japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — November 2011

Handmade wooden tableware by Takashi Tomii

I don’t do gift guides anymore but if I did, these would certainly be on the list! Takashi Tomii is an artisan based in Kyoto and creates stunning wooden tableware out of solid pieces of wood that he hand-picks. I love how the hand of the artist is so apparent in the etchings and carvings of each of his pieces.

You can buy some of his tableware through Mjolk, who just happens to be the first non-Japan retailer to carry his work (each image linked to product page)!


November 30, 2011   1 Comment

Yusuke Asai’s mud and masking tape paintings

“Specimen – Forest Streets” (2010). Pen on paper, masking tape.
Photo: Ikuhiro Watanabe
. Courtesy the artist and Arataniurano

During a recent trip to Tokyo I had the pleasure of checking out the work of Yusuka Asai, a young painter who uses everything at his disposal – mud, dust, masking tape and flour – to create living, breathing works of art. “Pagi Sore,” which was on display at Arataniurano (but has since ended), featured a series of stunning paintings constructed from masking tape that was salvaged from previous large-scale installations.

“Specimen – Clairvoyant” (2010). Pen on paper, masking tape.
Photo: Ikuhiro Watanabe

Top, bottom | Yusuke Asai. Exhibition view of “pagi-sore” (2011).
ARATANIURANO, Tokyo photo: Keizo Kioku

But if you still want to check out Asai’s work you’re in luck! Several of his mud paintings are on display at the MOT through Januar 15, 2012.

“Mud painting: large mountain” (2009). Mud and water collected in Gunma. Photo: Masaru Yanagiba

“Mud painting: the blessing dance” (2011). Mud, water, cow dung, etc. collected in Bodhgaya, India. Photo: Kenji Mimura

“The indoor forest / The ground story” (2010). Masking tape, pen. Photo: Ko Yamada

November 30, 2011   Comments Off

Japan’s Hit Products of 2011

Another year another trend. Time to look back on Japan’s best products of 2011 according to ad agency Dentsu. In case this is your first time with these lists, Dentsu considers people, places and events, products as well.

Take it as it is, but I kind of like looking back on what was on the minds of many Japanese; or at least what Japan’s mass media wanted on their minds. Oh and the same rules apply: selection is based on 4 major categories – sales, ingenuity, market-creation and influence.

Curious about what was big last year or the year before? Check out the previous lists.

1. Smartphones

image courtesy Apple

Once again the smartphone reigns supreme, maintaining its top place on this list. Yano Research expects just over 20 million smartphone shipments in Japan in 2011, which represents an impressive 250% increase compared to last year. But then again, any new and shiny device could probably boast similar numbers. Let’s move on.

2. LED Light Bulbs

image courtesy panasonic

In the wake of the Tohoku tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster, one mentality that helped bring a stricken nation together was its citizens collective effort to conserve electricity. As you’ll see, energy-saving devices is a theme that will make several appearances on this list.

Pictured above is Panasonic’s LED light bulb (LDAHV4L27CG). It was noted for its use of clear glass, while its LED light source resembles a filament that can effectively disperse light in all directions. It offers a lifespan of 40,000 hours.

3. Tokyo Sky Tree

image courtesy tokyo-skytree

As the new tower for terrestrial digital broadcasting climbs higher – closer towards its 2012 completion – so does it’s place on this list (up 3 ranks from last year). As construction progressed, it was announced back in March that the tower had officially become the world’s tallest free standing tower. But it also set another, more unfortunate, record – a spike in road deaths caused be pedestrians and motorists alike who were apparently taking their eyes off the road to admire the attraction.

4. Nadeshiko Japan

image courtesy UEFA

Nadeshiko Japan is the nickname given to the Japanese women’s soccer league. They gloriously defeated the United States in the Women’s World Cup finals in July, a time when the country desperately needed a morale boost. At one point it was reported that almost 28% of the population tuned in to watch their underdogs defeat one of the world’s top-ranked teams.

