japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — August 2010

From Nowhere to Somewhere

Although I’m not exactly sure how it happened, that article I wrote on the Nowhere Resorts was the most popular, making me the winner of Battle of the Bloggers! My prize is a 2-night stay at one of Kiwi Collection’s hotels so, ironically, writing about “Nowhere” got me somewhere!

As you can imagine,  living in NYC with 2 kids (age 1 and 3) has given us very little vacation time. So this really means a lot to us. Thank you to everyone who read the article and to everyone who passed it on! And thanks to Kiwi Collection for inviting me to participate along side a group of such talented bloggers. I had a blast!

August 31, 2010   6 Comments

House of Slope by FujiwaraMuro Architects

click images to enlarge

Shintaro Fujiwara and Yoshio Muro of FujiwaraMura Architects recently completed House of Slope. If I lived here I would undoubtedly buy a chair with wheels and roll out the door every morning.

The residential home is located in Osaka and was constructed on what is known as a flagpole site* (旗竿敷地).

The home sits, like many homes in Japan, in a highly dense residential neighborhood. Working under these circumstances, the architects conceived the slope as having 2 purposes. First, it would create an ambiguous, undefined space that would be used not only as a means of transportation, but also as a gallery space, a child’s play area, or simply a place to sit down.

Second, by wrapping the slope around the sides of the house, the resident will visually and consciously obtain a sprawling sense of space as they move from one room to the other.

*Flagpole site: a piece of land that is shaped like a flagpole (a), characterized by a narrow path leading to the main site, which is set back from the street. The flagpole site is a real-estate phenomenon that, is indigenous to Japan. It really began to spread after the end of WWII and can be attributed to homeowner psychology at the time. To own a home was to contribute to the rebuilding of Japan as a nation. It was considered one of the most patriotic things you could do.

Additionally, if you were going to own a home, the ideal shape was that of a samurai residence (武家屋敷), which happens to be defined by a perfectly square-shaped home that sits perfectly in the center of a larger square-shaped yard. However, in dense cities where land comes at a premium, the yard was forfeited. The only prerequisite for building a home was that it be square-shaped (size was a non-issue) as the perception that square = value quickly become embedded in the mindset.

To this day the product lineup of most homebuilding companies in Japan are based on the old samurai residence. This has resulted in neighborhoods being hashed up into small square-shaped land sites with a foot or so of dead space between neighboring houses. This is also the reason why trees are scarce in residential neighborhoods in Japan – squares don’t accommodate any sort of yard. [source]

August 30, 2010   3 Comments

Kime by Mikiya Kobayashi

Pick Holder (2,300 yen) | click images to enlarge

Designer Mikiya Kobayashi was kind enough to send us images of kime, a new line of products that he launched over the summer. Kime (木目), which means grain or wood texture, is an appropriate name for this new line of finely crafted wooden products because that is exactly what they are all about.

Bottle Opener (2,800 yen)

Each piece was hand crafted by wood artisans in Ashikawa, Hokkaido, who have worked with the material their entire lives. Kobayashi speaks of wood as if it was a person. Every piece of wood is different from the next, without a single one having the same face, says Kobayashi in an interview. Each grain is unique, offering the user an infinite glimpse at the many expressions of wood.

Tape Measure (2,500 yen)

You can see the product lineup here and you can buy the pieces here.

August 30, 2010   2 Comments

Tokushu Tokai Paper Headquarters by Hiromura Design Office

Over the summer Tokushu Tokai Holdings changed their name to Tokushi Tokai Paper. And to commemorate the event the specialty paper company enlisted Hiromura Design Office to give their headquarters a facelift.

I think it’s fantastic, and is exactly what a paper company needs. It has elements of technology, modernism,  organization, and, most importantly, it just really looks like they know (the capabilities of) their product.

In case you were curious, the Masaaki Hiromura (of Hiromura Design Office) is the mastermind behind the signage campaign for the highly acclaimed 9hr Hotel.

