japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — December 2011

DIY: Miniature Pinecone Christmas Tree

DIY pinecone christmas tree (23)images courtesy masahiro minami

This adorable DIY project for kids comes courtesy of my friend Masahiro Minami, who, along with his students at the University of Shiga Prefecture, came up with the idea and executed it over the weekend at a workshop.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Rocks – preferably smooth and flat as they’ll serve as the based for the tree
  • Pinecones
  • Ornaments – necklace beads are perfect but any small things (lego pieces, glitter, rhinestones or buttons) would work.
  • Paint and paintbrushes
  • Glue gun

DIY pinecone christmas tree (18)

First, go out and pick some pinecones and find some rocks. Then come home and decorate them. You can paint the pinecone, use glue to attach ornaments, or both. If you like, go ahead and paint your rock as well!

DIY pinecone christmas tree (12)

DIY pinecone christmas tree (4)

DIY pinecone christmas tree (29)

Once it’s decorated, use a glue gun and dab some glue to the bottom of the pinecone. Then place it onto the rock. Hold in place until the glue dries (about 2 min).

DIY pinecone christmas tree (7)

DIY pinecone christmas tree (8)

DIY pinecone christmas tree (16)

And that’s really all there is to it. Now you have your very own miniature Christmas tree!

It’s a simple, fun activity that can help kids realize and appreciate the wonderful small things that are often right under our feet – we just need to look for them.

DIY pinecone christmas tree (19)

DIY pinecone christmas tree (20)

DIY pinecone christmas tree (24)

DIY pinecone christmas tree (25)

December 12, 2011   Comments Off

Kinoishi wooden rocks by Taku Satoh

images courtesy Taku Satoh | click to enlarge

I’m always on the lookout for nice wooden toys for the kids. But who would have thought the most spectacular was also the most simple? Largely self-explanatory (but indulge me anyway), Kinoishi – literally, wooden rocks – are a bag of tactile wood pellets sanded so soft they resemble polished stones one might find washed up on shore.

They were designed by Taku Satoh and sold at a charity market earlier this year to benefit victims of the 3.11 tsunami and earthquake. As far as I can tell, they are currently unavailable.

You can stack them, you can draw with them or you can just cradle them in your hands. There are no rules to this game.

Source: Taku Satoh’s website

December 12, 2011   1 Comment

Chimney House incense holder by design office A4

images courtesy A4 | click to enlarge

How adorable are these tiny incense holders shaped like homes with a chimney? They’re one of the more recent designs from Mamoru Fukui and Daimon Kanno, the design duo who, together, form product design office A4.

The mini-structures, which are available for 545 yen, are upcycled from scrap wood leftover from the furniture design process, rendering each on unique. They range in size from 10mm (small) to 50mm (large).

WhiteRabbit Express can help you order it from Japan.

I’ve seen designs that are similar, but I’m especially fond of this one! Sometimes I wish I lived in a small town of cute houses with chimneys.

If you’re interested you can read some of our other stories on A4.

source: A4′s blog

December 10, 2011   Comments Off

An archive of architectural magazines | Yoshioka Library by Akihisa Hirata

images courtesy Akihisa Hirata | click to enlarge

Earlier this year a new library opened up in Tokyo’s Bunkyo-ward. Designed by architect Akihisa Hirata, Yoshioka Library is an architecture nerd’s dream come true – an archive of roughly 5000 titles of architecture magazines ranging from popular to obscure. The collection includes Japanese magazines, foreign magazines and even up-and-coming titles like C3 (Korea) and Art4D (Thailand). If you’ve read our previous posts on Hirata you’ll know that he is often inspired by trees – a form he finds highly symbolic because of their intrinsic abilities to offer shade and create resting places for all living things.

The library is often considered a place of rest, concentration or contemplation. And in Hirata’s library, the tree takes root as shelving, extending up through the trunk and branches where the magazines act as leaves. One of the results of this structure is that every issue’s cover, rather than squeezed together with only the binding exposed, is facing outward, making them easy to spot.


Yoshioka Library is a 5-minute walk from Yushima station. It’s situated on the 1st floor of the Shinkenchiku headquarters and  open to the public Wed, Thur and Fri., from 1:30pm – 6:00pm.

source: Akihisa Hirata | Yoshioka Bunko

December 9, 2011   Comments Off

Omotesando Koffee

images courtesy Eding:Post | click to enlarge

To find one of the best cups of coffee in Tokyo all you really need to do is wander off the beaten path. Nestled within a quaint residential (yet high-end!) neighborhood of Omotesando lies Omotesando Koffee – a shop so unassuming that entering it feels like walking into someone’s private courtyard. In fact, simply stumbling upon it is probably a rare occurrence. If 3 college students hadn’t been sitting on the bench outside I wouldn’t have known they were open for business.

all images below by Spoon & Tamago | click to enlarge

The shop, which was opened and is attended by barista Eiichi Kunitomo, has been in existence less than a year but has already appealed to coffee aficionados (and design-conscious coffee aficionados, but more on that below) around Tokyo. And while the current house it occupies is set to be demolished next year, all hope is not lost. Kunitomo plans to relocate his one-man operation of dripping goodness to another location in Tokyo.

The minimalist logo and identity, as well as the box-like steel frame structure are the work of Eding:Post, who worked together with Kunitomo to communicate his concept of impermanence.

