japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — March 2011

Tsuchinoko MV by Gaka

I love this new music video by Gaka, a 16-piece Japanese instrumental band. The video was created by visual design unit Rakuda-san and can best be described as a large-scale group pantomime.

The name of the song is Tsuchinoko, and undoubtedly refers to the mythical snake-like creature that can be spotted at the end of the video as projectile vomit.

via Creative Review

March 31, 2011   Comments Off

Nippon Vision 4

Have you ever wished that someone would put together a “best of” exhibition of Japanese design? I know I have and now I know someone was listening. Nippon Vision 4, which opens April 6th at Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku, survey’s all 47 prefectures in Japan, carefully selecting designs that were hand-crafted in that prefecture and sourced from local materials.

The theme of the show is 4, which indicates the 4 major categories of design that will be of central focus: accessories, clothing, food and home.

Broom and dustbin from Kumamoto.
Designed by Toshinobu Takamitsu of Open Studio.

Hat tip to Kenmei Nagaoka of D&Department, who did a fantastic job curating the show. These are a few of our picks but be sure to check out their beautiful website for the full lineup.

Brass pot rests from Toyama.
Produced by Futagami and designed by Masanori Oji.

Ring Ultra and Earrings Leaf from Aichi.
They were made from heat-resistant glass such as what’s used to make test-tubes.
Designed by Yoko Yano.

Kitchen scissors from Hyogo
Hand-crafted by TAjiKA, a group of artisans who have passed down the art of scissor-making for 4 generations.

Tea Caddy from Kyoto
Made by Kaikado, who has been making tin canisters since 1875.

Nippon Vision 4
Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku, 6th floor (Gmap)
4.6.2011 – 4.11
10:00am – 8:00pm (closes at 4pm on final day)

March 31, 2011   3 Comments

Art in support for Japan (part II)

In addition to our previous roundup of some of our favorite prints expressing support for Japan, we wanted to share another batch that we came across. Sent in to the editors of Madame Figaro from designers across the globe, the images were created by some pretty big-name designers. Despite Milan Design Week approaching rapidly, it’s touching to see that they took the time to come up with these warm messages of support.


Spanish designer Nacho Carbonell


UK designer Peter Marigold


French designers Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec

March 30, 2011   Comments Off

Tomodachi Calling

After the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Northern Japan, confusion and helplessness ensued. But it didn’t last long. Ai Kurahashi, Naoko Maeda and Sebastian Mayer quickly pulled together an idea for an online charity shop in which artists and designers donate their work for sale.

About 2 weeks ago they began reaching out to their contacts within the design industry and the response was overwhelming. Artwork began flowing into their inbox. Now Tomodachi Calling has over 50 participating artists whose work you can buy with 100% of sales going to charity.

Below are 2 of my favorites but check out the webshop for the full selection and follow their blog (or twitter feed) for updates!

One of my favorites Japanese graphic designers, Bob Foundation, has contributed this gorgeous print.


One of my favorite designers, Shunsuke Umiyama of Microworks, came up with the stark and chilling reminder of the exact time the earthquake struck.

[editor's note]
This is our first post on any organization selling goods to raise money for Japan. For us, it’s been an awkward concept right from the beginning and have felt uncomfortable endorsing a specific product, which is why we have deliberately avoided the topic. But over the days we’ve grown more comfortable with it as long as it’s clear that 100% of proceeds go to charity.



March 30, 2011   Comments Off

Ex-container project by Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects

In late 2009 Yasutaka Yoshimura Architects completed Bayside Marina Hotel. Located right off the water in Yokohama bay, the structure of the hotel was made from shipping containers that had been pre-assembled in Thailand. The architects – unaware that their innovation would come in handy in the future, were able to achieve an astonishingly low-cost structure that was both stylish and unique.

