Our shop, Merikoti, was featured in the April
2019 edition of JAL’s multilingual inflight magazine, Skyward! We were selected
as a specialty shop in Tokyo that visitors must check out. The difference
between zori slippers and regular slippers is also carefully explained in this
article. The article is written in Chinese and English. If you find yourself on
a JAL flight, check out the article!
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.
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
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!
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
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.
It’s common knowledge that Japanese people don’t wear shoes indoors. However, that doesn’t mean that they go barefoot!
Zori are often called “Japanese-style sandals”. There are zori for outdoor use, but the ones Meri makes are exclusively for the indoors. They are all handmade by expert craftsmen, and it takes even the pros around 3 hours to make one pair!
Even though they are handmade, they are durable and can be machine washed.