A word of the year can be really useful but in recent years I found it quite stifling, stressful and a little bit annoying!
I found myself searching around for something that sounded good, that worked for my business and was always focused on growth. So I suddenly stopped choosing one. And for a while it felt great but also a little rudderless.
At the end of 2022 I was feeling sluggish, slow and unenergised (thanks Covid and the pandemic in general). So I decided, rather than wallow, I would do something about it. And that's where the word MOVE comes in.
So what does MOVE mean to me?
When you decide on your word of 2023, why not have a tag made by Erinn at Off on a Whim? She hand-stamps your word into metal charms for you to hang on your bag or key ring.
I'd love to know your word of the year. If you don't have one, feel free to borrow mine!
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Mottainai: The regret you feel when wasting something that still has life left in it.
The concept of Mottainai can be applied to forgotten things, unused spaces, used objects that are no longer needed and even people. All of which apply to me, my family and especially to my brand. Bikudesigns was founded on this very concept many years ago, not as a 'good idea for a business' but as a deeply ingrained philosophy of life that has been within me since birth. Actually, before I was born.
I'm descended from a long line of make-do-and-menders. Tripe dealers, silk weavers, shop owners, seamstresses and a milliner and the one thing they had in common was their working class roots and the necessity to get by any way they could. That would mean altering, adapting, making or crafting anything they needed with what they already had. I grew up with stories of long-dead family members who kept chickens in their inner city yards, who sewed their own wedding outfits, of cardboard wedding cakes and a world resembling an L.S.Lowry painting.
The generations lived (and fought) their way through world wars, bombings, rationing, austerity, fear of having nothing or losing it all. Even though my experience of growing up was vastly different to those long-gone days (no-one ever asked me to sweep the street, scrub the front step or do the laundry with a dolly and a mangle) the lived experiences of the family I had never met were built into me. Fix what is broken. Alter what doesn't fit. Make what you don't have.
And this, in a very round about way, takes us from the streets of Manchester and Salford to inner city Tokyo. The spirit of Mottainai travelled thousands of miles with me when I moved here, I suppose there's no escaping your values!
When my kids were little, I would make toys from bottle caps, reuse PET bottles to make investigation activities and even make them clothes from time to time. And when it came time to let things go, I sold, donated or gave away their old clothes, toys and baby ephemera. We had charity flea markets outside our house and around that time the 'Mottainai Box' was born.
It sounds much more glamourous than it really is...it's a box or crate with a handmade carboard sign (naturally!). And it works like magic. We gather bits and pieces from around the house that we no longer need but still have life in them and add them to the box in the genkan. When there are few things in there we pop it outside and invite our neighbours to shop the items for free. Lately it's taken an unexpected turn with family members shopping the box for different projects. See? Magic!
In the last month we've waved goodbye to:
👋 Wooden hangers
👋 Easter decorations
👋 A small jigsaw
👋 Gacha toys
👋 ¥100 shop toys
👋 Kids cap
Flowers from a neighbour's garden with a thank you note for the hangers they took
If you love reusing things, like me and the rest of my family, I recommend this amazing temple to used goods! This is the Book Off Super Bazaar and there are not very many in central Tokyo. Most are outside of Tokyo in Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama but they are definitely worth the travel! We headed to our closest one (an hour by train and free Book Off minibus) to kit the kids out with ski wear. We also picked up some other bits and bobs such as kimono fabric and hair ornaments.
The beauty of Book Off is that you can also sell your used items for store credit or cash. (Store credit is a much better deal.) This is such a great way to pass on your unwanted things with peace of mind make a few ¥¥¥ and teach your kids about saving the planet.
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A round-up of all my fave Christmas things. Do you agree? Leave a comment if you'd like to weigh in!
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After the sold out Instagram courses (season 1 and 2) Alex from Turquoise Port and I decided to set up a mailing list course to support small business owners. We had both unlocked the magic of the mailing list years before and were so happy to be sending weekly emails to our customers to stay in touch and in front of their eyes. The plan was to teach the class in a single day, in person in Tokyo with lunch and snacks in Alex's light-filled Tokyo Showroom.
