Artist Noriyuki Ikeda 350x75

My Early Year

During my school years I wanted to be a footballer. I then studied law at University having been inspired by the film Gandhi and his heroic endeavours to fight for the rights of the weak in court. However, ultimately neither of these career paths were meant to be.

The one thing I was sure of throughout however was that I wanted a career that was about more than simply making a profit. I realised that making people happy whilst also feeling happy myself, were the most important career criteria.

My Love of Kimono is Born

After University as I struggled to find my path, I began to increasingly believe in fate and that the meaning for my life would become clear to me eventually. This happened (although I did not realise it at the time) when I was hired by an old school friend to work in his small kimono shop.

I immersed myself in books about Japan, Japan-ness and all things kimono. Not only did I learn all of the practical details required for the job, I also started to develop my own philosophy based on “wa no kokoro”, the spirit of Japanese harmony. This is harmony between people and nature, and is necessary for people to coexist with nature.

I pledged to myself that I would contribute to peace in the world by spreading the importance of the harmonious connection between all things human and natural through selling kimono. I identified the higher meaning behind working in a kimono shop.

Branching Out On My Own

I worked for that kimono shop for 10 years, helped them open four new branches and progressed to Head of Retail. When I proposed the location for the next branch the owner said, “we’re doing well and this is more than enough, so we won’t expand anymore. If you want to go further, do it yourself”. So I did. I was 43.

In August 2005, I named my store “Wasoukan (和想館) which translates to a place where you can think of and spread “wa” – Japan-ness. In addition to selling kimono, we also hold:

  • In-store “kitsuke” lessons to teach people how to wear kimono
  • Monthly “kimono de odekake” day trips for guests to wear kimono in society
  • Regular talks on Japanese culture, “wa” and my insights into how to have a happy life
  • Japanese tea ceremonies (I have gained instructor level)

 

I also answer questions about kimono on two radio talk shows and have contributed over 100 columns on kimono in Japan.

Looking Outside of Japan

In autumn 2013 I visited London and Paris with the objective of scoping out European opinion of Japan and kimono. I found that interest in both were higher than I expected, especially in London. This is when I decided to open a branch in Europe.

In January 2016, we established “Wasoukan Europe Ltd” in the UK, and opened our first store, “Wasoukan” in Notting Hill.

"Did I always want to be a kimono retailer with four stores in Japan and now one in London? The honest answer is no, but fate intervened…"

What is next for Wasoukan?

We want to establish branches of Wasoukan in more countries and use these to contribute to a kinder and more peaceful world.

Japanese tea ceremony performed by Noriyuki Ikeda