Japanese lifestyle store to open in St Augustines Street

Louise Frere-Smith in her new Japanese shop, Mizu-Usagi, in St Augustines Street.

Louise Frere-Smith in her new Japanese shop, Mizu-Usagi, in St Augustines Street - Credit: Denise Bradley

A bustling high street of independent shops is set to welcome a new member, who has found inspiration overseas.

Japanese lifestyle and gift store Mizu-Usagi - which translates at 'water rabbit' - will open in NR3's St Augustines Street in NR3 this summer in the former Norfolk retro unit.

The name of the business originates from owner Louise Frere-Smith's zodiac sign.

Louise Frere-Smith in her new Japanese shop, Mizu-Usagi, in St Augustines Street.

Louise Frere-Smith of Japanese shop Mizu-Usagi in St Augustines Street - Credit: Denise Bradley

The 59-year-old returned to her hometown of Norwich from Tokyo four years ago, where she lived for 15 years and worked in a Japanese school.

She explained: "I started buying and collecting kimonos and obis - the big wide belts that ladies wear around a kimono.

"I knew I wanted to do something with them rather than having them stuffed in a cupboard.

Tote bags made out of upcycled Obi (belts), Yukata and kimonos (silk) material in the Japanese shop,

Tote bags made out of upcycled Obi, Yukata and kimono material at Mizu-Usagi - Credit: Denise Bradley

"So I started making simple square tote bags from kimono fabric.

"It was just a hobby.

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"With my sewing machine in my bedroom, I made bags for friends and commissions - and it grew from that.

Cushions made out of upcycled Obi (belts), Yukata and kimonos (silk) material in the Japanese shop,

Cushions made out of upcycled Japanese material at Mizu-Usagi in St Augustines Street - Credit: Denise Bradley

"I started making high-quality tote bags from the obis, which are made of thick silk and finished with leather handles."

When Louise came back to Norwich she started doing markets and pop-ups selling her wares, which expanded to other upcycled pieces like pillow covers and zipper pouches and other items like Kokeshi dolls.

Kokeshi dolls have been gifted to children in Japan for more than 150 years as toys.

Louise, who lives just off St Augustines Street, said: "It's a niche market but I was so shocked at the interest of Japanese products.

Kokeshi dolls in the new Japanese shop, Mizu-Usagi, in St Augustines Street.

Kokeshi dolls at Mizu-Usagi - Credit: Denise Bradley

"It really boosted my confidence.

"I've been away for so long I often feel like a foreigner in my own country.

"Because I lived in Japan, things like this became normal to me. I didn't realise things like kimonos and dolls would be so popular here."

Clutch bags, zipper pouches and coin purses made out of upcycled Obi (belts), Yukata and kimonos (si

Louise has made clutch bags, zipper pouches and coin purses from upcycled Japanese garments - Credit: Denise Bradley

As well as making beautiful items, Louise has the environment at the heart of her business - making sure not a single scrap of material is wasted.

She said: "It's precious and beautiful material. Any scraps I keep hold of to make small things like pin cushions.

"I even give the scraps away to customers.

Pin cushions made from upcycled kimono (silk) and yukata material, in the new Japanese shop, Mizu-Us

Pin cushions made from scraps of upcycled kimono material - Credit: Denise Bradley

"I'm very much zero-waste and have been since the beginning."

She added how she is excited to have the first permeant home for her brand: "St Augustines is a nice, happy street. It's a lovely community."

Clutch bags, zipper pouches, coin purses and pin cushions, made out of upcycled Obi (belts), yukata

Clutch bags, zipper pouches, coin purses and pin cushions made out of upcycled Japanese garmets made by Louise Frere-Smith - Credit: Denise Bradley

Japanese shopping phrases

How much is this?

これはいくらですか?
Kore wa ikuradesu ka?

I'm just looking

見ているだけです
Miteiru dake desu

Do you have this in another size?

これは別のサイズですか?
Koreha-betsu no saizudesu ka?

Do you have _____?

_____arimasu ka?
_____ありますか?

Can I try this on?

これを試してみてもいいですか
Kore o tameshite mite mo īdesu ka

Can I return this?

これを返してもいいですか?
Kore o kaeshite mo īdesu ka

How much does it cost?

それはどれくらいしますか?
Sore wa dorekurai shimasu ka?

I'm just browsing

ちょっと見てるだけ
Chotto miterudake

Please

お願いします
Onegaishimasu

Thank you

ありがとうございました
Arigatōgozaimashita