But then, all of a sudden (and after selling some seats in the class already) Alex relocated to New Zealand. It took us a heartbeat to know that we wanted to continue our business partnership and have been meeting online every Monday since. We quickly pivoted the course we'd already started writing into a two week offering, purely online, with 6 self-paced video modules with tasks attached. And we also added two live calls in the mix. And because we like giving things away, we also created a private community for expat business owners that we are giving FREE for three months with the purchase of the course as well as bonuses.
We've now finished writing the course, have completed all the task sheets and are now ready to record next week. Wish us luck!
If you're interested in finding out more, tap the button below to take you to the course page.
We just can't wait to get started!
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Starting on December 1st 2022 I'll be sending you a sparkly offer every day in the 12 Days of Biku Christmas event.
So you know what's coming up, here's a run down of the offers and the when they're landing.
Each offer lasts for 24 hours so make sure to check my Instagram and Facebook Page as well as the VIP Club for reminders every day, or join the event for notifications.
Fa la la la la la la la laaaaaaaaa.
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It's been a busy 2022 at Overseas Makers Guild, the free community I set up in 2020. I've been so happy to support expat makers with their handmade businesses this year as well as provide a space to share our wins and woes every week in the Guild Zoom Room.
Our community is getting more and more active by the day and is growing bit by bit too. Thanks to everyone for being a part of this ride!
If you're interested in joining us, there's a button below to access our supportive and thriving community.
Enjoy this year's Overseas Makers Guild Gift Guide, click the links and show our makers some love on their socials.
katieSOcrafty specializes in custom sewn accessories made from kawaii Japanese prints and upcycled kimonos.
Hi I'm Victoria, the face behind the vintage kimono jewellery and accessories brand Bikudesigns.
I'm the organiser of the Biku & Co. Pop-up, a place for international makers/ artists to show their work in a small pop-up gallery space in Shimokitazawa. Tokyo.
I'm passionate about craft and even more passionate about supporting creatives in setting up and scaling their small businesses. The concept of this pop-up arose from my own need for spaces to show and sell my work as an international designer in Japan. If you can't find it, build it yourself!
Victoria’s one-of-a-kind vintage kimono jewellery and accessories will be popping up at the Biku & Co. pop-up 5-10th October 2022.
Christina Lopp is an artist, designer and teacher. Growing up in the Santa Cruz Mountains of central California, USA, nestled between beachy Santa Cruz and techy Silicon Valley, she has always had her feet in (at least) two worlds.
Christina moved to Tokyo with her two kids and husband the summer of 2017 and delights every day in the beautifully considered aesthetics, motifs and visual style in many traditional Japanese art forms. She has filled more than 25 watercolor journals with visual vignettes and stories of in her time living in Tokyo.
As a lifelong learner, and to learn more about the Japanese culture, Christina is also currently studying Japanese shodo, sumi-e, and mokuhanga — which helps her understand more about how art is made in Japan.
Christina has recently starting teaching art classes again after a long hiatus. She enjoys trips around Japan learning as much as she can about the culture, the arts, the food and the onsens (hot springs) of this beautiful country. She and her husband Andy have two children who attend middle and high school at The American School in Japan. And she still feels like she has her feet in (at least!) two worlds.
Christina’s sketchbooks and original art pieces will be popping up at the Biku & Co. pop-up 5-10th October 2022.
Since 2016, designer and founder Clémentine Sandner has been collecting pre-loved textiles from different regions of Japan and giving them a new life. She sources, designs, and transforms antique kimono and obi to create unique and functional bags.
Mikan - Japanese for Clémentine - was born from the desire to share this passion for both upcycling and Japanese textiles. With a degree in fashion design and experience as a Fashion design instructor at ESMOD Japon, Mikan offers various ways of enjoying her creation, including sewing workshops, DIY craft kits and custom orders. Mikan is based in Kyoto.
Clémentine’s beautiful obi bags will be popping up at the Biku & Co. pop-up 5-10th October 2022.
Find out more about our pop-up members here.
WHO WE ARE
Rachel Ferguson, author
Rachel is a Scottish writer who has lived in Tokyo since 2005. Other activities include the development of community spaces including shared apartments, offices and an English preschool. She is currently in the joyful throes of raising two preschoolers.