5. AKB48

image courtesy livedoor

The all-girl idol group with an average age in the mid-to-high teens. They had a pretty fantastic year. To borrow the words of The Bruce Dickinson, these girls put their mini-skirts on just like the rest of us – one leg at a time. Except once their mini-skirts are on they make gold records!  Thanks to a robust following of otaku supporters who are seemingly immune to the economy, their 2011 singles – sakura no ki ni narou, Everyday kachusha and Flying Get – all catapulted into the millions soon after release.

6. Mana Ashida

Mana Ashida in the Asian remake of Ghost | courtesy nipponcinema

Mana Ashida, a 7-year old child actress, swept Japan with kawaii fever after starring in several high-profile TV series, as well as a couple variety shows. She released a solo album (yes she can sing too) on November 23, which landed her 8th in the oricon weekly top 10 chart.

7. Hybrid Cars

image courtesy Honda

Hybrid cars got a boost from eco-conscious consumers looking for further ways to save on resources other than their own. Pictured above is the Honda FREED, a much anticipated hybrid minivan that just recently went on sale.

8. Emergency supplies and survival food

image courtesy takasinso

There’s a big difference between strategically devising a contingency plan and panicky housewives going out and stockpiling natto. Both were results of the earthquake and tsunami but the lasting impact had to do with the prior. The devastating realities in the wake of the tragedy served as a chilling reminder that it can’t hurt to be prepared. Some of the more popular survival foods that people decided to include in their survival kits were kanpan (hardtack), cup ramen and instant curry.

9. Electric fans

image courtesy plus minus zero

Although not as energy-efficient as their hand-powered brethren, the electric fan became a popular replacement for air conditioners in the country’s communal attempt to conserve electricity

10. Chideji (digital terrestial broadcasting) Wide Screen Flat Panel TVs

Although falling a few ranks versus last year, the chideji TVs managed to squeeze onto the top 10 as the country phased out their analog broadcasting over the summer. Procrastinating consumers raced to secure uninterrupted television service, casually ignoring the fact that all you really need is an 8000-yen chideji tuner. But then again, who doesn’t love a brand-new-sparkling flatscreen TV?

source: Dentsu (PDF)

November 29, 2011   Comments Off

Fin lounge chair by Naoya Misawa

How adorable are these whale fin lounge chairs by Naoya Misawa? Simply titled “Fin,” last month the chair received 2nd place in the 2011 Erik Jørgensen Design Awards. As an animal motif lover these tickle my heart!

Check out our other stories on the furniture and product designer.

source: Naoya Misawa’s blog

November 28, 2011   Comments Off

DIY: Origami Cube Lights

Every year when Thanksgiving weekend (in the U.S.) rolls around, I start seeing all the holiday decor come out and I start plotting my Holiday DIY project. I’ve gone through the usual projects like the garland, wreath and candles and this year I found this project over on Wit & Whistle. It’s perfect for re-purposing the string LED lights have I have been getting bored of after putting them up the same way for a few years now.

It’s pretty simple to create; it was one of the first origami creations that I learned to make as a little girl - actually considered to be a origami balloon.

String of lights (I would recommend using LED lights to avoid creating any fire hazards)
Square pieces of paper (in your choice of color, about 8.5″ x 8.5″)


1. Fold the squares as follows to make paper cubes - click image to enlarge

Paper Cube Instructions
click to enlarge

You might have to tug lightly and help shape the cube while you inflate the cube.

2. When you are done folding enough paper cubes, poke each light into the paper cube. It should be pretty easy to poke through the hole seen on #16 of the instructions.

Paper cube lights

That’s it! You can also use colored LED lights or colored paper to add some color to your project. Although I do like them in the natural white and I can see getting some use out of them on my patio during the summer! Happy decorating!

