Katamaku: Upcycled Stadium Roofing Used to Create Carrying Cases

katamaku stadium roofing cases

katamaku: a series of carrying cases made from stadium and tent roofing | click images to enlarge

As we all know, the roofing material that covers massive stadiums has to be strong, durable and weatherproof. The plastic-like material is first extruded into a thin film. But when it’s cut into gigantic shapes that cover stadiums there’s a lot of excess material that gets thrown out. And as it turns out, explains Japanese design firm k2m, the material is permeable enough that it can be used for smaller things as well.

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Cubist Typographical Renditions of Hokusai’s Woodblock Prints

hokusai line kenjiro sanoThe Japanese graphic designer Kenjiro Sano’s office is called Mr. Design. And it’s anything but a misnomer. After graduating from ad agency Hakuhodo, Sano worked on a diverse range of campaigns for major companies like Toyota and Suntory. He’s also created adorable mascots for any number of brands and even worked with Japan’s beloved Doraemon. One of my favorite series are the ads he created for Tama Art University.

His creative career is now the subject of a retrospective. And headlining the show is “HOKUSAI_LINE,” a new series of prints that are inspired by the legendary Ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai but created in a cubist, typographical style.

hokusai line kenjiro sano

Sano’s cubist, typographical renditions are juxtaposed with the original characters created by Hokusai 150 years ago

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Whimsical Wooden Automata by Kazuaki Harada

kazuaki harada LOL

“Laugh Out Loud” is one of many automata created by Kazuaki Harada. It features a naked person (wearing only socks) boiling a teapot on his/her belly.

In case you’re like me and are wondering what exactly is an automaton, it’s a self-operating machine that dates back to the Hellenistic period of Greece. It’s one of the earliest forms of mechanical engineering and a prime example is the cuckoo clock. The devices relay on hydraulics, pneumatics, mechanics and a whole bunch of gears. In other words, they were the first analog computers.

Kazuaki Harada is a contemporary Japanese woodworker who creates whimsical wooden automata that perform all sorts of stunts simply by the turn of a handle. The devices are playful, silly and sometimes nonsensical. But they’re sure to make you chuckle.

kazuaki harada - LOL

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Kamidana Shiro: A contemporary Japanese altar modeled after an iPhone

kamidana iphone design

the kamidana is a series of household Shinto altars designed to look like an iPhone

Apple’s iPhone and iPad have undoubtedly become a global phenomenon, spawning sub-products and sub-industries all designed around the incredible reach these products have had. But the iPhone in particular has breached new, spiritual grounds in Japan. A Japanese woodworking company called moconoco has released a kamidana (a miniature household altar literally translated as “god-shelf”) in the shape of an iPhone.

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Tomatan: the wearable tomato robot that feeds you tomatoes as you run

wearable tomato project (1)

Runners from around the world descended upon Tokyo over the weekend to compete in the annual Tokyo Marathon. As usual, Dole tried to promote the banana, favored for its portability and high source of nutrients like potassium and magnesium, as the official fruit of running. But this year saw another competitor: the tomato.

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Boulanger Kaiti: an old Japanese home renovated into a bakery

Boulanger Kaiti Fukuoka

Photos by Yousuke Harigane courtesy Movedesign | click images to enlarge

Architectural preservation is so rare to find in Japan that it warms my heart to see projects like this. When the owners of the Fukuoka-based bakery Pain de kaiti decided to open their 2nd shop they wanted to make it special. So they found an amazing, old Japanese Kominka, or traditional folk house, and decided to renovate it into a spectacular bakery.

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A Minimal Wall Lamp Made From a Single Sheet of Paper

yoy poster wall lamp

a single piece of paper turns into a minimal wall lamp | Photos by Yasuko Furukawa

Posters are ubiquitous wall ornaments. We buy them, pin them up and take them down just as fast as we go through clean underwear. But what if we could approach the lighting in our house with the same ease? That was essentially the idea behind “Poster,” a wall lamp made from a single sheet of paper.

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Okomeya: A New Specialty Rice Shop That Wants to Bring an Old Shopping Street Back to Life

okomeya rice shop

the new Okomeya rice shop is located on a historic shopping street that’s now a shadow of its former self | photos by Kenta Hasegawa courtesy Schemata Architects

The Miyakawa Shotengai in Shinagawa dates back to 1950. But even before it was a shotengai (or, shopping street) the pathway, just south of central Tokyo, flourished as a posting station where travelers heading to Tokyo on foot could rest. But now you’d have trouble even finding the shopping street. And even if you did, it’s hard to imagine its once illustrious past. “It used to be such a lively place with about 38 different shops,” recalls a local.

As foot traffic began to dwindle, so did storefronts. And with inheritance taxes so prohibitive that it forced younger generations to sell their properties “now only 6 shops remain.” But a local design firm is trying to change things and breathe life back into the shotengai.

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Exhibition: The Spoon & Tamago Studio Visits

NCAF- ST flyer

For the last three years we’ve has been conducting intimate studio visits with Japanese artists working in New York. The series offers an insider’s view into the personal spaces of the artist, documenting their choice of tools, toys and the many objects they choose to keep near.

We’re excited to announce that the web series is coming to life in the form of an exhibition at hpgrp gallery in Chelsea! It will be on view March 5th-8th with an opening Reception on Thursday March 5 from 7PM-9PM. We have a bunch of cool things planned so it should be a lot of fun!

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Tracing The History of Tattoos in Japanese Ukiyoe

ronin-tattoo (7)

“Nakamura Shikan as Denshichi.” Toyokuni III. Woodblock Print. 14” x 9.5.”1861.

“Tattoos are complicated cultural symbols, simultaneously representing both belonging and non-conformity.” And in Japan they are all the more complex. In a rather lengthy post a while back we wrote about how tattoos were first uses as a form of punishment in Japan.

However, criminals began covering their penal tattoos with decorative ones rendering the punishment obsolete. This is thought to be the historical origin of the association of tattooing and organized crime in Japan.

In the early 18th century pictorial tattooing begins to flourish due, in part, to the development of ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) and the needs of popular culture in Edo. Irezumi (literally, the insertion of ink) “and printmaking became deeply referential, sharing themes and styles on paper and skin,” notes the Ronin Gallery in New York. In an upcoming exhibition titled “Taboo: Ukiyo-e & The Japanese Tattoo Tradition” the midtown Manhattan gallery plans to showcase the enduring conversation between ukiyo-e and irezumi.

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