POMPETTE, illustration and design Pompette is a Japanese illustrator-designer duo bringing ideas and brands to life through illustration, design, storytelling, and content creation. Hiroko, born and raised in Hiroshima, studied design in Kyoto. She was a web director in Kyoto before she became a freelance illustrator. Yuko, born in Japan and raised in San Francisco, studied architecture in Kyoto then worked in graphic design and marketing in New York. She lived in a small village in France before she came back to Japan and teamed up with Hiroko to start Pompette.
A goodnight book for a good night.
My two-year-old daughter did not like going to bed. I tried everything I could think of to lure/lull/bribe her to sleep. Nothing worked. I was tired. It was past my bedtime by the time she slept. So, I tested many of the top-rated bedtime books. Most were fun or cute - or both - but they didn't help Grace fall asleep. Then I found a couple that, read multiple times in a soothing tone, relaxed her so much that eventually her little eyelids drooped and she nodded off peacefully. Hallelujah! I was so inspired by the power of these sacred texts that I decided to take the best elements of each and create my own story. The magic ingredient is an audio file: after you read to your little one, the story can be played on repeat while they drift off to sleep- leaving you with a little magic time to yourself
"Gugu and Penfin Sleep” is a beautiful bedtime experience, the result of my search for the perfect goodnight book:
Soft, soothing sounds
Charming illustrations with subtle humour
White space to calm the mind and allow little imaginations to blossom
A spoken-word lullaby to play while your little one drifts off to sleep
Gugu and Penfin is for:
Children who want a simple, delightful bedtime story
Parents & caregivers who love reading their kids a story ONE time (and are happy to let a soothing audio track do the rest)
People who would like to introduce English to their kids in a natural, easy, and enjoyable way.
Snuggled up in bed, Gugu and her plush toy, Penfin, explore outer space, ocean depths, treetops, and giant flowers before imagining their loved ones gathered together to wish them off to a peaceful sleep. Lovable characters, the theme of connection and a soothing audio accompaniment make the book universally comforting.
This article in The Weekender nicely summaries the journey to our creating the book
Rachel’s beautiful picture book will be popping up at the Biku & Co. pop-up 5-10th October 2022.
"Hi! I'm Vicky Kobayashi! Ice Flower Crochet is where I showcase my handcrafted crochet items for the home.
I'm originally from England, and have lived in Hokkaido, Japan for over thirty years. I love colour and texture, and bring that brightness and fun into my creations, such as blankets, washcloths and face scrubbies, amigurumi, hair accessories, hats and scarves.
For this event, I've created a garden of pumpkins, some realistic and some wild and magical! I hope you'll enjoy my interpretation of the season, and that my pumpkins will enhance your home decor."
Vicky’s fantastic pumpkins will be popping up at the Biku & Co. pop-up 5-10th October 2022.
Find out more about our pop-up members here.
"From Juju With Love is the result of my moving to Tokyo and my former job as a visual merchandiser at Chanel when I was in Paris.
This project is a mix of all I like: Search for objects and enhance them, create, put them together, match the colors, have fun, be amazed and travel. These wooden boxes are meant to embellish your everyday life. Easy to hang thanks to their lightness and to their adhesive back, they will find their new home very easily in your rooms or kid’s room, your kitchen or your living room !
I also customize Daruma and take pictures of my characters throughout Japan!"
Juliette’s pop culture dioramas and decoupage Daruma will be popping up at the Biku & Co. pop-up 5-10th October 2022.
Off on a Whim is the creative work of Erinn LaMattery who began her small business in 2011 as way to support her family doing something she loved. Originally from California, she settled in Japan in her youth and it is now where she calls home. Off on a Whim’s motto comes from the philosopher Rumi:
"Let the beauty you love be what you do.”
Natural stones and real materials are the base of her work, born out of a long love affair with the beautiful nature of stones and their strong connection to the world around. There is (almost) no stone she doesn’t love and it’s very hard to walk out of a stone shop without adding something new to her collection.
Her work is also very customer-led. From the beginning of Off on a Whim she worked closely with customers to design and build their dream pieces. 90% of the pieces at offonawhim.com began as a custom request and evolved into a final product. Communicating, designing, tweaking and completing a custom project brings so much satisfaction that every project is her new favorite.
