Japanese Hospitality at Niwaka Serves as Haven for Marrying Couples — NIWAKA
“Infinite” wedding bands that Abraham and Yukiko found on Niwaka’s homepage.
Abraham and Yukiko are a couple engaged to be married who were looking for both their engagement and wedding rings. Yukiko described herself as “not a ring person,” as opposed to her fiancé Abraham who was wearing some at the time and was quite knowledgeable about diamonds. Before doing their actual ring shopping, they did some research on the internet and one of the homepages they looked at was that of Niwaka, a jewelry store born in Kyoto, Japan 28 years ago.
Niwaka found a home in New York in Soho in 2000 and on Fifth Avenue last November, and it conveys the three ideas of harmony, hospitality and craftsmanship. In fact, the kanji (Chinese character used in Japan) for the name Niwaka is comprised of particles meaning “others” and “oneself”, conveying the bringing together of people. According to LaKendra Ford, head of customer service at the Fifth Avenue store, “we want the concept of the store to be a home environment to which couples are connected.”
LaKendra showing the happy couple Niwaka’s variety of wedding merchandise.
Much of the jewelry incorporates kanji and nature, such as Dewdrops which is in the shape of this word’s corresponding kanji “shizuku” and has diamonds resembling melting snow. Bridal is Niwaka’s main business, but they also have other assorted platinum and white, yellow and pink gold jewelry.
Shop director and jewlery designer Kazutoshi Yukawa says that although 80% of his customers are non-Japanese, the products sold in the NY stores are for the most part the same as those offered in Japan. The only significant change is that engagement ring diamonds are made larger for Americans, who tend to think that for this item the bigger the better. Yukawa describes his customers as being composed of both passerbys who are attracted by the storefront windows and couples like Abraham and Yukiko who come in knowing about Niwaka.
Two of the rings that had interested Abraham and Yukiko from the homepage were Infinite and Night Dew, the latter actually having been designed by Yukawa. However, after coming in to Niwaka the design that Yukiko liked for her wedding ring was a simple style known as Grace. She asked LaKendra whether most men just go with what the women pick and in return got a laugh and the answer, “I wish that were so.” LaKendra explained that men and women tended to differ in what styles they like and that there weren’t too many cases of couples purchasing matching bands.
Abraham testing out an engagement ring on Yukiko’s finger.
However, Abraham and Yukiko agreed that they did want to get matching ones. LaKendra, a romantic at heart, was glad they felt this way and added, “I can see that you are enjoying the engagement process, which is important. This is a decision you make together as a couple and it sets the tone for the rest of the marriage.” Before finishing with the couple, she highlighted that Niwaka’s engagement rings come with free engraving of up to four characters such as a date. In addition, Niwaka’s products come with a two-year warranty which covers ring refreshing (maintenance after this period costs $60).
After their lengthy consultation with LaKendra, both Abraham and Yukiko were beaming. He shared, “I feel more connected to the rings and the philosophy. I’m awestruck by seeing them in person as compared to initially on the website. I’m really impressed with the quality of the service and the merchandise.” Even admitted non-ring person Yukiko was converted. “It was really eye-opening and educational for me. I had never seen diamonds so close before and didn’t know they were so beautiful! I think we were afraid of going forward but thanks to Niwaka feel ready now.”
Looks like they found a match. Much happiness to the new couple!
—- Reported by Stacy Smith
608 5th Ave. (entrance on south side of 49th St.),
New York, NY 10020
TEL: 212-941-5410 / www.niwaka.com