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Surf Souvenirs and Memories with Yuko Shimajiri

Yuko Shimajiri at work: in the water and at her store. The stripes are right! 
Yuko surfing in the Seea Malibu suit, a very popular style in Japan.

We are continuing our virtual tour of the Japanese surf scene and surfers this month with the introduction of Yuko Shimajiri. Yuko's classic longboard style has won her many contests, one of which introduced her to a friendship with the late Donald Takayama. Surfing has taken her around the world and she opened her store BONS: Casa de Verano in Japan to share her favorite new and interesting discoveries with friends at home.

The name "Bons" comes from the French word bon that means "good," and is also a shortened version of her blog, Bon Bon Surf. Casa de Verano means “summer house” in Spanish. Sipping coffee and watching surf movies projected on the store wall after dawn patrol... sounds like a sublime place to be right now! We talked to Yuko about some of her favorite surfing memories and what its like having a surf shop in Japan. 
What is one of your favorite surf memories?
Looking back, one of my favorite memories was early on in my surfing life. I have always liked the classic style of surfing, so I was very excited to meet Donald Takayama in 1999 when he came to Japan to be a guest judge at a contest. There was an autograph signing for Donald the day before, so I went to meet him. Someone brought an Indo board to the signing, and we were all playing around on it. Donald said to me “You can’t surf that.” I told him to watch me in the contest the next day, and I did very well. After the contest, Donald asked me to ride for his team. Three weeks later, I came to California to surf with Donald, and had my very first session at San Onofre. I will never forget that trip.
What are the pleasures you get from surfing?
Whatever situation you are in, if you go to the ocean, you can reset and cleanse yourself. All of the stress melts away.
A look inside Bons Japan
You recently opened your own store, BONS. What has been the most difficult thing about starting the business?
It was very difficult to choose where to open the store, and to decide what type of store BONS would be. Naturally, I wanted to sell surfboards, but there are already plenty of surf stores near the beaches in Japan, which are already competitive and not very welcoming of newcomers. 
I also thought about opening a store in Tokyo, but with an urban location, surfing would have been less involved, and in the end, I don’t enjoy the city enough to build my future there. After much thought, I chose a location close to the beach, but on the way back to the city. It’s the perfect combination. I can relax and be myself, and customers from both the beach and the city enjoy stopping by. 
BONS also has a coffee shop inside the store. Did you do that to create a sense of community there?
Yes, that was definitely one reason, but I love to see my friends, and I wanted them to feel welcome to stop by the store to relax and visit, without feeling the pressure to buy something. I wanted a place to feature the surfboards and clothing that I enjoy, but also to create a gathering point for the people who I enjoy. 
We spy Seea :) 
How do women react to Seea when they see it in your store?
Many times when a new customer visits the store, Seea will be the first thing they pick up. “What are these?” they ask. “Is this a wetsuit or a swimsuit?” They are all very curious to find out. Many women who have already heard of Seea want to try them on to see how they fit, as not all swimsuit styles work well for Japanese girls.
What style has been the most popular?
The Malibu is the best! It is beautiful to wear by itself, but it looks pretty with a jacket as well. The style is very flattering for Japanese women, so the suits sold very well.
What is your favorite place to visit in California?
San Francisco is my favorite city, and I always make a trip to surf in Santa Cruz when I’m there. I also love surfing Cardiff Reef. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.
Yuko braving chillier waters. (Rhea) May 18, 2013 2 tags (show)

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