Installation view within the Japan Pavilion. Photo by Ryoko Fujiwara
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Japan’s presence at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennial. The Venice Architecture Biennial, curated by Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, is organised into themed pavilions from around the world. The Japan Pavilion drew a bustling and curious crowd, including the attention of the President of Singapore!
Commissioned by The Japan Foundation and curated by architecture professor Yoshiyuki Yamana, the Japan Pavilion’s theme is en:art of nexus, contending with the ways architecture can bring positive change to Japan’s current socio-economic troubles beset by recent natural disasters and youth unemployment. In Yamana’s mind, the exhibition’s goal is to present a series of projects that represent individual responses to Japan’s current economic distress, and thus, to suggest a range of solutions that are capable of creating good karma or adjusting preexisting connections in Japanese society.
These streamlined eye-catching table legs form the contours of an infinity ∞ loop, and are sourced from fallen trees from the Great East Japan Earthquake.
If you’ve ever heard of ping-pong diplomacy between Nixon and China in the Cold War, then you’ll know that ping-pong matches can have the magical affect of thawing tense relations between bickering countries. Also known as table tennis, ping-pong is a popular competitive sport requiring players to have extraordinary hand-eye coordination and instantaneous reflexes.
Have you glimpsed those lovely new ping-pong tables in the Rio 2016 Olympics? San-EI Corporation, a leading Japanese manufacturer of ping-pong tables, had the honour of supplying the tables this year. These tables sport curvaceous wooden legs in lieu of the regular spindly ones, and boasts a new table colour called “Les yeux bleus”, or blue eyes.
All over Japan, incense is used for its meditative and purifying qualities, as well as for its important role in spiritual and ancestral rituals, such as lighting incense before greeting ancestors at the family shrine.
As legend would have it, incense first came to Japan when an aromatic log drifted ashore on Awaji Island in 595 CE. After locals discovered its fragrant properties, news quickly spread to governmental officials, and soon burning incense was all the rage amongst Japanese court royalty. Today, Awaji Island produces more than 70% of Japan’s incense!
Last year, a brand new community center and library opened to the public in Gifu, located in central Japan. On the morning of the opening ceremony, over 300 people waited out in the rain to see Minna no Mori (“Everyone’s Forest”) Gifu Media Cosmos – the library of the future.
The ground was the canvas and twigs were our paint brushes. We would search for the perfect fallen branch – not too thin that it would snap, but not too thick that it was uncomfortable – to create wonderful compositions in the dirt. Just thinking about it makes me want to be a kid again. Which is what Japanese art director Nezi Sato was surely thinking when he came up with his playful and hopelessly charming project, Park Pens.
Start Today is Japan’s 3rd largest fashion company and operator of the country’s largest e-commerce site Zozotown. And it’s made only more famous by Yusaku Maezawa, the founder and now one of Japan’s youngest billionaires who made headlines in May for a shopping spree at a Christie’s auction where he snapped up almost $100 million worth of art.
Less than 6 months earlier, Maezawa’s company continued its expansion by opening up a new office in the posh Aoyama district of Tokyo.
Table Tennis, or Ping Pong, as it is more affectionately called, is heating up over in Rio. In fact, “it was the most fun I’ve had at the Games so far,” said a writer for Wired who is over there now. And as Japan’s own Ai Fukuhara advances to the quarterfinals, Ping Pong is shaping up to make quite an impact.
Inshoku Yojo Kagami (飲食養生鑑) by Utagawa Kunisada. Late 19th C. | click images to enlarge
Ukiyo-e, or “pictures of floating worlds” were woodblock prints that became wildly popular in 17th -19th century Japan. The diverse subject matters ranged from travel scenes and landscapes to flora, erotica and even medical prints. And for a select group of artists who created a series of personified anatomical depictions of internal bodily functions, it would appear that being a great artist wasn’t enough: they also had to be immersed in the inner-workings of human body.
“This isn’t just about housing. The house is merely an arena where different industries can come together.” That’s Kenya Hara, the luminary Japanese designer, talking – 2 years ago – about his ambitious House Vision project. Now he’s picking up where he left off with House Vision 2, a similar initiative to rethink housing by pairing various companies with some of Japan’s top architects and designers. The result is a sprawling installation of homes, now on display for the public, that are all built to real life scale.
Summer is the season for fireworks and in Japan, tens of thousands of people gather to watch the thunderous sparks light up the warm evening skies. But there’s one fireworks festival that’s not quite like any other: the Gion Matsuri in Toyohashi, which, each year, takes place on the 3rd Friday of July.