She is 100% self-taught through online tutorials, YouTube, asking other jewelry artists and the good old ’try and see and try again!’ method. Maybe not the fastest way to learn a craft, it is definitely a rewarding way, that moment when it all comes together and looks just how it was imagined.
With 4 kids and 5 grand-kittens, life keeps her busy and every time she’s asked ‘what do you do in your free time?’ her response is ‘What is free time??’ But if she had more free time it would be spent baking, traveling, and studying programming.
Erinn’s beautiful jewellery will be popping up at the Biku & Co. pop-up 5-10th October 2022 just in time for some holiday shopping.
The northern environment of Hokkaido, as well as Canada, inspire our candles in both our botanical candles where Mami draws inspiration on our nature walks for the flowers she uses in our botanical candles. We also try to use essential oils blended together that reproduce the scents we are familiar with in Hokkaido, using essential oils such as cypress, pine, cedarwood, fir tree, etc. We like to think that using essential oils from natural trees is a sort of shinrin-yoku like experience.
When we first started our business we knew that we wanted to be an environmentally friendly and vegan business. We care deeply about our impact on the environment, and want to contribute to more sustainable business practices. We are also vegan and wanted to make sure our business lines up with these values. It's very important to us that we use entirely plastic-free packaging as well as soy wax. When we first started our business, soy candles were less popular in Japan as well as plastic-free packaging. We hope that we can introduce our customers to small steps towards environmentally friendly practices while also enjoying a product of high quality.
We also sell various candles including wooden wick candles, candles with refillable jars where you don't need to use a new jar and can opt to buy a wax only refill candle on our website. Lastly we sell many seasonal scents that are only available for set periods of time during specific times of the year. At this pop up event, we will be selling our seasonal Pumpkin Spice Candles as well!
Soy wax is very important to us as we wanted to use a wax that was both more environmentally friendly, as well as a natural/clean burning wax compared to the traditional paraffin (petroleum-based) candles popular in Japan. Although there are other waxes like Beeswax that are natural and clean burning, since we are both vegan the best option for us was soy wax. We feel that soy wax is the perfect candle wax for making clean, safe and natural products that are low impact on the environment and 100% vegan. Additionally, soy wax burns at a lower temperature than other candle waxes meaning you can use it for a longer period of time compared to similar-sized candles of other types of waxes.
Mami and Alex met in BC, Canada in 2016 while Alex was hitch hiking across Canada and Mami was backpacking on a working holiday visa. The two travelled around Canada and then Japan together for a time before Alex eventually moved to Japan in 2017. After getting married and while living in Tokyo, Mami started making candles and studying at various schools across the city leading up to our wedding. Mami made all of the candles for our wedding and gave them out as thank you gifts to our guests, which resulted in overwhelming support to start selling these candles. In December of 2018 North Candles was formed. We started by selling at markets across Tokyo before eventually moving back to Canada to sell candles there, and then one more final move back to Hokkaido to Mami's hometown in Tokachi where we opened our store in June 2022.
Alex and Mami’s beautiful candles will be popping up at the Biku & Co. pop-up 5-10th October 2022, just in time for Pumpkin Spice season.
Erica Ward is a California-born, Tokyo-based watercolor artist. She takes inspiration from Japanese design and often uses Japanese motifs in her work. By arranging everyday sights and objects in surreal ways within her artworks, Ward asks the viewer to consider the mundane daily objects in their surroundings as things of beauty and symbols of culture.
Erica's stunning work will be popping up in the form of original pieces as well as prints, postcards and stickers at the Biku & Co. pop-up 5-10th October 2022.
I'm Dominique from Three Houses Designs. The name of my business is derived from the kanji of my married name (三宅, 三 means "three" and 宅 means "house").
I'm originally from Nova Scotia, Canada but I have been living in Japan since 2004. In Japan I've lived in Tokushima, Chiba, Tokyo, and I now call Hiroshima home with my husband and three young children.
I learned hand embroidery from my mother when I was a child and I came back to it when my youngest was a baby. I put together my hobby of graphic design with my love for hand embroidery and started designing modern hand embroidery patterns and kits. Many of my designs combine traditional wagara patterns and Japanese motifs. I hope you enjoy stitching them as much as I enjoy designing them.
