japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — October 2011

Font Gear by Kaiho Sho

Letters are components of a larger (alphabetic) system that work in tandem to produce a force (language). So why not create a typeface based on gears – those rotating machines that transmit motion? That was the idea behind Font Gear, a typeface created by Kaiho Sho for his senior thesis exhibition at Tamabi.

Sure it’s not the first gear typeface, but it’s certainly the prettiest in my book!

I came across Kaiho Sho while exploring the body of work produced for the 2011 senior thesis exhibition of students from Tama Art University(Tamabi).

See all our posts on student work.

October 31, 2011   1 Comment

Ten-ten by Miharu Matsunaga | redux

I rarely do two posts in a row on the same artist. But this is probably the first time I’ve done 2 posts in a row on the same artist with the same title of work. This is because I’m fascinated with Miharu Matsunaga’s fascination with dots.

In what is presumably a prequel to here senior thesis work, Matsunaga hand-painted dots – both large and small – onto common landscapes, transforming them into breathtaking works of art. Objects that you wouldn’t even take notice of, now cause you to stop and observe them ever-so-carefully.

See all our posts on student work.


October 31, 2011   Comments Off

Ten-ten by Miharu Matsunaga

click images to enlarge

Student designer Miharu Matsunaga created a series of stunning photographs titled “ten-ten” (dots). In order to illustrate the obvious yet often forgotten bond between man, woman, family, friend, adult, child and nationality, Matsunaga decided to painstakingly hand-draw hundreds of dots across the human body. The result is dazzling as it is obfuscating. The different races, ages and genders blur together on the canvas as if to say, we are one massive painting. Really gorgeous!

It reminds me of Mimi-nashi Hoichi (Hoichi the Earless), an old Japanese story that used to scare the bejesus out of me. As the legend goes, a priest tries to protect Hoichi from a ghost by painting inscriptions on his entire body, rendering him invisible to the ghost. However, the priest forgets to paint Hoichi’s ears! When the ghost returns the following night, Hoichi’s ears – the only visible part of his body – are torn off by the ghost.

I am consistently amazed by the talent coming out of young student designers. I came across Mihara Matsunaga while exploring the body of work produced for the 2011 senior thesis exhibition of students from Tama Art University (Tamabi).

See all our posts on student work.

October 28, 2011   Comments Off

2012 calendars! oh god!

Each year around this time we like to do a roundup of some of our favorite calendars for the following year. Can you believe we’re heading into 2012? I certainly can’t. If you’re interested, please check out our previous posts, which include 2009 calenders! oh no!2010 calendars! oh my! and 2011 Calendars! Oh crap!.

Chie Tanaka’s rainbow “Pullout Calendar” was produced in collaboration with Takeo Paper and will be exhibited/sold (5,250 yen) at Mitsukoshi Department Store in conjunction with Designtide Tokyo 2011.

Also in collaboration with Takeo Paper is Kei Matsushita’s “Graph Calendar” (15,750 yen). It’s an upright calendar and you flip the days as the year progress. It comes in 4 different colors.

Yusaku Shimoyama’s “Surge” calendar is made from one sheet of paper and becomes three dimensional when assembled to look like an architect model. Available at the MoMA Store ($10.95)

Hiroyuki Miyake‘s “Measure Calendar” works like a retractable tape measure, with one centimeter for each day of the year.

And of course, our roundup of calendars wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from graphic design office D-BROS. First up is “Roll12” (above) by Ryosuke Uehara, in which the motion of flipping from month-to-month becomes part of the design, creating a visually dynamic calendar.

“Family” by Atsushi Hirano is a continuation of a series in which the designer incorporates animals into the typefaces of the days.

Lastly, their “typeface” calendar, which has been rotating through popular typefaces since 2008, is back again; this time with the “century” family.

