Since my first purchase of MUJI pens back in 2013, I’ve personally witnessed an exponential increase in the number of people carrying around the signature MUJI clear-bodied gel pens in class. While many of you probably have also been introduced to this brand’s signature stationery, there is actually a lot more to MUJI than meets the eye.
The kanji characters in the MUJI logo, 無印良品, directly translate to “No Brand Quality Goods.” According to their website, the company actually originated when the country of Japan started to receive more influence from foreign, luxury brands back in the 1980s. At the same time, there was an increase in low-quality, cheap products. The founders of MUJI aimed to regain the middle ground between these polar opposite consumer trends by creating a brand that was “just enough.” They sought to create useful and high-quality products—without all the excess decorations.
So what makes MUJI so popular today? Take their black gel pens for an example. With a lightweight body, minimalistic design, consistent ink flow, and precise tip, any customer is bound to fall in love. Did I mention that a MUJI pen costs about half the price of a similar-quality Pilot or Pentel pen? You can get your very own MUJI pen for $1.50! And that pen will probably last you pretty long.
Let’s not forget about all the other products that MUJI sells though. After all, MUJI is a lifestyle brand, meaning that it sells just about everything. Clothing, organizers, bean bags, aroma diffusers/humidifiers, utensils, makeup, food, etc. are just a few of the things that MUJI sells worldwide. All of these products have the same iconic muted colors with minimalist brand stickers (or no marked brand at all, like their clothing).
Visiting an actual MUJI store is another story. The moment you walk in, you are hit with the calming aroma of rosemary, lemongrass, and yuzu, spread by a number of MUJI aroma diffusers scattered around the store. You can choose to take a break and sit in one of their plush bean bags, and then continue browsing through the large selection of items on display. There are so many things to look at and try out that you’ll probably end up spending a lot more time wandering around the store than you would imagine.
MUJI is not only a lifestyle brand but also a representation of a larger philosophy. David Aker, of the brand and marketing consultancy company Prophet, describes MUJI as a symbol of “simplicity, moderation, humility, and self-restraint.” Avid users of MUJI products generally hope to gain the most out of the least, by using products that deliver their function with efficiency and nothing more.
I will end off this article with a few of my own recommendations (considering price and usefulness). First and foremost, the MUJI pens are a life changer and I literally swear by them—you’ll understand what I mean if you try them for yourself. All of the MUJI cotton products (cotton buds, cotton pads, hand towels, socks) are also very popular, because of how absorbent and soft they are. Lastly, containers and storage/organizers from MUJI are much sturdier and more functional than many formal container brands, and they are also more aesthetically pleasing. I have many friends who have been using MUJI plastic storage drawers for more than 7 years and the plastic still looks like new.
Fun fact: The newest MUJI store in Tokyo not only sells groceries, but also sells tiny houses (shown below). I would get one of those in a heartbeat, instead of fronting the cost of a Collegetown apartment!