Sixteen days after the devastating Sendai earthquake and tsunami displaced thousands, the architects – just 2 days ago – announced that they were pulling out their project from the vault and would begin accepting donations to provide the same type of housing to those whose homes were permanently destroyed. If you would like to help, follow this link where you will find an email address. All inquiries, including volunteering, are welcome. If you would like to donate money you will also find bank account information where you can send a wire transfer to.

According to recent reports, the 3 prefectures affected require roughly 33,000 new homes but, as of March 29th, only 8% of that demand has been met. It’s nice to see that there are some who are able to cut through the radiation paranoia and focus on the more dire situation, which is helping the refugees find shelter for their families.

Much in the same vein as the Shigeru Ban project we wrote about 2 weeks ago, Yasutaka Yoshimura has proposed an ideal solution for refugee housing. The containers are not only cost-effective but they also require minimal construction and are safe and comforting for displaced families.

images of the completed hotel | courtesy Yasutaka Yoshimura
click to enlarge



March 29, 2011   Comments Off

Corroded Rings by Yasushi Jona

images courtesy of Yasushi Jona | click to enlarge

Didn’t you hear? Ancient is the new vintage.

That’s the idea behind these poetic pieces of jewelry by designer Yasushi Jona. The line of jewelry, which is simply titled Jona, was carefully crafted to give the impression that they were something recovered from the shipwreck of a Spanish galleon. I hate using the term wabi-sabi, because it feels so clichéd and dwelling on it leads too easily to predictable and overly-simplistic interpretations of Japanese culture. But these pieces are a nice representation of the concept.

Yasushi Jona first got his start in jewelry as a designer for Pola Chemical Industries’ design laboratory. After teaching jewelry design for several years he emerged as a freelance designer in 2005. His pieces are available at, among other stores, the Osaka-based select shop Toi.

via colossal

March 28, 2011   Comments Off

Metaphys maisonette tote bag

The latest product to come out of industrial designer Chiaki Murata’s design label Metaphys is this maisonette tote bag. The bag is divided into 3 compartments that vary in size for some specific modern-day necessities. It’s an elegant solution that makes the standard tote bag oh-so-much-more attractive.

It comes in 4 different colors and retails for 9800 yen. You can buy it from White Rabbit Express.



March 25, 2011   Comments Off

Moma Place by Akasaka Shinichiro Atelier

Late last year a new multi-retail space in Sapporo called Moma Place opened. It’s the latest project by Sapporo-based architectural studio Akasaka Shinichiro Atelier. The space includes shops, cafes, galleries and a restaurant, the interiors of which were all designed by the architects as well.

It’s like a mini-mall, except, aesthetically, it far exceeds any mall I have seen in the States.

March 25, 2011   Comments Off

Soji wooden tableware designed by MUTE

Upon request from Unomatudo, an Ishikawa-based lacquer ware-maker with an 80-year history, Kenji Ito and Takahiro Umino of design unit MUTE have designed a wooden tableware set that consists of plates, bowls, boxes and canisters.

Aptly titled Soji (素地) – a term often used to describe greenware pottery before it’s been fired – the collection, contrary to the lacquer-finished pieces the company is known for, are all made from bare wood.

The pieces were on display at the 2011 Tokyo Giftshow last month.

The duo has also redesigned the company’s logo:



March 24, 2011   Comments Off

52 by Suppose Design Office

Hot off the new-storefront-design rack is 52, a new store that opened in Shizuoka last Sunday (March 20th). It was designed by Tanijiri Makoto of Suppose Design Office.

Much in the same way that museums often display artwork under natural light, which generally creates a more positive effect on a space than electric light, this space too was designed with consideration towards the object that is to be displayed. By creating 2 rooms – a room that does and doesn’t bring the outdoors in – the architect was able to precisely engineer the ideal location for objects to be displayed.

images courtesy suppose design office | click to enlarge

(images updated from rendering to actuals on 05.26.2011 as they became available on the architects website)



March 23, 2011   Comments Off