(If you’re interested you can read our other posts on Eding:Post)

The steel frame structure, and what’s inside it, represents the essence of what the store is all about. Everything else is simply a vessel, serving many needs but essentially replaceable when the time comes to move one. I look forward to seeing how Kunitomo’s steel box structure, coffee shop and all, evolves and adapts to its future home. As indicated by their website (the URL is ooo-koffee.com), “Omotesando” could just as easily be interchanged with “Sapporo,” “Paris,” “Asakusa” or “Osaka.”


December 8, 2011   Comments Off

Tamaki Niime’s Banshu-ori Shawls

image courtesy Tamaki Niime | click to enlarge

Would I like to wrap niime’s shawl around my neck? Why yes, yes I would. Tamaki Niime is a Hyogo-based artisan who hand-weaves the most delicate shawls in the banshu-ori tradition. Characterized by a technique known as saki-zome (pre-dying the thread before weaving) the tradition dates back to as far as 1792. Niime uses vintage looms to create one-of-a-kind shawls out of cotton and a mix of silk or wool, depending on the season.

Niime in her studio in Nishiwaki CIty, Hyogo

Earlier this year New York-based fashion writer Akiko Ichikawa stumbled upon the luscious shawls. Wanting to learn more, she made a trip to Niime’s studio in Nishiwaki City, a town that once prospered from its fabric industry, supplying to the likes of western fashion houses like Burberry and Brooks Brothers.

The meeting blossomed into a working relationship and resulted in Niime’s luscious shawls becoming available in the U.S. Current stockists include the New York-based online shop La Garconne.

images courtesy La Garconne | click to enlarge

December 8, 2011   1 Comment

Mori Christmas Illuminations

Roppongi Hillsclick to enlarge | Roppongi Hills

If you couldn’t tell, I’m all into the lights this holiday season. My relatives that are still living in Tokyo told me about “all the pretty lights” that are on during this holiday season and I decided to do a little googleing. In my mind, parts of Tokyo could easily rival Paris as the “City of Lights.” I found the CHRISTMAS ILLUMINATION stage by Mori Building site that showcases all the decorating and light shows that the Roppongi Hills, Omotesando Hills, La Foret Harajuku, have to offer around Tokyo.

Roppongi Hillsclick to enlarge | Roppongi Hills

La Foret Harajukuclick to enlarge | La Foret

Ark Hillsclick to enlarge | Ark Hills

Omotesando Hills

The Omotesando Hills display celebrates Walt Disney’s110 th birthday, along with many limited edition merchandise. The main street of Omotesando is also lined with thousands of lights this holiday season. All these places become hot spots for couples. More information on locations and times can be found at each locations website or by going to the Christmas Illumination site by Mori Building – most of the displays end on Christmas day.

Bonus: Video of the Venus Fort light show that is synchronized to music.

Source: CHRISTMAS ILLUMINATION stage by Mori Building

December 8, 2011   Comments Off

Tekio by Anthony Dickens

Tekio - Anthony Dickens

Inspired by Japanese chochin, Anthony Dickens, an industrial designer based in London, has created a modular lighting series – TekioTekio (適応; pronounced te-ki-ou) means adaptation in Japanese, and this light fixture is flexible enough to adapt to any space by transforming to fit or create a new focal point to any area. The segments connect together to make it short as long as you want, and also makes changing bulbs easy.

Twisted in a knot…

Tekio Spiral/Knot by Anthony Dickensclick to enlarge

Or circular…

Tekio Anthony Dickensclick to enlarge

Tekio by Anthony Dickensclick to enlarge

It is currently a prototype, but is rumored to be available sometime next year. I would be changing configurations and playing around with it all the time. It would be my grown up tinkertoy or stylish Lego.

Source: Design Milk | Anthony Dickens

December 7, 2011   Comments Off

Bloomberg Pavillion Project by Akihisa Hirata

photos by Takumi Ota | click to enlarge

Japanese architect Akihisa Hirata has created the Bloomberg Pavillion, an experimental art space that sits outside the main entrance of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT). Having just opened its doors about 1 month ago, the geometric structure, which resembles a salt crystal science experiment, is slated to become an exhibition and performance space for young artists.

Taking a page from the book of Toyo Ito, Hirata’s previous employer of 7 years, the architect looked to nature in its organic essence for inspiration. The result is what can be called a unity of mathematics and nature – a structure made entirely  from a combination of isosceles triangles that appear to branch out and grow like a tree (or a salt crystal experiment).

Check out our previous stories on Akihisa Hirata and you will see his obsession with geometric patterns in architecture.

source: domus

December 7, 2011   Comments Off

Beautiful People Shop in Aoyama by Wonderwall

photos by Kozo Takayama | click to enlarge

Here’s a recent project by the talented interior design firm Wonderwall, headed up by Masamichi Katayama. After supplying their popular fashion line to select shops around Japan, Beautiful People, the budding line of apparel, finally decided to get their own brick-and-mortar shop. And where better to list themselves than the snazzy center of fashion that is Aoyama?

Lead fashion designer Hidenori Kumakiri sat down with Katayama and laid out the essence of his clothing line. Katayama took that and created what you see here – a mesmerizing field of hundreds of white flowers that is at once both beautiful, surreal and slightly off balance. It’s as if you chased Alice through the hole and ended up in a wonderland of fashion. There are even little white bugs camouflaged in the flowers!

Read some of our other stories on Wonderwall.

The shop opened at the end of August. You can check out their lookbook here.

source: Wonderwall and their blog

December 6, 2011   1 Comment