Zori Making Workshop

Hello! It’s Melanie, Meri’s English advisor.

Merikoti, our shop in Sumida ward, holds a zori-making workshop the second and fourth Tuesday and Saturday of every month. During this workshop, one of our craftswomen helps participants make their very own pair of zori. They can choose the color and design of the zori they want to make, from a simple one-colored slipper to a multi-colored striped design. Of course, participants can also choose the strap they want as well! The workshop takes 2 to 3 hours to complete, depending on the intricacy.

Although the workshop is conducted in Japanese, the most recent workshop had some participants from overseas so I was invited to interpret. It was the first time for me and the instructor to work together, so I was a bit nervous. However, her instructions were very clear and easy to understand. It’s easier to make items by hand when you’re watching someone rather than listening to a verbal explanation, and the instructor made sure to show the what she was doing.

The participants from overseas this time were from Hong Kong. It was their first time to come to Tokyo, though they had been to Japan many times before. They said that when they come to Japan, they always try to find a workshop or activity to try. One of the previous activities they did was making udon noodles in Fukuoka.

The wooden apparatus with the inner rope is prepared for participants before they arrive. The instructor then wove a few practice lines before letting the participants try themselves. The key points were to keep the inner rope wide and making sure that the two slippers are the same width and length. 

Our guests expressed some frustration that they work they did wasn’t as cleanly woven as what we have for sale. However, this is to be expected, as the craftspeople that make our zori train for one year before they can make zori that is sold at our shop. Even our participants noticed an improvement between the first slipper they wove and the second.

The participants were thrilled with the final product! One decided to make simple black zori with a camouflage print strap, and the other made a cute tricolored pair.

If you’re ever in Tokyo and looking to try out a handcrafting workshop, be sure to make a reservation on our shop website for our zori making workshop!

Locally-made Quality

Hello! My name is Melanie, and I am a new shop staff and English advisor at Meri! Not many locally-owned shops have a strong presence on the English web, so I am writing this new blog series with the hopes that English speakers can learn more about this side of Japan.

Being from Canada, something that I am frequently surprised about is the number of items that are handmade on a small scale in Japan. When I imagine manufacturing, I picture large factories such as the Hershey’s chocolate factory that I toured several time in my youth. This massive factory was an hour outside of town and my only direct interaction with manufacturing when I was growing up. I was always happy to make the trip there because that meant buying chocolate from the discounted gift shop, but this experience also shaped my image of manufacturing – an assembly line with countless workers in a grey environment, constantly repeating the same task.

When I moved to Tokyo, noticed that many items that were made in Japan, and some items even claimed to be made in Tokyo. Where, I thought, could they possibly have the space do this? Certainly not anywhere in the 23 special wards, a space filled with businesses and living spaces.

I have been working in the Sumida area of Tokyo, one of the aforementioned 23 special wards, as an English language advisor at various companies for over three years. Sumida is known for its manufacturing tradition, and I have had the chance to see more small-scale manufacturing up close. Teams of under ten people work hard to produce goods that will be sold all over the country and overseas. It’s hard for these companies to compete with massive corporations, as they simply can’t lower their costs the way large-scale manufacturers can. However, thanks to the relatively low volume, the quality control is unrivaled.

This brings me back to Merikoti. The majority of the items sold are made in Japan, not only in Sumida but other localities around the country. The zori (Japanese-style slippers) are made at small factories all across the country, with one craftsperson only able to make two or three pairs a day. Each craftsperson undergoes training for about two years before they are able to make the zori without supervision.

If you come to Tokyo, don’t miss the chance to come to Sumida and take a walk around this small-scale manufacturing area. You are sure to see something special. Of course, don’t forget to stop by Merikoti as well!

il fiore アクセサリー展のお知らせ / Il Fiore Accessory Exhibit

この度、錦糸町就労支援センターの「ひだまり工房」と「両国分室fio 」が合同で展示販売会をいたします。今回のテーマは~il fiore~、イタリア語で「花」。両国にいろとりどりのアクセサリーがはなびらきます。一足早い春をお楽しみください。

2019年3月12日(火)~3月25日(月)

10:00~18:00 *会期中無休

3/13, 13, 15, 18, 19 11:00-11:45に両国分室fioのメンバーによるアクセサリーづくりの実演をいたします

Merikoti Gallery Il Fiore

A joint accessory exhibition between two workshops (Supported by Suminowa.)

During this event, the Labor Support Center’s Hidamari Workshop in Kinshicho and the Ryogoku Annex Fio will both have their works available for sale at Merikoti. The theme of the items on display is “il fiore”, which means flower in Italian. These Ryogoku-made accessories have a colorful flower motif. Stop by this event to celebrate spring early.

From Tuesday, March 12th to Monday, March 25th 2019

10:00 AM-6:00 PM

On March 13th, 14th, 15th, 18th and 19th from 11:00 AM-11:45 AM, a member of Ryogoku Annex Fio will be making accessories in shop.