japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — February 2010

find me elsewhere!

I wrote a post on SUMICA kids furniture by student designer Michiko Eguchi. Read it here…

I also did a post on SEAL, a Japanese company that makes these cool bags (and shoes) from recycled tire tubes. Read it here…

February 25, 2010   3 Comments

Wataru Kumano | designer

Riding off my previous post I wanted to share some more work by up-and-coming designer Wataru Kumano. After completing a design program in Japan Wataru relocated to Finland in 2002. He completed in MA in furniture design at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, at which point he returned to Japan and took a position at the Tokyo studio of Jasper Morrison. Last year he founded his own design studio and appears to be at the point where he is revving up his design engine which, if I might add, has a nice blend of Nordic naturals and Japanese simplicity.

click images to enlarge

I found this image on his website to be quite inspiring. Who knew all the shades of green could be found in a scallion? I like the idea of a Food Diary. After all, we are what we eat.

February 25, 2010   2 Comments

mass item

With cost-competitiveness sweeping through the manufacturing industry like an angry lady with a broom, sparing only those with the strength to scale up capacity and scale down price, what are Japan’s small companies and artisans to do? Inevitably, embrace. That is the philosophy of mass item, a new store started by Takashi Yoshida aimed at exploring the possibilities of plastic. He has enlisted 3 designers to assist him – 2 of which, if you are familiar with spoon & tamago, you should be familiar with as well – Shunsuke Umiyama (Microworks), Norihiko Terayama (Studio Note) and newcomer Kumano Wataru.

Although the pieces have a highly manufactured quality to them, every piece gets finished off with a human touch – whether it is vibration finish or a hand-assembly. I like the idea of subtle resistance. Here is an overview of what they have done for the shop.

Ladder by Microworks (he seems to be obsessed with ladders)

Layerscape by Studio Note

Tokyo Clock by Kumano Wataru


February 24, 2010   Comments Off

Love Distance

“A man from Fukuoka, a woman from Tokyo….” I had no idea what this sweet commercial was for up until the final 5 seconds! It’s based on an actual documentary that was filmed over a 1-month time span. Impressive and romantic!

February 23, 2010   5 Comments

Secret Bar | Roku Nana (六七)

If you happen to be in a romantic and inconspicuous mood, a combination I can’t say I encounter often, head over to Roku Nana, a new secret bar that just opened up in Roppongi. Nestled between buildings, Roku Nana made claim to the 3rd floor and a strategically situated rooftop that affords views of Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Tower. Literally 6 7, the bar takes its name from the address (Roppongi 7th ward), the only thing that will help you find the place because there are no signs. Just an address and telephone number.

Roku Nana was designed by Yasumichi Morita whose firm Glamorous, if the name didn’t tip you off, has a taste for flamboyant décor that straddles a delicate balance between classy and corny. The bar is a follow-up to imoarai, his previous secret bar in Roppongi.

Verde Roppongi 3F
7-16-11 Roppongi, Minato-ku

February 22, 2010   9 Comments

Tokyo Visualist

Tokyo Visualist is a joint collaboration by Satoru Yamashita (+81) and Masako Shinn (Graphis). The book explores the work of 32 “cutting edge” artists and designers through interviews and essays by curators including David Elliot (Mori Art Museum) and Sarah Suzuki (MoMA). It attempts to decipher the current for clues on what lies ahead in the future. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it but if you are in NY on March 2nd they are having an event at the Japan Society that would be worthwhile.

featured artist Tomoko Konoike

featured artist Hideki Inaba

featured artist Kohei Nawa

Tokyo Visualist is a joint collaboration by Satoru Yamashita (+81) and Masako Shinn (Graphis). The book explores the work of 32 “cutting edge” artists and designers

February 22, 2010   2 Comments

Hikari Cube | Miya Ando

A descendant of samurai-era Bizen sword makers-turned-Buddhist priests, Miya Ando, is a Japanese American who resides in Brooklyn (Yay!). She carries on her family’s heritage by primarily working with steel, and with a very minimal aesthetic. Right now she is in Germany, preparing for her first Berlin show at Dam Stuhltrager Gallery (from February 20 to March 20.)