August 26, 2010   Comments Off

Makimono display system by kenma

click images to enlarge

I know…another artist rendering. But I would love to see this conceptual storage system come to fruition! Designed by Kenma, Makimono (PDF) – literally, “scroll” – allows the user to customize the display system to virtually any layout.

The concept came in 3rd place this year at the Okamura Visplay Design Competition. I spy some of their osusowake planters sitting on the top left shelf.

Nice illustration too!

August 25, 2010   Comments Off

Junya Ishigami | How small? How vast? How architecture grows

One of my favorite architects, Junya Ishigami (his website is only a contact form…I know: frustrating), is having an exhibition at the Shiseido Gallery.

click images to enlarge

The highly anticipated show (at least for me) just opened yesterday. I combed the interweb yesterday for images and turned up with nothing. I tried again today and bingo! ARTiT has hooked us up with a first look.

If you are not familiar with Junya Ishigami, check out my feature on Japanese contemporary architects I did back in 2008 where I talked about his work “Kait Kobo.” Also, if you are in Tokyo I would highly recommend the show. Ishigami is not a very public figure and it’s a rare opportunity to check out his work.

Junya Ishigami, along with designers such as Nosigner, is part of a school of young designers who got their start studying under acclaimed architect Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA.

August 24, 2010   Comments Off

Fujiyama beer glass

I climbed Mt. Fuji with my Mom when I was about 10 years old. At the time I wasn’t old enough to drink, but that’s all right because this Fujiyama beer glass hadn’t been designed yet. I like the tagline, which reads, “drink it down at Fuji.”

Designed by Keita Suzuki, the Fujiyama Glass (3,776 yen) won the Mizuno Manabu Award at a design contest in 2008. It was just recently commercialized with Mizuno Manabu himself taking on the packaging design. They encourage you to see the many phases of Mt. Fuji by experimenting with different drinks. For example, tomato juice would create a Mt. Fuji sunset.

click images to enlarge

Fun Fact: did you know that the top of Mt. Fuji is technically nowhere? It doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of either Shizuoka or Yamanashi prefecture. In 1974, the supreme court shot down the state and ruled in favor of a Shinto shrine, arguing that it was the embodiment of the gods of Mt. Fuji and therefore all the land above the 8th station is sacred and belongs to the shrine. [source]

August 24, 2010   Comments Off

Ekoda Apartment Renovation

I typically don’t post artist renderings because they always look better than the end design, don’t they? I always feel like I was cheated. But I couldn’t help myself!

This reno of an apartment, which, I assume, is located near Ekoda Station in Tokyo, has me in a serious case of real estate envy. What a fun space that would be to live in. It was designed by Makoto Tanijiri of Suppose Design Office and, according to his tweet, is nearing completion.

August 23, 2010   Comments Off

The Reincarnation of Studio Voice

When the 33-year old art & culture magazine STUDIO VOICE announced last year that that they were discontinuing their print version, they were not alone in their financial woes and I was not alone in my grieving woes. Well the time has come to rejoice because they just announced the release of their iPhone app! Plus, there is an iPad version in the works. The best part? It’s FREE.

I just downloaded the app and its stock full of content including music videos, interviews, articles, all beautifully laid out thanks to Tokyo Pistol, who is in charge of the art direction. My commute just got a little bit better.


August 23, 2010   Comments Off

eat with your hands! Moe Furuya’s Hand Fork & Hand Spoon

Looking for a kid’s gift? This Hand Fork & Hand Spoon set is adorable and would make dinner time just a little bit more special. Especially if you happen to be dealing with a picky eater.

The Hand Fork & Hand Spoon is a recent joint collaboration between Mitsubai Tokyo and illustrator Moe Furuya (whose name is not pronounced like one of the 3 stooges). The set retails for 3,150 yen. If you’re interested, you can see some of Furuya’s psychedelic illustrations HERE.

How awesome is this packaging? If I owned a store I would display them like books in a bookshelf.

August 20, 2010   Comments Off