Chi-ko is a freestyle florist conveying the charm of modest flowers and plants. In addition to the “Forager” flower shops in Nishihara and Shimokitazawa, Chi-ko arranges flowers at a wide variety of locations, including restaurants, select stores, commercial facilities, and apparel brand exhibitions. A covert pleasure of her daily routine is to get behind the wheel of her Jimny, stock up on rustic plants and flowers, and to pop into one of her chill-out spots while out making deliveries. It is all about shrines and temples, open spaces, and other places that lend themselves to dawdling. My short trip to find Zen amongst the chaos of Shibuya began with opening the door to one of her stores.
A florist where colors inter-resonate, like flowers and grasses that bloom in the field.
“I’ve always been drawn to flowers that are more supporting than leading, more sub than major.”
True to her word, when I opened the door of “Forager,” I found a lineup of flowers and plants that would not stand out in a city flower shop. More than 20 varieties of flowers and plants are styled daily. On this day, common marigolds with large yellow flowers complement the wild blue gilia basking in rude health.
“The marigolds look just like Big Bird’s bottom, while the gilia in bloom resemble a cute little girl with blue eyes. What we focus on is the harmony of the colors. I’d love for customers to realize that flowers can be enjoyed in a casual way.”
Away from the mainstream, lies Nishihara’s understated charm
Chico’s penchant for the understated is not limited to flowers and plants. She chose Nishihara in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, for her “Forager” store. Located in a secluded part of a shopping street, with cherry and plum trees towering in front of it, this cozy flower shop is a veritable hideaway.
“Nishihara is very much removed from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. It’s a world away from the big station area with its large commercial facilities and chain stores, or from the hip mood of Yoyogi Uehara. On the contrary, I think it is more realistic and …… Tokyo-like. It’s a town with vibrant small businesses and a strong sense of the everyday. It possesses a charm that you won’t find in a guidebook.”
A vintage clothing store, an interior design store, a grocery store – when asked about her favorite stores, Chi-ko easily comes up with a few names. This is perhaps a testament to her life in Nishihara, where she has established her shop and built face-to-face relationships with her clients.
Tokyo Camii – A foray into the extraordinary.
In addition to selling flowers at Forager, Chi-ko also drives her beloved Suzuki Jimny to various stores and facilities to arrange flowers.
“When called out to arrange flowers somewhere, I tend to look for a place where I can dawdle for a while. The light comes in different ways depending on the season and time of day. I have a list of favorite spots, and whenever the best time comes around, I’ll head there to chill out.”
The Tokyo Camii in Yoyogi Uehara is one of these. Among the largest mosques in Japan, with its eye-catching 41-meter-high minaret and circular dome, it is a well-known landmark in the city.
“There is no symmetry in the natural objects that I usually encounter. Meanwhile, Tokyo Camii is an Islamic building of such symmetry that it is the ultimate in manmade beauty. Whenever I come here, I am so overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture in front of me that my mind empties.”
The Meiji Shrine Treasure House lawn. Shibuya’s best-kept secret
“Overseas there are loads of plazas and churches where you can just hang out without paying money, but it is not so easy to find such places in Tokyo. However, it is very important in our daily lives to make moments to distance ourselves from consumption and to just let our minds go blank. I guess many of my favorite places are like that.”
So says Chi-ko before introducing the lawn in front of the Treasure House in Meiji Jingu Shrine. The grassy area behind the main shrine is an urban oasis. Trees grow thickly and a pond filled with water is quietly lined with people picnicking, doing yoga, and grabbing a quick nap.
“You can hardly detect any artificial sounds on the lawn, even though it is a stone’s throw from Harajuku, Shibuya, and Shinjuku, and the DoCoMo Tower is well within eyeshot. Sometimes I come here, lie down on the grass, and just while away the time. I find it very decadent and soothing to have nothing to do.
A close friend of mine secretly told me about this place, so I really want to keep it that way. So, while I’d really like to keep it a secret, I’m confident enough to recommend it, ha ha!”
Shibuya-ku, Nishihara 2-26-5-101
TEL : 03-6875-7141
Have fun discussing your flower needs with Chi-ko. After shopping, why not grab a coffee next-door at Paddlers.
Shibuya Ward, Ooyamachō 1-19
TEL : 03-5790-0760
Avoid wearing revealing clothes, and women should bring a scarf or stole. The Halal store is also exotic and full of flavors.
Treasure Museum Lawn
1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizono Cho, Shibuya-ku
TEL : 03-3379-5511
Located right next to the torii gate on the west approach to Meiji Shrine. In the foreground is the Tokyo Riding Club, where you can watch horses cantering up close.
Margaret Howell Jinan Store
1-13-8 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
TEL : 03-5459-3721
There’s nothing chi-ko likes more than to sit in a café, drink a cup of hot tea, and just veg out. Don’t miss her flower arrangements in the store!
The former Asakura Residence
29-20 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku
TEL : 03-3476-1021
Built in 1919, this important cultural property is steeped in Taisho romanticism. A tranquil space that one would not expect to find along the old Yamate Street, the cherry blossoms and autumn leaves are splendid.
Hillside Pantry Daikanyama
B1, Hillside Terrace G, 18-12 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
TEL : 03-3496-6620
Imported grocery store with bakery and cafe in a cozy atmosphere. Don’t miss Chi-ko’s flower arrangements.
Florist Chieko Ueno, aka Chi-ko. She began her freelance career in 2009 after going solo from a major florist, opening “Forager” in Shimokitazawa in 2015 followed by the Nishihara branch in 2018, where her highly discerning taste, like a collection of wildflowers, resonates with the locals. She has arranged flowers for many high-profile restaurants and select stores, including the adjacent “Paddlers Coffee” and “Margaret Howell Jinnan Store”. She is also handling the floral arrangements for Seiko Ito’s “Japanese Fika” series featured in PAPERSKY magazine.