This stylish chain of stores has seen branches popping up all over China and boasts “Japanese brands” and “100% Japanese quality” all for the reasonable price of 10 yuan (US$1.60). It’s called “Meiso” in its native language of Japanese where it is said to have found major success… which is interesting because there doesn’t seem to be a single Meiso outlet in the whole country of Japan.

Well, actually that’s not completely true. Much like how the spirit of Santa Claus lives in every child’s heart, the spirit of Meiso can be found in three of Japan’s largest retailers – Uniqlo, Mujirushi Ryohin, and Daiso – in it’s eerily similar design to all three. And that’s just the tip of the weirdness iceberg.

Much of this information comes via a Japanese Twitter user living in China who has become simply enthralled by everything that Meiso is. First the brand’s logo should be instantly recognizable to people living in Japan and even to some in other countries.

Then there’s the name which you are already probably scratching your head about. In Japanese it’s written as Meiso but in English it’s called Miniso. Some people in Japan might say that the name in Chinese characters (名創優品) is similar to those used by Mujirushi (無印良品). The top part of the image below was taken straight from the Meiso website.

Then there’s the name of Meiso which is eerily similar to that of Daiso, a popular Japanese discount chain.

Inside the Meiso shops we can find shelves lined with “authentic Japanese merchandise” using not so authentic Japanese labeling.

For example, Kurenjingu Zao (face soap which uses the Japanese katakana word for “cleansing” followed by a Chinese character for soap that isn’t used in Japanese.)

Skin lotion that “whitens cooking ingredients”

Sorry fellas! This laundry detergent is to be used only by women and babies.

And then there’s a famous Japanese Samspelt which can also be found at IKEA.

Image: IKEA

And the hit Japanese beverages Kokozo and Kato.

All throughout the store is a looping commercial featuring Japanese dance sensations World Order. We’re not sure if they’re aware they appear in it though.

Yes with all this authentic Japanese merchandise and quality it’s no wonder they have over “3,000 stores worldwide.”

Let’s do a Google map search using the English name Miniso.

Looks impressive but most of those red dots are actually dealers and renters of the automobile Mini.

Luckily on the back of the pack of kurenjingu zao is the address to Meiso’s Japanese head office: 4-2-8 Jinja Mae, Shibuya. Google mapping the address takes us to the nearest match, some Italian restaurant in Setagaya Ward.

A twitter user went by the headquarters’ postal code also written on the soap and found the location of an Apple Store under construction. So it looks like those geniuses are in for angry letters written in Chinese from people who cooked with their skin treatment.

The man behind Meiso is none other than Miyake Junya touted on his website as “the global wave of life consumer goods excellent initiator.” Their website gives a detailed background of Mr. Junya who started his brand in “Tokyo, Janpan.”

I tried to find other information on this international retail mogul but only came up with this facebook page.

So how do you think netizens in Japan feel about this blatant coopting of their national retail image? They love it of course! Everyone is getting a kick out of the broken Japanese that can be found throughout the Meiso website. English speakers shan’t be left out either as the Miniso website has plenty of cutely awkward phrasings from this multinational corporation. Just read the first two sentences of their online magazine.

Those looking to start their own chain of stores ought to look to Meiso’s strategy as it appears to be working. Within a year the store seems to already have become something of a household name around China. The website also claims that they intend to set up 300 stores across China by the end of 2014.

As for why the store has two (possibly three) names… Well, that remains a mystery of the modern era.

Source: Meiso/ Miniso (Chinese, English, Japanese or variations thereof) via Hachima Kiko, Naver Matome, Kini Soku (Japanese, also at times questionable)
Images: Twitter
Uniqlo Image: U Note