“Welcome to Muji!”
It must have felt really good for Toru Akita to say those words. As president of Muji Canada, Akita has been at the helm of the Japanese brand’s expansion into the Great White North. And while there are already four locations in the Greater Toronto Area, this—Metrotown—is Western Canada’s first. Every time a new store opened in Ontario, it upset Muji’s passionate B.C. fans. But now, the wait is over. “I’m sorry it took so long,” Akita said with a large smile.
At a private preview of the 7,770 square-foot store, which officially opened on Aug. 26, 2017, Akita was joined by Consul General of Japan Asako Okai, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, Muji parent company Ryohin Keikaku president Satoru Matsuzaki, and British Columbia Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology Bruce Ralston. Featuring a Japanese calligraphy performance and a traditional sake barrel opening ceremony, the party was clearly a jovial affair for all involved.
As passersby took photos from outside the roped-off store—because yes, Muji’s appeal is that huge—Mayor Corrigan addressed the room, crediting the City of Burnaby’s multicultural population as part of the reason it makes an ideal host for international brands. “It is special to make this relationship with a Japanese company right here in our city,” he said. “The reason Burnaby is such a great place for Muji is that 51 per cent of people who live here weren’t born in Canada.”
Known as the purveyor of minimalist, simple, everyday items, Muji—founded in 1980—has developed a cult-like following of dedicated customers around the world. Offering everything from wall clocks and notebooks to baby clothes, dishware, and even bedding, the company prides itself on modestly-designed products with essentially zero branding. The Metrotown opening follows a Muji pop-up that took place at the Fairmont Pacific Rim and surprised even the company’s executives with its popularity. The power of Muji knows no bounds, it seems—at least, among millennials. Older generations might just be learning about Muji for the first time, but they will likely understand its appeal before long. “I’m told I should look for pens,” Minister Ralston said to much laughter, adding that his young staff members had never been more jealous of him than when he told them he was attending this store preview. But now Muji Metrotown is officially launched, so the masses—who lined up on opening day—can wander in and find a smorgasbord of products for office, closet, kitchen, washroom, and bedroom. A bit of everything, designed for function and executed with ease: that’s the Muji way.