October 27, 2011   Comments Off

Hirosaki Knife Box by Keiji Ashizawa

Kitchen knife kit boxphotos by Takumi Ota | click to enlarge

Kitchen knife kit box

The Hirosaki knives have been forged by blacksmiths in Hirosaki City for over 1000 years. Kenji Ashizawa‘s handmade paulownia wood knife box is designed to preserve the beauty of the knives by protecting the steel from moisture and maintain their edge. Hirosaki city, located in Aomori Prefecture, is famous for apples in Japan, and so the knife box also utilizes up-cycled apple wood on the rails of the box that join the layers.

Kitchen knife kit boxRead all our stories on Keiji Ashizawa here.

Source: Wallpaper* Handmade 2011

October 27, 2011   Comments Off

MUJI Touchscreen Gloves

This made my day. And just in time for winter! These gloves come with conductive material interwoven into the thumb and forefinger so you can operate your device without subjecting your bare hands to the cold! Thanks MUJI.

Source: MUJI press release

October 26, 2011   3 Comments

Chu Enoki | Unleashing the Museum

“RPM 1200″ | click images to enlarge | courtesy Hyogo Museum of Art

Chu Enoki
is an eccentric Japanese artist who has been practicing since the mid-1960s. He is known for going to Hungary with a “hangari” haircut, walking the streets of Ginza shirtless, with the Expo ’70 logo sunburned onto his bare chest, erecting a pop-up bar and serving drinks to customers while dressed as a transvestite,  as well as large-scale sculptures such as Space Lobster P-81, which was built from over 20 tons of scrap metal salvaged from trains and boats that he disassembled with his own bare hands.

Well now all his humorous oddities – both big and small – have been assembled in a single space in the largest retrospective of his work to date. “Unleashing the Museum,” which opened earlier this month at the Hyogo Museum of Art (details below), is a comprehensive look at the enigmatic artist who poked fun at himself while ridiculing all that modern Japan had become.

“RPM-1200″ (detail) | courtesy Hyogo Museum of Art

One of the main attractions of the show is RPM-1200 (above), a utopian – or perhaps dystopian -  futuristic city sculpted from old drill bits and machine parts.

“cartridge” made from thousands of actual bullet shells

unless otherwise noted, all images courtesy Tabitoba

source: HitsPaper | Hyogo Museum of Art | Tabitoba


Chu Enoki | Unleashing the Museum
Hyogo Museum of Art
2011.10.12 – 11.27
10:00 – 18:00
general admission 1200 yen

October 26, 2011   Comments Off

Halloween Costume by Mihara Yasuhiro

Haven’t figured out what to be for Halloween yet? Take a cue from Japanese fashion designer Mihara Yasuhiro. Although best known for his footwear, Mihara is also an avid kaiju collector. Taking his obsession with the occult a step further, Mihara presents a preppie ghost costume that incorporates a clothes hanger through the head.

“The ghost of preppy style can usually be found in the back of the closet, in the darkest corner, where things are forgotten,” says the designer.

Source: NYT Style Magazine

October 24, 2011   Comments Off

Japan’s Zombie Outbreak Preparedness

(originally published on October 29, 2010)

Each year, around this time, it’s highly recommended that you review your zombie outbreak preparedness plan – experts say it’s not a matter of if, but when. With a cremation rate of 99.85% (2008 data), Japan and their corpse count, or lack thereof, would seem an ideal place to to ride out a plague of the undead. In the text that follows I would like to analyze the pros and cons of the East vs. the West, so that each of us can make informed decisions regarding our own contingency plans for the impending zombie pandemic.

Japan’s Safety Profile

First, when we model out the spread of a zombie pandemic the most essential question is its origination. If the zombie outbreak first originates outside of Japan, and there are no signs of lengthy incubation periods, an initial assessment of the situation may justly lead many to flee to Japan as soon as possible. With very few corpses lying around in the ground, and an ocean surrounding the country, Japan seems to be ideally positioned as a place to not get your brains chewed out.

However, in an entirely different scenario, where the outbreak occurs in Japan, one can easily imagine the devastating consequences of being in the land of the rising dead. In a previous essay, Jim Hawe makes some excellent assertions that question the core of Japan’s safety profile.  First of all, the geographic make-up of Japan could be tragically disadvantageous. Densely populated urban areas serve as ideal feeding grounds. And very little land to actually run to, coupled with the likely probability that other countries would deny you entry due to fear of contamination, certainly raises questions about Japan’s zombie outbreak preparedness.

