbersome structure of most paper towel holders.

Visiting Tokyo last fall, I dragged my long-suffering boyfriend into nearly every Muji shop we encountered, and each had something different to offer, from the glittery, high-ceilinged total environment of the Roppongi location (above) to the multi-level Shinjuku shop, with food — yes, food! — and charmingly compact furniture on top, and sleek monochrome commuter bikes on the ground floor. It was all I could do to restrain myself from shipping a household's worth of goods back to the States; for our luggage's sake, I restrained myself to a pair of armwarmers, a bottle of face wash, and a set of black chalkboard-paint matryoshka dolls.

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