November 28, 2011   Comments Off

Block Party | Lego artist Sachiko Akinaga creates T Magazine logo from 15,000 legos

click images to enlarge

Tokyo-based lego artist Sachiko Akinaga has recreated the iconic gothic T for the New York Times Style Magazine, more commonly known as the T Magazine, using 15,000 legos. The structure – the artist’s largest ever to date – is featured (pg 121) in the Winter2011 Travel Issue, published on November 20,2011.

From the T Magazine:

As a child the Tokyo-based lego artist Sachiko Akinaga played almost exclusively with legos. For this issue she created a six-by-six-foot scene using 15,000 of them. In the middle of a green Lego park stands a Lego hotel – complete with a rooftop pool, bar and band – in the shape of our gothic T. “The many minifigures might remind you of yourself,” she says of the resort’s tiny humans. A graduate of the Toyo Institute of Art and Design in Tokyo, Akinaga has made a Lego version of a McDonald’s Big Mac Value Meal for the toy company.

source: T Magazine | Designboom

November 25, 2011   Comments Off

Rie Hosokai and Takashi Kawada launch balloon bridal project

click images to enlarge

Looking to tie the knot? Balloon artist Rie Hosokai and graphic designer Takashi Kawada, whom together form Daisy Balloon, have launched a new balloon bridal project. With services that include balloon wedding gowns, bouquets, bags and other ornamentation, Daisy is guaranteed to inflate that special day with happiness and a whole bunch of surprised faces.

I wonder if they offer a special “helium” package… to plan your escape in case you get cold feet!

check out our other stories on Daisy Balloon

To commemorate, the two have released “4 Apples of Happiness” (3,000 yen), a picture book that features their iconic Apple Bear as a matchmaker, guiding fellow-animals to find their soul mate.

source: hitspark

November 25, 2011   Comments Off

21st Century Oasis | Sou Fujimoto’s winning entry to design an urban oasis in Taiwan

images courtesy TTIC | click to enlarge

Last week I tweeted about Sou Fujimoto winning a competition to design an urban oasis in Taiwan. While the video in the link was astounding, it didn’t quite do justice to Fujimoto’s bold and daring proposal. But images have now surfaced and are quite telling of why I was blown away.

At an estimated cost of about 1 billion USD, “21st Century Oasis,” the winning entry in the Taiwan Tower International Competition, is on track to land itself in the top 10 most expensive buildings ever built. Inspired by the trunk of the Taiwanese banyan tree, the ornate structural system will encompass a museum and exhibition spaces, as well as support a green rooftop floating 300 meters above the city.

Sou Fujimoto is no stranger to extravagant design. But in this case he seems to have gone above and beyond what I would have expected. With the rest of the global economy stalling, it’s a project that probably only can get green-lighted in China (but only in Taiwan would a Japanese architect be able to have his name on it).

Some examples of the different lighting schemes the broad facade can provide.

source: CTS News | TTIC | designboom

November 25, 2011   Comments Off

Jewelry Inspired by Rock Sugar | Recrystal Rings by Dan Tomimatsu

photo by Tomohiko Okutsu | click to enlarge

It doesn’t get much sweeter than this! Japanese designer Dan Tomimatsu has designed a brand new line of jewelry inspired by rock sugar. Much in the same way that the designer recalls those sweet childhood memories of cradling a crystal between your teeth, the rings are intended to invoke fond memories, whether it’s your mother giving you a crystal to suck on, or those sugar crystal experiments you did in science class.

The collection is on display through the end of this week at contemporary creations gallery in Kichijoji. You can see the full lineup of rings on the designer’s facebook page.

source: @DAN_TOMMY

November 24, 2011   Comments Off

Yasuragi by Odin | atelier BNK

images courtesy atelier bnk | click to enlarge

There’s something about snowscapes that makes viewing architecture all the more enjoyable. Enter Hokkaido-based architecture studio Atelier BNK‘s recent project Yasuragi by Odin. Completed this year, these luxury apartments boast breathtaking views and a personal spa, bridging the best of traditional Japanese onsen culture with the intimacy of a private residence. Snow country just became a bit more attractive.

source: atelier BNK

November 23, 2011   Comments Off