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Meet the Innocent Aesthetics and Spirit of “Mingei”, Japanese Folk Art in Tokyo

Meet the Innocent Aesthetics and Spirit of “Mingei”, Japanese Folk Art in Tokyo

One of the most popular Japanese retail companies in the world is MUJI (Mujirushi Ryohin).
They sell a wide variety of household and consumer goods with minimalist design and reasonable prices.

MUJI’s brand philosophy is ‘No Brand (Mujirushi 無印 ) Quality Goods (ryohin 良品)’,

MUJI stores now in all over the world.

Even if world-famous product designers such as Jasper Morrison, Konstantin Grcic, or Naoto Fukasawa designed MUJI’s products, they never divulge the name of the designer on the products, keeping the philosophy of the brand “Muji”.

Muji products are simple in design. Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash
This corporate aesthetic is often pointed to as having something in common with the “Mingei”, a unique Japanese art movement.

The concept of “Mingei” (often translated as “folk art”) was developed in the mid-1920s by the Japanese philosopher Soetsu Yanagi.

He believed that beauty resides in practical handicrafts made for the common people not luxury goods.

A timeless and long-loved daily necessity.
Mingei products are always anonymous, therefore, the prices are affordable like Muji. They are never made with artistic intent foremost in mind, they have to be practical, sturdy, and long-lasting.
Tamba is considered one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan.

It used to be thought that there was no beauty in the mundane things that were used every day by common people, but the movement of Yanagi and others brought the beauty of common things into the limelight. Now there are stores all over Japan that specialize in selling Mingei works and museums that exhibit only Mingei.

KURASHIKI MINGEIKAN is the second folk crafts museum in Japan.

It is no surprise that Naoto Fukasawa, who was involved in many of MUJI’s product development projects was appointed as the director of Nihon Mingei Kan (The Japan Folk Crafts Museum) in Tokyo, the first and most respected of the many Mingei museums in Japan.

NIHON MINGEIKAN is the first folk crafts museum in Japan.
The museum is unique in that there are no explanations of the works on display. Instead, the museum has the philosophy that “you don’t need to read explanations, but rather see with your own eyes and feel with your heart.”

If you want to experience Mingei in Tokyo, I recommend the following trip.

First, visit the Nihon Mingei Kan (The Japan Folk Crafts Museum) in Tokyo, mentioned above. Next visit the excellent craft shop, Beniya Mingeiten, a 10-minute walk from the museum who have a great selection of Mingei products.

If you want an even larger store,  visit Bingo-ya Mingeiten in Shinjuku, a large store filled floor to ceiling with Mingei products from the basement to the fourth floor.
Mingei has recently become popular among young Japanese people who line up at cool apparel brand shops to get their hands on the best products.
A Stylish store SML is also not far from NIHON MINGEI KAN.
Mingei matches well with all kinds of food, whether Western, Japanese or Chinese, so why not get your hands on some too?
For western food.
For Chinese food.
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