Touring Shimizu; a town that feels “just right”
Shimizu in Shizuoka is known throughout Japan as the setting for the anime ‘Chibi Maruko-chan’. It’s also the home of J1 soccer team ‘Shimizu S-Pulse’. Hiromi Osawa, also known as LULU, led us on a tour of the city and its people. Osawa is a designer from Shimizu, and although she currently resides in Yaizu, she goes back every month to visit her family home. We were also joined by Naho Kawamura of ‘Sahanji Plus’, a store located in Shimizu where Osawa held the ‘LULU GROCERY STORE’ exhibition in July and August of this year.
Beginning our journey in the early morning we head towards the well-known scenic spot, ‘Nihondaira Yume Terrace’. Located at the top of the mountain this terrace was completed in 2018. It offers panoramic views of Suruga Bay, Mt. Fuji, the Izu Peninsula, and the Southern Alps from its 200-meter-long observation deck.
Although LULU is used to seeing Mt. Fuji up close, this was her first time visiting the terrace. “The architecture is lovely, of course, but the weather was also so beautiful. It was nice to be in a beautiful location with such a spectacular view,” she says. Kawamura often recommends that visitors who come to Shimizu by car also take in the view of Mt. Fuji from the nearby Nihondaira Hotel.
Leaving Nihondaira, we headed to ‘Sahanji Plus’ located in a residential area of Shimizu. The shop is located in part of a house where Kawamura’s grandparents used to live and has been operating for 16 years, although it’s currently only open for special exhibitions. As it’s not your typical high-street shop, Kawamura felt that it would be better to open the store in a more residential area.At the time, smartphones and social media weren’t a thing, so getting the word out about a new shop opening had its difficulties, but “everyone here has a car, so I thought they would eventually come and visit the shop,” says Kawamura.
Since LULU’s parents live close by, she visited the store as a customer at first. “I thought that Sahanji would be the best place to display my creations, so I started with children’s clothing, and here we are today! I feel like I’ve been taken care of very well.” This close relationship between local makers, shops, and customers has continued for more than 16 years.
LULU hosts exhibitions at ‘Sahanji Plus’ where she lays out her favorite daily goods, sweets, teas, and jams as well as clothes. We then went on to visit one of her favorite food spots, ‘Matsunaga Tofu Shop’. When she lived in Shizuoka City, she would frequent the main store in Kusanagi once a week. Now she drives to the Oshika store, another branch located in the area, to buy in bulk.
“Maroyaka Tofu (Mellow Tofu)” is very soft and can only be found at Matsunaga’s. It tastes like mousse and has a rich flavor. It’s delicious with hijiki or other ingredients. Matsunaga is a really important place that is loved by the people of Shimizu.”
For LULU, “the shop that makes the most beautiful bouquets in Shimizu” is ‘ombak’. “They have many rare kinds of flowers that you can’t find in other flower shops,” Kawamura told us. The shop was established in 1999 by Nami Kodama. Kodoma worked in a flower shop in Chigasaki, Kanagawa, before she decided to move back to Shimizu to open her own shop. ‘ombak’ moved to current location in Shimizu 6 years ago. Because the shop has been around for so long, some of the small children who came to the shop when it first opened are now adults, and she sometimes makes bouquets for their weddings.
Around noon, we headed for lunch at ‘Cafe Zoree’, a coffee shop in Shimizu that has been in business for 50 years. As an office worker in her twenties, LULU would have tea here, and to her, the atmosphere hasn’t changed a bit. Taking your time choosing from the colorful cakes made with seasonal fruits lined up in the showcase is also an enjoyable part of the experience.
Over lunch and cake at Zoree, we asked the two about their feelings toward Shimizu. “It’s a really great place to live,” says Kawamura. “It’s small, but has all the things you need, yet it never feels overwhelming. It feels like a town that I not only live in, but that I can be involved in.”
For LULU, her home town of Shimizu is a relaxing place. “It’s not too inconvenient, it’s not too rural or too urban, it’s kind of halfway between the two. I feel like it’s just right. The climate is nice and the people are kind and gentle. Also, there’s a lot of greenery and the ocean is close by. It’s a bit cliché, but I like the feel of the city,” she says.
LULU (Hiromi Osawa)
Osawa originally began making small clothing goods for her children. Then in 2009, she began selling her works and creating work under the moniker ‘LULU’. The brand name ‘LULU’ comes from Yves Saint Laurent’s picture book ‘La vilaine Lulu’. In March 2022, she released a book titled ‘Simple, Stick to it, LULU’s Everyday Clothes’