February 24 2010
I’ve been a Muji devotee since the first European store opened quietly in London on Carnaby Street in the 1990s. When I moved to New York more than a decade ago, it was Muji I missed most. Each trip back to Britain meant that my cases were full of contraband: recycled paper pads, aluminium pens and clear plastic housewares. Now there’s a Muji US outpost a few blocks from my house, so at least my luggage is lighter.
But I still take an empty case for my annual pilgrimage to the Muji motherlode in Tokyo: its global flagship store in the grubby shopping ’hood by the station that lurks in swanky Ginza’s shadow. This sprawling, gigantic store sells thousands of items that are not shipped overseas, from the flatpack house displayed in the lobby (price on application) to a range of silicon ice moulds (second picture) for cocktail customisation and even condoms.
It’s like a chic, monochrome riff on Ikea, twice the size of the other large Muji stores in Japan, and eight times the size of any European branch. Last time I was there, I grabbed some of those ice moulds (from £7.50), a few polished metal bowls (from around £6) and some nifty extension cords (around £3.50) and adapter plug compact enough to add to my travel essentials (£18).
I gorged in the food hall, filling bags with moreish, oddly-flavoured Japanese snacks, fragrant soft drinks and even single-serve wine, nattily packaged in glass tumblers with a yogurt-like foil lid (around £1.50). If only the flatpack house fitted into my suitcase, I’d have taken that, too. And believe me, every time I visit, I’m tempted to try.