Intimate Portraits from the 2018 Sanja Matsuri

all photos by Benjamin Beech

Over the weekend the annual Sanja Matsuri took place in Tokyo. Sanja (三社) literally means 3 shrines, and the 3-day festival is a celebration of the 3 men who founded Senso-ji temple in Tokyo in 645 AD. The celebration is known as one of the wildest and largest in Japan as parades and spectators crowd the streets of Akasaka. This year, Tokyo-based photographer Benjamin Beech was on the scene and captured these intimate portraits of some of the participants.

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Nendo’s New Children’s Book Shows How Creative Ideas are Born

“An Idea is like a glass of milk,” said Oki Sato recently. “It’s good when it’s fresh.” Sato, who leads the multidisciplinary design studio Nendo, was speaking about his design process and how he manages to come up with fresh and creative ideas while juggling close to 400 projects simultaneously. And while balancing such a hectic schedule, he also found time to recently design a children’s book, in which he imparts his design wisdom in a simple story about a cup.

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Inflatable: an Exhibition of Huge Air-filled Artworks in San Francisco (Sponsor)

Explore, play, and wonder at gigantic, fantastical, artworks at Inflatable — a new summer exhibition at the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s iconic museum of art, science, and human perception. Born out of thin air, these dynamic sculptures include otherworldly organisms, a forest of cushiony columns, an inflatable insect-eye room, and more.

Curated by Christopher Jobson, founder and editor-in-chief of Colossal, Inflatable features existing works by Amanda Parer and Pneuhaus, and site-specific installations by Jimmy Kuehnle, Shih Chieh Huang, and Jason Hackenwerth.

Museumgoers will be able to enter an inflatable multi-lensed camera obscura that feels like stepping into the compound eye of an insect. Massive crouching inflatable humanoids will fill the building from floor to ceiling, making the West Gallery feel at times like a dollhouse. And visitors will feel they’ve entered a microscopic biological world thanks to a balloon artwork inspired by organic forms that will be constructed onsite, to deflate almost imperceptibly throughout the summer in a process that gestures toward biological decay.

Entry to Inflatable is included with museum admission.

Rated the #1 Museum in San Francisco on TripAdvisor, the Exploratorium is more than a museum; it’s an ongoing exploration of science, art, and human perception. Visitors of all ages can step inside a tornado, turn upside down in a giant curved mirror, walk on a fog bridge, and explore more than 650 hands-on exhibits. The museum offers all of this plus unique programs, discussions, and events; a café and restaurant; two stores; and more at the Exploratorium’s beautiful San Francisco bayside location on the historic Embarcadero.

  • Daily Summer Hours (May 26–September 3), 10am–5pm (All ages)
  • After Dark Thursday Evenings, 6–10pm (Ages 18+)
  • Friday Evening Extended Hours (July 6–August 31), 10am–9pm (All Ages)

Located on the historic Embarcadero between the historic Ferry Building and Pier 39, the Exploratorium provides stunning views of downtown and the San Francisco Bay. The museum is just a short distance from any of these popular San Francisco attractions: Fisherman’s Wharf, the Alcatraz ferries, and Colt Tower.

Learn more at

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Prepare Yourselves for the Hello Kitty Shinkansen, Arriving June 30

Depending on where you sit on the Hello Kitty spectrum of kawaii-ness, this new shinkansen is either your high-speed train to heaven or hell. Earlier this year in March, news began to circulate, along with a bit of imagery, that Japan would be rolling out a Hello Kitty shinkansen.

Initially, the concept artwork suggested that Sanrio’s popular cat character, a symbol of Japanese cuteness, would adorn the exterior in pink and white. Now, not only do we have a launch date but also a look inside, which reveals more Hello Kitty cuteness than we could have imagined.

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Magical Bookends Transform Bookshelves into the Back Alleys of Japan

back alley bookends. photo by monde

If you’ve ever wandered around Tokyo on foot you’ll know that it can sometimes be like a spider web of side streets and back alleys. It’s one of the things that makes Tokyo so unique and therein lies the allure of exploring the massive city. Now, one designer has brought that magic to bookshelves by designing back alley bookends.

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From Prank to Product: Nekobusou (Armored Cats)

Nekobusou, or “Armored Cats”

On April 1, 2018, Japanese toy-maker Bandai announced a new lineup and innovative figurines. Nekobusou, or “Armored Cats” in English, were essentially adorable kitty transformers that could wrap themselves with lethal killing machines. The company must have known that they were on to something right away. The original tweet racked up almost 3000 retweets and likes, which presumably prompted the company to go ahead with the idea. Or maybe they were tasting the waters all along. Regardless, Armored Cats are coming.

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Illustrations of Imaginary Cyberpunk Gadgets

all images courtesy E Wo Kaku Peter

A Japanese freelance concept artist who goes by the pen name E Wo Kaku Peter (which roughly means “Peter who draws” but we’ll just call him Peter) has been creating intriguing illustrations of imaginary gadgets. Based in Kanazawa, Peter’s creations often illustrate a dystopian, cyberpunk future. Peter’s illustrations can also take a humorous turn in which technology is wastefully applied to the most mundane of objects.

The illustrations are enjoyable on their own but it’s also fun imagining the violent and chaotic future in which such gadgets exist. You can see more of Peter’s work on his website and also on Twitter. Read on to see more of his work.

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How a Redesigned Japanese Constitution Won a Prestigious Design Award

To revise or not to revise. That has been the ongoing debate in Japan over the country’s constitution amid political movements to revise war-renouncing Article 9. But husband and wife design duo Takuya Hoda and Yuuri Mikami were more interested in revising the look and feel of the constitution, rather than its contents.

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Norihiko Terayama Dissects the Meaning of the Vessel

If you’ve ever been to a Japanese traditional inn, you may have encountered the very same thing witnessed by designer and artist Norihiko Terayama: empty vessels and pots that are on display, without serving their intended purpose. What does it mean when the only thing asked of a flower pot is to sit quietly and exude presence. For Terayama, it meant that the function of the vessel’s shape and form had taken a back seat. What was more important was that it was simply there.

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An Exhibition of Artwork that Provides a Window into Nature

Perched on the top of a cliff in Japan’s resort town of Atami is the Risonare Hotel. It’s a luxurious location that is surrounded by both the bounty of the sea and the lushness of the forest. But how to better illustrate this gift of nature to visitors of the hotel? The answer was, through art.

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