MUJI Laboratory for Living > Found MUJI > MUJI×JICA PROJECT Kyrgyz

Joint Project - Overview

The MUJI x JICA Project started at the end of 2010, when MUJI approached JICA asking JICA for its cooperation with MUJI's plan regarding Christmas products. Putting the call out to its offices throughout the world, JICA received more than 80 ideas; ultimately, ideas from the One Village, One Product project (1) of Kenya and Kyrgyz were chosen from amongst these. From the time the decision was made until the commercialization of the product, steps were carefully followed one after the other, from checking manufacturing capability and export formalities to quality testing and design reviews; from Kenya, 5 kinds of ornaments made from soapstone, a stone that is soft like soap, were developed, while from Kyrgyz, where cattle breeding flourishes, 3 kinds of felt goods, including a glasses case, were developed. MUJI applied the same level of quality and design as it does to its regular products to the products developed under these endeavors; commercialization was made possible with the cooperation of the people of the corresponding villages and the support given by JICA in creating a system of product management and a system of quality control. MUJI is continuing its activities relating to this project with JICA and the involved areas in 2012. Note 1: JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) One Village One Product Project The One Village One Product movement, which began in Oita Prefecture, is an initiative that aims for the revitalization of the region through the cultivation of specialty goods utilizing regional resources. There is a big difference between life in the rural areas and that of urban areas of developing countries, and there are not many opportunities for cash income. Based on the Japanese One Village One Product movement, JICA has addressed rural development through the One Village One Product movement for rural areas in developing countries. Specifically, they are implementing projects that support the revitalization of regions through the utilization of regional tourism resources and the promotion of local industry through the development and sale of products that use local raw materials in countries in Asia, Africa and Central and South America.

Country Information for the Kyrgyz Republic
※Taken from data pertaining to the Kyrgyz Republic, Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

General information

Area 198,500㎢ (approximately half the size of Japan)
Population 5,400,000 (United Nations Population Fund, 2011)
Capital Bishkek
Ethnic groups Kyrgyz (75%), Uzbek (14.3%), Russian (7.2%), Dungan (1.1%), Ukrainian (0.3%), other Uyghur, Tatar (source: Kyrgyz Statistical Commission data, 2011)
Language Kyrgyz is the native language (Russian is the official language)
Religion Mainly Sunni Muslim (75%), Russian Orthodox (20%), Other (5%)


Major Industries Agriculture, livestock (approximately 30% of GDP), mining (gold mining)
GDP 4.615 billion dollars (IMF, 2010)
GDP per capita 842.58 dollars (IMF, 2010)
Economic growth (real GDP) -1.4% (IMF, 2010)

JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) Kyrgyz Project

In Kyrgyz, the transition to a market-oriented economy with a central focus on urban areas is proceeding smoothly, and it is described as being the country in Central Asia where market-oriented economic reform has moved forward the most. On the other hand, in the transformation of the economic system, the fundamental unit of the village in terms of regional socioeconomic activity, the "community", has been left in a fragmented state. Owing to this, although he privatization of agricultural land has been promoted and there is an environment that allows for freedom in production activities, because there is no community or links between the people that effectively and efficiently implement manufacturing and distribution collectively, the rejuvenation of economic activity is hindered, the economy and industry of regional areas has grown sluggish and the problem of poverty has become more acute. With this kind of background, the government of the Kyrgyz Republic aspires, along with the reaffirmation of the significance of community, to rebuild the community framework so as to rejuvenate economic activity.

In Issyk-Kul, the target region of this project, approximately half of the population lives in poverty (as of 2009), while the youth are leaving the country in search of work. In order to solve such problems, JICA is focusing on industries where the potential for development is highest, such as the tourism industry and agriculture, and is carrying out activities based on the One Village One Product movement originating in Japan; it supports rejuvenation of the community and industrial development through promotion of industries that harness resources from the area, as well as increasing the added value of agricultural products and trying to increase the incomes of farmers, targeting inland and rural areas that have been left behind with respect to development.

Specifically, products that could possibly be a target for One Village One Product are found, a community structure for manufacturing the product jointly is launched, the product is improved, and sales are supported. Further, a mechanism for providing feedback to the manufacturer regarding the results of product sales and a mechanism for raising the motivation of manufacturers with public and private support for brand certification are created, and even after JICA's support has ended, the producer's group acquire customers under their own steam and aim to be able to create products to fulfill the needs of their customers.

MUJI's Idea Regarding The Shape of Support For The Joint Project With JICA

  • Work for women, money into homes There are not many opportunities for women in the rural areas of Kyrgyz to earn cash income. If felt creation is on track as an industry, then the employment of women is born. The money earned here becomes easier to allot to things such as education expenses for the children.
  • Stop young people leaving for other countries! There are many young people in Kyrgyz who leave for Russia in search of work. It seems that this is happening not only in Kyrgyz but also in countries bordering Russia. With industry being born in their own country, this phenomenon can be prevented.
  • A good (favorable) relationship through the creation of things This time, the local people provided the labor power while MUJI supplied technological assistance towards sales. Through this kind of creation, producers not only gain compensation but also know-how as an industry, while MUJI gains good quality products; a relationship where both sides gain an advantage can be built.
  • Revitalization of the community There are a number of villages scattered around the environs of Lake Issyk-Kul; since many people work on the creation of felt from their homes, there haven't been many opportunities to bring women together in one place as with this project. By working together at a workplace, it was possible for these women to enhance trust in each other.

Felt products - how they're made (each product is carefully crafted by hand)

  1. 1.Preparation of the felt (any dirt is washed away; the felt is washed and dried for approximately one week)
  2. 2. Shaping (A felt mold approximately 1.4 times the size needed is prepared; it is folded over twice both horizontally and vertically, moistened with soap water and held down)
  3. 3. Shaping (Step 2 is repeated three times for each side; layer the wool and shape: one hour)
  4. 4. Size adjustment (to attain the fulled size of the felt, from the original size it is rubbed continuously and the fibers are shrunken together: 3 hours)
  5. 5. Any fluff is removed (when the right size has been achieved, the fluff is carefully removed)
  6. 6. Dried in the sun
  7. 7. Patterns are embroidered and buttons attached

※For information regarding the 2011 Kyrgyz project, please refer to the JICA website.
JICA website > First Collaboration with MUJI