Dominique’s embroidery kits will be popping up at the Biku & Co. pop-up 5-10th October 2022.
"Hi, I'm Patricia, the one and only face behind Tabitabiya, a small shop madly in love with the timeless beauty of Japanese traditional motifs.
I've been living in Tokyo for over 20 years and became fascinated by all these wonderful things Japanese people have been making throughout the centuries recycling old kimono and obi sashes that could no longer be worn.I decided to follow in their footsteps, and I now create my own designs upcycling vintage kimono or obi sashes. I love giving a new life to these magnificent old fabrics nobody wants anymore. I hope you too will feel inspired by their breathtaking elegance."
Patricia's beautiful cushions will be popping up at the Biku & Co. pop-up 5-10th October 2022!
Welcome to the Biku & Co. Pop-up Shop.
I'll be popping up with my vintage kimono creations with 11 other makers from the length and breadth of Japan in a little pop-up gallery space in the heart of Shimokitazawa. I've got some amazing artists and makers on board, some who you may not be familiar with. I'll be introducing them over the next few days and showcasing their products right here on the blog.
I'm so passionate about handmade businesses and thought this would be a fabulous way to celebrate the diverse talents of international creatives in Japan. I've been looking for an opportunity like this for myself for years and couldn't find it anywhere. So, why not just build it myself?!
I'll be in the store every day from 5-10th October, with a workshop or two thrown in for good measure. Up-to-the-minute developments will be reported in the Facebook event where you can also find the map to the event, pop-up opening times, maker interviews and product unboxings!
I just can't wait to show you what I have lined up and welcome you into the shop to get a head start on your holiday shopping.
Find out more about the makers/ artists here.
Coming up this week, so many new colours and patterns of vintage kimono pendants in the large 4cm size.
Each kimono pendant is one-of-a-kind and made from personally-sourced kimono fabric (just imagine, each fabric treasure is discovered by me at antique fairs and vintage kimono shops). These pendants have been my best-sellers for YEARS and they just keep getting restocked. Why? They're comfortable, light-weight and so easy to wear that you might forget you're wearing one! Truly statement pieces without the neck pain and with a LOT of history.
There are few Neon Stitches pieces in stock this time around, with some brand new fabric gems included too. Feel free to message me for a matching pair of studs, French levers or dangles. Happy to take your custom order.
Here's what's launching....
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Summer in Japan is brutal. It can be anything from 32 degrees C up to 40 degrees C on any day and there is rain and extreme humidity and life gets pretty slow and sweaty.
But then there's also the festivals, the dancing, the taiko drums, the Matsuri food and the red lanterns bobbing in the hot evening breeze. It kind of makes up for it...
I've put together some Summer-inspired pieces from the Biku collections, pieces you can comfortably wear in the summer heat.
SHOP SUMMER-INSPIRED PIECES
If you're interested in hearing more about Bikudesigns, taking a peek behind the scenes at studio happenings, or having first dibs on new collections and restocks, hop on the mailing list to stay in touch.
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Most people think Bikudesigns is all about colourful and fun fashion jewellery and products based around retro Japan. They'd be right, but it's not all it is and it's definitely not what this brand started out as. There are so many evolutions, side-bars and seemingly (at the time) dead-ends.
THE EARLY EARLY DAYS
I'd always been obsessed with British charity shops (thrift stores) and the Elite dress agency in Manchester city centre, in particular. I bought most of my wardrobe from those two places in the 1980s and early 90s because I realised that I could buy better quality items for much less than the high street. Also, I loved having stuff that nobody else could find and I had zero guilt when adapting items of clothing.
At this time I was also searching for vintage mid-century beads to upcycle into fashion jewellery. I would trawl the charity shops, buy strings of 1950s glass and pearl beads, cut them up, wash them and then painstakingly sort them into bead trays before wire-wrapping them into new jewellery, even wedding headdresses. In this period I was selling my pieces in-person at school fairs and to friends and family. It was a small operation and was really pocket money to fund my vintage obsession.
The mottainai (the regret of waste) was deep within me back then, in fact, it had been there from being a small child. From unwrapping Christmas and birthday gifts with such care so I could reuse the paper for other projects, saving bows and ribbons, building models from recycled materials and never throwing away a greeting card or a box. (By the way, I haven’t changed one bit.)
