japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — November 2008

Weekend House Alley | Chiba Manabu

Architect Chiba Manabu recently completed Weekend Alley House, a multi-purpose commercial space on the waterfront in Kamakura. The structure is divided into 7 different buildings, helping to create a feeling of openness that is consistent with the ocean around it.

As far as I understand, the complex is now fully populated with shops, restaurants, cafes and even a hair salon. For anyone looking to get out of Tokyo for the weekend it sounds like a pretty nice excursion to me.

I like how each passageway is its own pair of binoculars, highlighting a unique view of the ocean depending on which way you turn. Standing in the center it almost reminds you of a compass.

(Images courtesy of chibamanabu.jp)

November 28, 2008   6 Comments

Sunpu Church | Taira Nishizawa

It’s not everyday that a Catholic church is built in Japan. And it’s also not everyday that it gets so much attention from the design community. Sunpu Church in Shizuoka Prefecture completed its renovation in April of this year under the direction of Taira Nishizawa Architects. The spectacular wood working is a nice change from all the minimal concrete structures we’ve been seeing in Japan recently. The delicate interior reminds me of the concentration required to play a game of Jenga. It actually really makes me want to play Jenga!

(images courtesy of minorugged)

What is fascinating about all of Nishizawa’s work is that he has grappled with a common theme over the years; the duality between the vulgarity of contemporary society and the formality of architecture. (That was a mouthful of ~itys) Perhaps designing a church, a space where people go to have their sins forgiven, was the ultimate experiment for Nishizawa to convey this theme.

(images courtesy of shuheigoto)

After establishing his own studio in 1993, Nishizawa went on to win numerous awards in Japan and abroad. In 2005 Architectural Record magazine included him in their world’s 10 “Design Vanguards.” (There is actually a nice slideshow of his work HERE if you are interested).

November 26, 2008   Comments Off

Cornelius invades Yo Gabba Gabba

One of little Huey’s favorites shows is the sometimes manic, sometimes psychedelic Yo Gabba Gabba. I was playing around online last night and discovered that among the impressive list of guest musicians (The Shins, Biz Markie, Shiny Toy Guns, etc.) was Japanese experimental rocker Cornelius.

A bit more digging revealed this clip from the show!
(courtesy of Jezebel.com)

November 25, 2008   Comments Off

Book Art | Ryuta Iida

I came across these beautiful images over the weekend. Ryuta Iida is a young artist (b. 1981) who creates tactile sculptures with immense discipline and accuracy. He first entered my radar screen maybe 3 months ago when I saw a show of his over at CALM & PUNK Gallery in Tokyo. At that time there were some collaborative pieces showing, but for this exhibit, titled “ewiges equivalent,” we get a glimpse of his individual work, which includes some amazing reliefs carved in books.

I always feel a bit uneasy when someone destroys a book, even for artistic purposes. I guess it’s because I think of books as everlasting but am then confronted with an object that used to be a book but is hardly recognizable in it’s new role.

The show runs through December 13th at the Takuro Someya Contemporary Art center.


November 24, 2008   3 Comments

New Sponsor | RareMonoShop

I’m pleased to welcome aboard a new sponsor today! RareMonoShop is the official US website for Japan’s top gadget designer, Thanko.They have all sorts of neat gadgets from USB-powered humidifiers (I totally want one!) to human-powered mp3 players (for all you eco-concious music lovers). I’m sure there’s something for everyone so check out their website!

November 24, 2008   Comments Off

1 more reason to love MUJI

Sorry about the sparse posts this week. I’ve been a bit under the weather. But Zicam held my hand throughout the ordeal so I think I’m going to be ok.

So, in addition to their gorgeous prefabricated homes, MUJI has recently announced a tie-up with Austrian furniture guru Thonet. The chair pictured below is a modern take on their 1859 masterpiece, “Chair no.14.”


November 20, 2008   2 Comments

1002 Spoons

In addition to a collection of rocks, Tokyo-based German fashion designer Jurgen Lehl also collects spoons! 1002 spoons, to be exact, will be on display at Jurgen Lehl’s Babaghuri shop in Tokyo, where the show will run from November 27 to December 7 before embarking on a tour to other Jurgen Lehl outposts across Japan.

via emmas designblogg


(Disclaimer: any similarities in names between this blog and said exhibition are entirely coincidental and unintentional.)

November 18, 2008   7 Comments


I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I spotted this image over on the reverse cowgirl. By one of my favorites, David Shrigley!


November 14, 2008   Comments Off

so simple yet so genious

Office supplies store Kokuyo has redesigned the highlighter. By modifying the tip into what they call a 3-way “beetle tip” the pen allows you to make 3 distinctive marks just by tilting your hand. GENIUS!

These pens are hitting stores across Japan tomorrow!

via Nikkei Design

November 13, 2008   11 Comments

I love Ekubos

Another awesome new site just launched!!

Ekubo means “dimple” in Japanese. And this series of ekubo pieces from ARTISTA makes me want to reach out and touch them, similar to how I want to reach out and touch dimples. The prior is less offensive so I will stick to that.

The pieces range between 25~85 USD (except for the coffee table, which is 250 USD). They only ship within Japan but we can help if you would like to touch them!

Today feels like Friday. I was ready to wish everyone a happy weekend.

November 13, 2008   Comments Off