Nothing like a good pair of socks to remind us that some people are blessed with artistic talent and others, well, aren’t.

There’s only one Muji (short for Mujirushi Ryohin) store location in all of Japan at the moment where you can design your own socks. It’s found within the Kinshicho Parco department store in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward and can’t be missed if you take the south exit out of JR Kinshicho Station. Our Japanese-language reporter Shawn was intrigued by the prospect of designing a pair of socks with the SoraNews24 rocket logo on them, and so on a recent day he decided to check it out for himself. If all went well, the socks would make a lovely present for the editorial team, and just in time for the holiday season to boot.

▼ This location only opened in March 2019 so it’s still brand new.

Taking up the entire fourth floor of the building and complete with an on-site cafe area, this Muji location is also touted as the largest Muji in the eastern half of Japan. Shawn was floored by its sheer size and spent some time wandering around the interior. After a while, an unusual station caught his eye–he had finally found the “Sock Studio.”

The studio was enclosed by clear glass walls from the rest of the store. In the very center of the space stood a somewhat ominous-looking machine with plenty of pincer-like contraptions. Upon closer inspection it revealed itself to be a knitting machine for making socks!

▼ Not that Shawn had expected the socks to be knitted by hand, but how often to you see a sock machine in daily life?!

He looked around for instructions and began to digest the sock-making details. The base sock that would be produced was a pair of Muji’s standard gray right-angled socks. Possible sizes were grouped into three main categories: children’s starting from 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) and up, women’s from 21 centimeters and up, and men’s from 25 centimeters and up. A design of his own creation could use up to six different colors–white, black, red, blue, green, and yellow.

▼ The six different design colors are boxed on the right

Furthermore, one pair of plain socks made using the machine cost 400 yen (US$3.68) while socks with a custom design cost 600 yen. Of course Shawn was ready to customize his own pair!

After reserving a time slot with the front desk, he headed over to the Surface tablet with Photon software installed…

…and pumped himself up for a little art time.

By the way, Shawn wants readers to be aware that you can’t bring any pre-loaded images or data into the store–your design has to be 100-percent created on the store’s tablet during your visit.

Now it was about time to get serious. He could choose between either the mouse or a special stylus pen for his craft, and he grabbed the latter. Actually, he had never used a stylus for anything before. Luckily there was a handy user guide at the desk as well as a shop worker on hand. As he leaned over to get to work, he recalled the countless hours he’d spent doodling in Mario Paint back in the day. This task was bound to be a piece of cake…right?

Another thing to note is that the shop allows you to work on the design for one pair of socks for a maximum of 30 minutes to ensure that everyone gets a fair turn. Shawn thought that time limit would be no problem at all as he set the timer. Ready or not, the 30-minute design challenge had commenced!

As mentioned, his goal this time was to create a pair of socks featuring our site logo–a rocket ship blasting off into space.

Now, Shawn wasn’t hoping to create a masterpiece or anything–just a small version of the rocket logo as a focal point on the socks. It didn’t seem like anything overly ambitious…right?

▼ The finished product in Shawn’s mind

He started off by drawing the tip of the rocket…

…and then moved on to the body…

…finally adding the fins at the tail end:

Ready for a moment of reflection, he stepped back to check his progress.

“What the heck is this? It doesn’t look like a rocket at all!”

This is where Shawn wants to insert a huge caveat to anyone who’s lacking in the artistic department. He actually felt like his heart was going to break as he looked at his crappy rocket. It was as if all of his previous life drawing experiences were voided. Would he even be able to finish at this rate, or would he get cold feet?! Pien

▼ Truly tragic

So what had gone wrong? Comparing the original logo and his abomination, he decided that the best way to salvage the design would be to color in the rocket’s head so that it was fully red.

However, now all he could see was a rocket dripping in blood. He lamented again his lack of talent and seriously considered just giving up at that point.

The timer said there was just under five minutes left. If he were going to push onwards, there was no time to waste! He determined to try to save the design to the furthest extent possible.

But it was ultimately all in vain. No matter what he did, he still couldn’t see anything but blood dripping down the rocket…

At this point Shawn desperately wondered if there was any way to extend his time, but promptly lost heart when the attendant came over to announce that his time was up. He was almost too embarrassed to even let him see the screen.

And so it came to be that Shawn’s rocket failure was added to the line of socks produced by Muji. He was told that it usually took the store about two weeks to fulfill an order, but as he had stopped by during a particularly busy period when the machine was also having some troubles, it would take about three weeks until his creation was ready to be picked up.

Let’s fast-forward a bit until that day actually arrived. His excitement was rekindled just a little bit when he got the pick-up message. Bag finally in hand, his anticipation was now gnawing at him…!

They were totally different from his mental image. Most notably, the rocket was placed much lower than he had anticipated.

▼ Left: reality Right: Ideal

In his mental image, the rocket logo was much higher and closer to the hemline. In the finished product it was closer to the heel and also much, much bigger than expected.

▼ There had been a way to adjust the design’s size on the tablet but apparently he hadn’t done it correctly.

As a note to future Muji sock designers, Shawn cautions that if you’re trying to create a design with one simple image, it should be small and clustered within the upper-right portion of the tablet screen, like this:

He had learned all of this from the shop attendant and also read about it in the user guide, but for whatever reason he had drawn his rocket in the completely wrong location. He also recalled how the attendant had clearly told him to draw it small, which would be difficult by nature. In any case, if there’s anyone out there who wants to try, please consult the attendant first with ideas about your design before plunging ahead. If Shawn had done that, the finished design would have probably been much closer to his ideal.

In the end Shawn’s socks were a creative flop. Thinking he could at least salvage some last remnants of pride and have somebody laugh with him, he attempted to disparage his own creation with the attendant:

Shawn: “I really messed up big this time…I’ve created a monster.” 

Attendant: “Not at all! They’re wonderful.”

OK, this was WAY worse than if he had just admitted the artistic disaster. Shawn felt on the verge of tears but continued to converse:

Shawn: “…Are you sure about that?”

Attendant: “Other customers have created free, flashy, and fun designs as well. They’re you’re very own socks after all!”

Sure enough, the display case next to the Sock Studio featured some very whimsical patterns. Shawn felt slightly consoled by seeing the kinds of artistic liberties that others before him had taken. “Yes, socks can be anything I want them to be,” he thought. “Also, I’m the only one in the world who has this exact pair of socks!”

Was that fuzzy feeling a slight bubbling of pride in himself?

He was finally consoled by actually putting his pair on and stretching his toes in Muji’s comfy material.

▼ They do make a statement, at least.

Sorry, SoraNews24 editorial team–looks like there will be no mass production of sock gifts for you this time.

On a final note to interested parties, please note that you must go in person to reserve a time slot for designing your own dream pair of socks. No phone reservations are taken. Also, since this is December, be aware that there’s currently a rush of customers and production times may take up to four weeks. At this point in the month it’s probably not feasible for a Christmas gift. And just remember–if someone like Shawn can overcome his lack of talent, then your possibilities are endless!

Store information
Mujirushi Ryohin Kinshicho Parco / 無印良品 錦糸町パルコ店
Address: Tokyo-to, Sumida-ku, Kotobashi 4-27-14, Kinshicho Parco 4th floor
東京都墨田区江東橋4丁目27番14号 錦糸町パルコ 4F
Open: Every day 10 A.M.-9 P.M.

All images © SoraNews24
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