In addition to her series of wall works on 14 gauge mild steel panels, she will be showing Hikari Cube, an interactive piece that was conceived in collaboration with software artist James George.  Designed to look like a steel cube, their sculpture has a hidden motion detector able to ‘hear’ when a person is approaching- which then mimics normal breathing patterns via a light which is transmitted through the cube.

Below is a demo of the Hikari Cube

Hikari Cube from James George on Vimeo.

February 19, 2010   1 Comment

CO ZEN | urushi cutlery for kids

I am currently on a quest to replace all our silverware with wood because I have never liked metal in my mouth, or the way it sounds when rubbed up against ceramics.This CO ZEN urushi cutlery set for kids could work nicely for little Huey. Urushi, also known as Japanese lacquer ware, is made from the sap of a tree and has been used to make dishes and utensils since the Jomon period. The beautifully hand-crafted set instills a sense of tradition and significance in the child and ritualizes the act of sitting down to eat. I am all for teaching kids the importance of eating, and what you put in your mouth.

The CO ZEN set (18,000 yen) comes with a spoon, fork, knife, desert spoon and chopsticks. The lid also flips over to serve as a place mat. It reminds me a lot of the Fun Fam Table Manners set.

thanks to @skrtr for the tip

February 19, 2010   5 Comments

Absolute Arrows Public Restrooms by Bunzo Ogawa

Absolute Arrows Point to the Future, Rather Than the Past

Let me just preface this by saying, only in Japan can you spend so much time, effort and money on public restrooms. In early 2008 the City of Hiroshima asked architects to submit proposals for a competition to design a series of public restrooms in parks throughout the city. They received close to 50 proposals, which they called on the public to judge and select. By mid-2008 the people had spoken. Bunzo Ogawa of Future Studio had beat out Nomura Masafumi Architects with their Absolute Arrows proposal (PDF). You can see Kusari, the runner up proposal, here (PDF).

In mid-October of 2009, a total of 5 parks unveiled “Absolute Arrows,” their new public restrooms. (Google Map) Three repeatable designs were drawn up in order to adapt to the different sizes of parks. By law, public restrooms cannot encompass more than 2% of a park’s surface area. In March of 2010 an additional 7 restrooms will open. Each year the city will install 5 additional arrow restrooms. In 10 years there will be over 60 of these public restrooms for people to relieve themselves in while contemplating the relationship between space and, well, you know.

The concept of the restrooms were to embed the City of Hiroshima with an “absolute axis,” similar to the horizontal and vertical axes of the planet, with all arrows pointing North. The restrooms are equipped with 2 entrances in order to accommodate various orientations. So what does it all mean? To me, it feels like the city is no longer pinned down as a city within Japan, on a map, that was destroyed by nuclear weapons. Instead, it is now part of a grander space and transcends towards a coexistence with the planet. And I suppose those encountering the restrooms have an even greater sense of this. It helps them imagine what is beyond the park fence, or the neighbors wall, or the city’s high-rise buildings.

February 18, 2010   Comments Off

Student Work | Kobe Design University

Kobe Design University recently held their senior exhibition. Designer Masahiro Minami took a trip over and came back with pictures of some fantastic, high-quality work. So many young, talented designers! Here are some of my favorites.
(all images by Masahiro Minami. Click to enlarge)

This is actually the underlay for a bento box; a solution to decade-old problems like leakage and movement. Love the aesthetic!

A wooden bicycle complete with wooden gears. Only a student could come up with something so outrageous.

Rad oversized rings

I’m not quite sure what this is but I love the display.

This 3D cutout must have taken several endless nights.

Of particular interest to me was this futuristic digital camera. It’s a working model that was co-developed by the University. The way it works is you drape it over your neck and take photographs by creating a frame using your hands. Neat!

February 18, 2010   1 Comment