HOW I ENDED UP IN JAPAN
Once I'd finished my degree (Human Studies- Philosophy and English) and then my teaching qualification I found myself in Japan working on the JET program. It was all a bit surprising how that happened.
I had no interest in Japan initially, and just went along to a JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) recruitment talk with my friend. The slideshow (yes, I'm old) captivated me and I applied on the spot. (She didn't, funnily enough...) I half expected not to get a place, but I was called to the Japanese embassy in London for an interview, still thinking there was no way I'd get in. But before I knew it, I had a visa and was having welcome drinks back at the embassy, ready to start my decades long relationship with Japan.
One year living in Saitama (a prefecture next to Tokyo) and 'real life' beckoned. I felt like I'd had my delayed gap year, with money in the bank to travel home and some savings to spare. Six months more travelling through SE Asia and South America and I was back on home turf.
It wasn't long before I got a teaching job and 'settled' into UK life. Only I wasn't settled at all. Far from it. Taking a night class in precious metal jewellery making was my only escape at that time and I desperately missed being in Japan. I missed the food, the weather, the excitement, but most of all the beauty I found everywhere I looked. Japan felt so inspiring to me, fascinating juxtapositions of the old and new, modern and traditional...so I set my sights on returning, but this time as a professional teacher.
BACK TO JAPAN
I was thrilled to get a position at an international school in Tokyo in 1998 where I stayed until my daughter was born in 2010. Throughout those years I studied 1:1 with a lovely Japanese jewellery designer in the old post-war 'dojunkai' buildings (which is now the swanky Omotesando Hills). Every Tuesday after work I would climb the grimy stairway to her studio, which was a 12 mat room with a kitchen area and bathroom, and sit with her and learn the Japanese way of jewellery. I did everything manually back then. Filing, polishing, chasing...casting came right at the end of my studies with her, almost as if cast jewellery was cheating.
Wanting to take my jewellery skills further in the classical/ ancient and commercial techniques, I took summer schools in New York for three summers (Jewelry Arts Institute and Studio Jewelers) and was an Artist in Residence in Sydney, Australia.
BIKUDESIGNS IS LAUNCHED
In around 2008, the first iteration of Bikudesigns was born...as a contemporary silver jewellery brand. Modern shapes, textures and mostly using silver and some stones with the occasional pop of gold. It was precious metals and semi-precious stones that powered the Biku brand back then. Wire-wrapped gems, stamped metal, matte and oxidised finishes. Bold rings and delicate necklaces were the order of the day with a slight nod to the Japanese aesthetic of simplicity and evocative of the natural landscape of Japan.
Looking back this was a frustrating time. I had the knowledge, the skills, the finances, the studio and equipment to make what I wanted. The sketchbooks were filled with ideas of full collections, but I didn't have much time or understanding of the practical side of marketing a business. It was a 'field of dreams' business at that time; if I make it, they will come. But they didn't really come. Not online anyway.
TAKING A BREAK FROM JEWELLERY
In 2005 I started Ikebana lessons, and ended up as an Ikebana teacher by 2010.
Between 2010 and 2012 was a period I now call the ‘mum blur years’. Jewellery was put on the back burner as the noxious fumes, noise and dust are not good to have around babies. I craved something creative to do that would fit around the kids. At this time I taught ikebana and set up The Craft Space, a monthly pop-up craft event where I would teach craft skills with wine. It was like a night out for me, even though it was still work.
The vintage kimono experiments began during this time, mostly kimono combined with resin. Bikudesigns was relaunched (very softly) as a vintage kimono fashion jewellery brand and by 2016, when my youngest went to nursery, it became my full-time job.
THE NEXT STAGE
I’m now back at the silver jewellery bench! The tools have been organised, the desk polished and I’ve now added a new material to the business; precious metal clay. I’m combining metal clay techniques to bring textural elements to my work, and combining them with the fabrication techniques I used before.
My new collection is based around a small Sakura branch that survived the triple disaster of 2011 (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown). The little tree’s endurance and resilience felt so poignant to me at the time and still does today, so much so that I wanted to capture its essence during different seasons over the course of a year. What you see today in the Sakura collection is a tiny snapshot of Spring, Summer and Autumn/Winter as displayed by the tree.
