Translated by Ken
Japan's Largest Umbrella Store! Waterfront Jiyugaoka For Rainy Days
Written by MATCHA
Waterfront Jiyugaoka, previously known as COOL MAGIC SHU'S, is a store in Tokyo specializing in high-quality umbrellas and rainwear. Be astounded by the colors and patterns of these durable, fashionable umbrellas, and get ready for rainy days.
Waterfront Jiyugaoka - Prepare for Rainy Days in Japan
Are you ready for tsuyu––Japan's rainy season that occurs annually in June?
Waterfront Jiyugaoka, previously known as Cool Magic SHU'S, is an umbrella store selling eye-catching rainwear in Tokyo's chic neighborhood of Jiyugaoka. Carrying over 10,000 umbrellas of 500 different styles, the store is like an art museum for umbrellas.
Reportedly the largest umbrella store in Japan, customers often stop by on their way home from work or a day of shopping. We interviewed Ms. Yonezawa of Waterfront.
Japan's Largest Umbrella Store
The first floor features a colorful display of umbrellas. Picture courtesy of Waterfront Jiyugaoka
---Being the largest umbrella store in Japan, you're receiving a lot of attention.
Yonezawa: Ever since we opened in 2014, we've had a host of customers come to our store, on both sunny and rainy days. The design is meant to resemble a showcase, and we are confident no other store in Japan carries as many variations of umbrellas as we do.
The Five Star foldable umbrella. Picture courtesy of Waterfront Jiyugaoka
---What is your bestselling product?
Our most popular item is the Five Star (1,000 yen). It's only 2.8 centimeters in diameter when folded, the Five Star is an extremely thin foldable umbrella.
It effortlessly folds up neatly, and we have patented a number of manufacturing methods to make this possible. Light but durable, long-lasting without rusting, and made to block UV radiation, this umbrella can be used in rainy and sunny weather. Since it can fit inside any bag, it is popular among all demographics.
Another popular item is our Pocket Flat series. Even thinner than the Five Star, these umbrellas are designed for suit pockets.
The Pocket Flat can be stored in a suit pocket. Picture courtesy of Waterfront Jiyugaoka
---What is the price range on these umbrellas?
Our most affordable product is only 700 yen, but most cost 1,000 yen. We also have specialized umbrellas such as the Banker's Umbrella, which lowers the apparent temperature by two to three degrees, the Cane Umbrella with a built-in cane, and the Regional Umbrellas made for different climates. These can be harder to manufacture and can cost upwards of 5,000 yen. However, our core lineup of umbrellas is at the 1,000 yen price-point.
Each Umbrella is Made by Hand
---That's very affordable! I had the impression that umbrellas were expensive. Do you cut costs in manufacturing or shipping?
We have the highest production rate as an umbrella manufacturer in Japan, and this gives us an advantage in the production scale. That being said, contrary to the common perception of mass production in factories, our umbrellas are made by hand by our craftsmen. If a seam is off even by a millimeter, or if its too tight or too loose, the umbrella won't work properly.
---You really make your umbrellas by hand!?
Yes, they are all handmade. At our company, we have several thousand craftsmen working each day. Some are tasked with sewing large cloths, some with dividing the cloth into smaller pieces, and others with making the many small components that most people don't even know go into an umbrella. It's hard to keep count of how many steps go into the manufacturing process. A great deal of time and energy is spent by our craftsmen to make just one umbrella.
Japanese Umbrella Designs Popular Among with All
---Are the umbrellas with traditional Japanese designs also handmade? They look different from other umbrellas.
Yes, these are 24-rib umbrellas, which have three times the number of ribs in a frame compared to a regular umbrella. More ribs yield greater stability against strong winds and increase the umbrella's durability.
Instead of the standard steel frame, our 24-rib umbrellas use fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP), which allows the frame to bend to avoid the force of incoming winds. On top of that, these umbrellas are light, can't rust, and create silhouettes that are almost perfect circles. These popular umbrellas are also 1,000 yen.
This is another unique feature of these umbrellas. When the umbrella is wet with rain, you will see a sakura pattern emerge. Visible from the inside, as well, it is a fun effect to brighten your day when it's raining. You may even look forward to rain so you can see the pattern. It is popular with customers from all across the globe.
---That's beautiful! I can see why the Japanese designs are so popular.
We have customers from all over the world. Not just our Japanese design umbrellas, but our foldable umbrellas I mentioned earlier also sell very well. We even have people purchase by the box!
---A whole box!
Yes. The concept of a foldable umbrella is not as common worldwide. In addition to Japanese patterns, we also carry umbrellas with handles shaped like animals and umbrellas printed with character designs. Our umbrellas are reasonably priced, so we think they are great for gifts.
How Do I Choose?
---There are so many amazing umbrellas at your store, it's impossible to cover them all. Can you offer some tips on how to decide on one to purchase?
Certain colors and patterns fluctuate in popularity. For example, warmer colors don't sell as well during the summer. However, because an umbrella is a necessary item year-round in Japan, trends don't have a huge effect on sales.
More importantly, Japan experiences four seasons throughout the year. This means that the same pink color will have a different aesthetic taste depending on the time of year. Our lineup changes with each season, so in a way, the umbrellas you see at our store are one-time findings. Instead of looking for something trendy, we suggest finding an umbrella that speaks to you. That's our hope when designing our products.
---I think I can better enjoy rainy days now. Ms. Yonezawa, thank you for taking the time today. Oh, after this interview, can I pick out an umbrella for myself?
The store is located right next to Jiyugaoaka Station on the Tokyu Toyoko and Tokyu Oimachi lines. Even today, it stands to add color into our gloomy, rainy days.