japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — February 2009

bookshelf inspiration

Looking for some bookshelf inspiration? Look no further than shibuya publishing boksellers. The bookstore/publisher/study opened in early 2008 in Tokyo. Their myriad display of bookshelves and books are stunning. And what I also thought was neat was the way the books are organized – by period. But not by when they were published, but by subject matter. So a recently published book on Keith Haring would most likely be on the same shelf as Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995).

The interior design is the work of Hiroshi Nakamura (NAP).
Photos are by Masumi Kawamura

February 27, 2009   4 Comments


…to SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa) for being selected by London’s Serpentine Gallery to design its yearly summer pavilion. Last year was Frank Gehry, and before that was Olafur Eliasson in 2007 and Rem Koolhaas in 2006.

Talk about a tough act to follow. I’m sure they’ll be awesome!

Towada Art Center by Ryue Nishizawa

February 26, 2009   4 Comments

kiwi expert joins crash inquiry

I was browsing through this neat tool that allows you to see the front pages of newspapers from all around the world. I know a plane crash is no laughing matter, but I couldn’t help doing a double take on this headline from, of all places, New Zealand, that reads “Kiwi Expert Joins Crash Inquiry.”

I now realize that “Kiwi” was meant to refer to a person of New Zealand origin, but at first I had these funny images of someone rummaging through plane crash debris looking for kiwifruit.

via Open Culture

February 26, 2009   Comments Off

garden on a roof

A had been getting decently bored with Japanese architecture lately. I mean, how many minimal concrete homes can one take in, in a single lifetime? So I was happy to see something, quite literally, emerge from the mold. However, the architect, Hiroshi Nakamura, has consistently re-imagined Japanese architecture, apparent in pieces such as this crazy convex house and this rad tree-house looking….house.

Completed in late 2008, House C (the Japanese title [stratum house] is a bit more descriptive) looks like one of those secret underground forts and we are witnessing its sporadic emergence to the surface. How cool would it be to have that garden on your rooftop? I’d probably be way too paranoid to let my kids play up there though.

February 25, 2009   6 Comments

800 for eats

I’ve always been a firm believer that first and foremost we eat with our eyes. “800 for eats” is a brand after my own heart. A tie-up between the designshop, self-described food director Fumie Okamura, and graphic designer Shunichi Miki (designer of this award winning mochi packaging – the similarities are quite evident ), 800 for eats emphasizes good design combined with local foods and how they relate to each other.

February 24, 2009   11 Comments

Buffalo buffalo

Did you know that “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” is a gramatically correct sentence? It’s true, the Internet says so!

(thanks Elliot)

February 23, 2009   Comments Off

Shochikuza News

The 81st academy awards are this weekend so I thought I would do something special today. I discovered these amazing graphic covers doing research on Japanese graphic design several years ago.

The Shochikuza theater opened in Osaka in 1923. It was the first movie theater dedicated to screening foreign movies, and presented a weekly rotation of imported films from around the world. This was the same year that Tokyo was devastated by an earthquake, and was also known as the inter-war period. Thus the theater quickly became a symbol of modernism and hope, where people from all around gathered to get a glimpse of foreign cultures, which they had been deprived of during the war.

Shochikuza News was a pamphlet that was distributed to the moviegoers, highlighting upcoming films and advertisements. The covers, which also changed weekly, were commissioned by young artists, who perhaps accepted the work as a means of making ends meet, but who dreamed of one day becoming famous through their art. Although many signed their names at the bottom of these covers, they are largely indiscernible, and therefore remain anonymous. Graphic design was not very sophisticated at the time, and, as you can see, there is no continuity or standardization of logos or typefaces at all. But perhaps this allowed the budding artists to exercise their creativity. It’s fascinating to observe these posters as an indication of the artistic styles and western concepts that were penetrating Japan at the time.

The theater continued its operations until 1994 when its movie role ended. However, it was restored and currently serves as a Kabuki theater.

Images courtesy of the Edo Tokyo Museum and Shunju Oonuki’s photostream.

February 20, 2009   Comments Off


I love this packaging and typography for Yaoki shochu (potato liquor). It was designed after the okiagari-koboshi, one of those rolly-polly dolls that rolls back up every time you push it down.

Here’s your Japanese lesson for the day. The name Yaoki (八起 – getting up 8 times) comes from an old saying, nanakorobi yaoki (七転び八起 – falling down 7 times, getting up 8 times) and essentially encourages high spirits; getting up no matter how many times you fall down.

Anyway, cool design by Dentsu Kyushu.

via 08 pentawards

February 19, 2009   3 Comments


An interesting show opened up at Issey Miyake’s 21_21 Design Sight last week. U-Tsu-Wa is an homage to the craftsmen, featuring the work of the inovative potters Lucie Rie (Austria) and Jennifer Lee (Scotland), as well as the work of woodworker Ernst Gamperl (Germany).

Lucie Rie

Jennifer Lee

Ernst Gamperl

While paying homage to these crafts steeped in history and tradition, the show is more about looking into the future; a meditation on how we continue to interact with these crafts.

February 18, 2009   1 Comment

what I’m wearing to my next party

I would simply die if I saw one of the models strut out wearing one of these during ny fashion week.
Neon Tie by Akihiro Kumagaya.


February 17, 2009   3 Comments