I’m not sure what the future of Biku is. Will it be stepping more into silver, combining silver and kimono, teaching more small business classes or jewellery workshops or all of the above?
It feels like everything in my current business combines everything I did before this point. It’s as if all the avenues I chose to take have been leading up to this destination. What didn’t make sense back then, now feels like it was meant to be.
1980s: Fashion jewellery made from recycled mid-century beads and other vintage materials (side business)
1990s/ Early 2000s: Training in precious metal jewellery in UK, USA and Japan
2008: Bikudesigns launched as a contemporary silver brand on Etsy (side business)
2005-10: Trained as Sogetsu ikebana teacher (Japanese flower arranging)
2010-2014- Motherhood blur! Teaching ikebana.
2014-15: Experiments in kimono began.
Kimono jewellery line soft launch (side business) The Craft Space workshops.
2016: Bikudesigns becomes a full-time business
2019: Small business workshops launched.
2020: Overseas Makers Guild is launched.
2022: Return to precious metals.
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I was expecting Zoshigaya to be bustling, if not completely rammed, on the Thursday of Golden Week. But it was quiet, relaxing and a surprisingly green oasis away from the busyness of Ikebukuro (which is apparently the second most busy station in the world after Shinjuku). Life in this area somehow feels a little slower compared to my bustling town of Shimokitazawa.
Zoshigaya is not a place I'd ever been to before. I actually had no idea that it was even there, although I do vaguely remember hearing about it from creative friends. I was expecting yet another concreted area of the city with generic buildings and chain stores, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Retro vibes abound, sympathetic renovations of gorgeously historical buildings, no clearing the way for modernism in this small neighbourhood. Thank goodness.
If you’re coming from Ikebukuro, Zoshigaya is around a 10-15 minute walk from Ikebukuro central on the Yamanote/ Saikyo/ Fukutoshin/ Morunouchi lines or a 3 minute walk from Zoshigaya Station (Fukutoshin Line).
I recommend getting off at Zoshigaya on the Fukutoshin line (around 20 mins from Shibuya) Exit 3. Take a left out of the station, cross over the train line on your right and walk a little ahead. To the right you’ll see a Zelkova-lined avenue (around 3 minutes from the station).
I wandered through this shady road and stopped for a delicious iced coffee at Kiazuma Coffee, a beautifully rustic, renovated Japanese shop house with the cutest second floor accessed up a ladder-esque set of stairs. The speciality beans are ground as your coffee is ordered. It doesn’t get fresher, or tastier.
The main reason for visiting Zoshigaya was to meet up with Ken Tanaka (@kenfrog), a Fukuoka-born artist, who was exhibiting in Kiazuma coffee shop.
Ken’s circular works on canvas are mesmerising and are all hand-drawn in pen without a plan. I love the idea of meditative drawing and Ken is such an interesting artist I really wanted to meet him in person. The canvas I was hoping to buy had already been sold, so I commissioned one for my birthday gift (which I can’t wait to receive).
If you're a flower lover in Tokyo, head to Hanegi Koen mid-late February to view the more than 650 'Ume' trees in bloom. The scent is incredible and if you're lucky, you'll be able to catch the bustling Plum Festival with food, drinks and plants for sale. Unfortunately, this has been cancelled in recent years due to Covid-19, but hopefully it will return soon.
The plum grove is located on a small hillside on the Umegaoka side of the park. To be honest, we only go to that side of the park in Spring to see the blossoms, the rest of the year the kids are playing in the mud park and maze on the opposite side. This park is a firm family favourite with lots to do for the kids, food trucks at the weekend and a small shop selling icecreams, sweets, park equipment and coffee.
If you're into walking, walk from Shimokitazawa central to Shin Daita station via the new developments Tefu and Bonus Track, then along to Umegaoka Station. The walk takes around 30 minutes. On the way back, why not pop into Shirohige's Cream Puff Factory and munch on a Tottoro cream puff?
Umegaoka Station, Odakyu Line: 13 mins from Shinjuku
Higashi Matsubara Station, Inokashira Line: 8 mins from Shibuya
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I'm Victoria, the founder, designer and creator at Bikudesigns, a vintage kimono accessories brand in Tokyo, Japan.