Handmade in Harajuku: Rakuma’s pop-up store wins the hearts of Mother’s Day shoppers

Japanese consumers are increasingly going the handmade route for Mother’s Day gifts. That doesn’t mean they’re all embracing DIY gift-making; rather, the country is experiencing a boom in demand for handmade gifts from independent artisans. This new homespun movement is particularly apparent on Rakuten’s trend-sensitive C2C (consumer to consumer) commerce platform Rakuma, where a number of crafty creators have built followings of dedicated fans numbering in the tens of thousands.

Consumers in Japan are increasingly favoring handmade gifts for Mother’s Day.

According to Rakuma, searches for “mother’s day + handmade” jumped by a factor of 2.4 in 2018 compared to the previous year, while a survey of Rakuma users revealed that around 18% of users were considering buying something handmade on Rakuma for Mother’s Day 2019, compared to only 2.5% who did last year.

Handmade jewelry is in high demand on the Rakuma marketplace.

Despite the increased interest in handmade goods, consumers remain cautious about buying these crafts online, with around 45% of users saying they preferred to see the real thing before purchasing, and around 34% saying they were concerned about the quality.

Rakuma addressed these concerns head-on by stepping out of the app and onto the brick-and-mortar shop scene in the trend-sensitive Tokyo neighborhood of Harajuku.

The entrance to Rakuma’s handmade pop-up store in Harajuku.

Handmade in Harajuku for Mother’s Day

Over the four days leading up to Mother’s Day, customers were treated to a selection of handmade goods from their favorite Rakuma artisans in Rakuma’s pop-up store in Harajuku.

Around 200 items from 100 Rakuma artisans were on display in the store.

Around 100 different creators came together to display around 200 of their best items for customers to see, smell, touch and try on for themselves. The selection was carefully curated with Mother’s Day shoppers in mind, featuring a wide variety of bags, candles, jewelry, accessories, herbariums, dolls, wreaths, ornaments and flower displays paired with eye-catching ornamental gift wrapping.

The event was announced through the Rakuma app and gave users a chance to drop in and meet a few of their favorite Rakuma artisans face-to-face.

Customers scanned QR codes to discover the rest of the artisans’ creations on Rakuma.

Popular jewelry artisan Aya, who runs her own store on Rakuma, traveled from Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido to meet her customers in person for the first time. “Some of the customers I had met through Rakuma were exactly like I imagined them! It brought me so much joy to watch people try on my accessories in front of the mirror.”

Jewelry artisan Aya (left) helps a customer choose the perfect gift for mom.

“I’m really excited to be able to hold the pieces in my hand and see them in real-life,” remarked one fan who had traveled to Harajuku to meet Aya. “I’ve bought accessories from Aya for Mother’s Day a few times now. They always make Mum smile.”

Bringing the online offline

The design of some e-commerce platforms can leave little room for personal connections between buyers and sellers, but it’s clear that Rakuma is not satisfied with the status quo. The Rakuma app connects buyers directly to creators and sellers, facilitating easy communication through a chat function and helping users and merchants build trust.

Trust is a crucial element of commerce, and offline events like this one are helping to build it, bringing even more of a human touch to handmade crafts online.

A lifelike Pomeranian wreath wishes patrons a happy Mother’s Day.
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