The lack of guns and other heavy artillery has served Japan well in maintaing a safe, civil and peaceful society over the years. But, just a equally, this will be a crippling weakness as the unaffected desperately search for means to fend off their attackers. Although popularized as an ideal weapon in the Max Brooks novel “World War Z,” in reality any type of samurai sword would prove much more problematic than one might imagine. “Bladed weapons in general are not ideal because they will inevitably get stuck in things and become dull,” said Matt Mogk, founder and head researcher of Zombie Research Society (ZRS).

Culture Matters: Asian Zombie vs. Western Zombie

the zombie’s asian counterpart, the kyonshi

There is an important component that often gets overlooked when analyzing the fundamental zombie preparedness of Japan. And that is the cultural, and I would argue, genetic, differences between eastern and western zombies. For those who are not familiar, allow me to introduce the kyonshi (殭屍), the Asian zombie. Claiming ancestry in China, the kyonshi (which terrified the sh*t out of me as a child) have several noteworthy characteristics that, I would argue, make them less competitive compared to their Western counterparts.

a priest having successfully sedated and captured kyonshi

Currently the only known way to quiet a zombie is to bash their brains in. This is a task that is as difficult as it is gruesome, and only slightly easier if aided by a shotgun. However, kyonshi  can be sedated by tactically placing a small scroll with buddhist inscriptions on the forehead (as pictured above). Also, (and this helps in assisting the first objective) kyonshi are legally blind. They detect human presence from the smell of our breath, making a cornered escape realistically possible by simply holding your breath.

Kyonshi are also known to have hardened joints, rendering their arms and legs inflexible. They mobilize their bodies by hopping, extending their arms in front of them to maintain balance. While this can serve as an initial disadvantage, it is worth pointing out that, over time, their joints are known to soften, allowing them to walk and in some cases even run.

the typical stance of a kyonshi

There is scientific literature that backs up the claim that Kyonshi hate mirrors and being pissed on. So as long as you have your vanity and stay hydrated you have several choices for defense, without resorting to shotguns and crowbars. Which leads me to my final point. Despite their obvious non-competitive traits, kyonshi should not be taken lightly. As Sun Tzu famously wrote in Art of War, “know thy enemy.” So store this information in an accessible location. It will undoubtedly serve you well as you seek survival.


Have a happy halloween

(Note: Although Spoon & Tamago considers the above information to be accurate and correct, it should not be relied upon as a sole means for evaluating personal zombie preparedness plans.  Evolution and/or mutation of the zombie virus will always be a variable in said situations. Spoon & Tamago cannot be held liable for any of the said tactics proving ineffective or unimplementable.)

October 23, 2011   1 Comment

Heat Pad Pencil by Chihiro Konno and Kenjo Ohashi

Talk about being resourceful! Crafted from bamboo, this pencil comes with a small recycled sachet designed to receive its shavings, after it has been sharpened. When the sachet is sealed, it becomes a heat pad thanks to the composting process of the bamboo.

Professor Hirakazu Seki of Kanazawa University has shown that bamboo shavings generate temperatures of up to 50°C (JP) during fermentation. Based on his findings, two young Japanese designers - Tokyo-based Kenjo Ohashi and London-based Chihiro Konno (previously) – have collaborated to create the Heat Pad Pencil. Simply place the shavings in the sachet and seal to initiate the fermentation process. Not only does it serve is a source of warmth but once the heat has dissipated the shavings have been converted to fully biodegradable compost.

The Heat Pad Pencil was a finalist in the Prix Emile Hermes award. Now in it’s second year, the award is offered primarily to young, up-and-coming designers. Sponsored by the Hermes Foundation, each year a specific theme is provided as a starting point. This year it’s “Heat, Me-Heat, Re-Heat.”

source: @masakawa

October 23, 2011   Comments Off