japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — January 2012

Sample | Hinoki Wooden iPhone and iPad accessories

Before you get too excited, let’s get one thing clear: Sample, despite what the name might have you believe, is not giving anything away for free. They’re very much in business and it’s one of minimal wooden goodness. Tapping into the collective creativity of Japanese designers across Japan, Sample has selected a few of their favorite sample projects and turned them into actual products.

Behind the idea is a concept they call “a little bit of good.” And in the case of their gorgeous hinoki wood peripherals, it refers to the production process of using rounded timber that was leftover from forest thinning. Recycling materials + offering a lifeline to a dying traditional art by providing a constant source of work is certainly a little bit of good in my book.


Designed by Taiji Fujimori, Ripple (3,150 yen) not only provides an elegant resting spot for your phone but always keeps you charger in place.

i isu

iDesigned by Katsushi Nagumo, i isu (3,780 yen) gives your iPhone it’s own iChair.


Often times a single family will have multiple devices. Kinodai (39,900 yen) is a holder of 2 pads and 2 phones. It even comes with storage. Designed by Takashi Kirimoto.

Calm Trees

A minimal beauty of an iPad stand. Calm Trees (3,400 yen) works with iPad 1 or 2, as well as your iPhone 4. It was designed by Tonerico.

You can purchase any of these products by navigating the Japanese website, or you can use a forwarding service.

January 23, 2012   Comments Off

Kiddy Shonan C/X by Makoto Tanijiri

What a cool daycare space. Kiddy Shonan C/X (C-Cross) opened last year in the Shonan bayside area of Kanagawa. Designed by Makoto Tanijiri (Suppose Design Office) the space features numerous houses under a single wide-open space. Each house is designated for a certain activity – art, music and dance. Even the bathrooms are housed within their own house. The individual spaces come together to form a miniature community, helping to foster a sense of citizenship, as well as stimulating curiosity and sensibilities.

Kiddy Shonan is located (Gmap) on the 2nd floor of the Ozawa Takagi building, a short walk from Tsujido Station.

source: Suppose Design Office website

January 20, 2012   Comments Off

Nest Paperweight by Tomoko Azumi

What a lovely little paperweight by UK-based Japanese designer Tomoko Azumi. Laser-engraved twigs are embedded within the crystal glass, creating varying views of a seemingly haphazard bird’s nest that appears to float within the solid glass object. I love how the dimple on top makes it not only a paperweight but a placeholder for small things as well. Nice touch.

Nest will be on display at Maison et Objet starting tomorrow, January 20, along with several candle holders that Azumi designed for Monna Studio (you can see them here, here and here).

Source: Tomoko Azumi’s newsletter

January 19, 2012   Comments Off

Objects of Empathy by Miya Kondo

“Functioning is not merely the function of things, but also their mystery.”
- Jean Baudrillard

I don’t always understand the cerebral postmodernist commentary that comes out of French social theorist Jean Baudrillard’s mouth. But for some reason the above quote makes complete sense to me. We’re surrounded by tons of objects wherever we go, and we interact with them on a daily basis, forming relationships with many of them. But the significant relationships are created not by the object dictating its function, but rather by us, the user, engaging with the object and defining the function. From ambiguous forms rise curiosity and inquisition, thus inviting personal and subjective interpretation.

Canada-based designer Miya Kondo created these “Objects of Empathy,” a symbolic representation of an ideal relationship to objects. The sculptural forms are simple, stoic and beautiful, yet they are wholly ambiguous. With no agenda of their own they present themselves as malleable sponges, ready to be defined by the user.

Source: hitspaper | Miya Kondo

January 19, 2012   Comments Off

Bonsai Exhibition at Matsuya Ginza

When it comes to the miniaturization of objects, Japan is second to none. But what I often find the most beauty in, and in turn the crystallization of Japanese aesthetics, is not their miniature electronics or their miniature house wares, but their miniature trees, or an art form well known to all as bonsai. In their first exhibition of the new year, Design Gallery 1953 (located within the Matsuya Ginza department store) chooses the Bonsai as their primary lens to explore the many qualities and beauties of Japanese aesthetics.

And artistic direction by Kenya Hara ensures and exquisite experience. If you’re around, go check out the show, which runs until January 23.

January 18, 2012   Comments Off

Ougi-machi Global Pharmacy by Ninkipen

What an amazing pharmacy designed by Osaka-based architecture studio Ninkipen. Completed in November of last year, the store represents the latest addition to the Kansai-based Global Pharmacy chain. What’s enthralling (and what I would like to know more about) is that, according to the architects, the store was built on an old road that had been illegally occupied since the end of WWII, hence it’s narrow width – just 4 meters. The architects attempted to preserve history within their designs by creating an elongated store that mimics the look of a road.

Osaka is well-known – notorious, if you will – for their illegally occupied spaces. They were often utilized by black markets and other dark forces who continued to elude the reach of government and authority, even into modern times. I wonder what this space was previously used as?

Looking out from the store you can still see where the road is rounded off – the remnants of an intersection

source: Ninkipen

January 17, 2012   Comments Off

Rihga Royal Hotel Planetary Chocolates

Combining astronomy and good eats sounds too good to be true. But in their celestial collection of planetary chocolates, chocolatier L’éclat of the Righa Royal Hotel Japan have done just that. The chocolaty solar system includes Mercury (coconut mango), Venus (cream lemon), Earth (cacao), Mars (orange praline), Jupiter (vanilla), Saturn (rum raisin), Uranus (milk tea) and Neptune (capuccino) – sorry, pluto is no longer considered a planet.

Each are sold individually (400 yen) but if you order the set (3,800 yen) they’ll throw in the Sun – a flaring delicacy of criollo chocolate and pineapple. You can order online (3,200 yen; Sun not included)or you can use a forwarding service.

But if meteorites are more your thing, they’ve got a collection of those as well, featuring 8 chocolates modeled after major meteorites that have been discovered around the world.

(thanks for the tip masako!)
source: ufunkL’éclat

January 16, 2012   Comments Off

DIY: IKEA Kotatsu Hack

On chilly nights, I would kill to just snuggle up to a kotatsu and never leave. Kotatsu is a heated blanketed coffee table, invented in 14th century Japan, and can be found in most Japanese homes during the winter. While they are the focal point of Japanese homes during the winter, they usually aren’t the prettiest furniture.


I came across this (economical and totally custom) IKEA kotatsu hack:

IKEA Hack Kotatsu


1      Portable fan heater (≈ $20+)
2      Lack coffee table (≈ $30+)
1      Mysa Gras comforter (≈ $10+)
1      Duvet/Comforter cover (optional)
2-4  Snille chair backs (optional)


1.  Shorten the legs of one of the Lack tables to 7 and 7/8 inch (20cm).
CAUTION: Make sure you’re cutting the bottom of the legs and not the top.
2.  Attach the legs to one table top
3.  Lay the quilt over top
4.  Place the second tabletop on top of the quilt. The friction/weight of the upper tabletop is sufficient to keep it from sliding around. but add Velcro if necessary.
5.  Place the fan heater under the table and away from the comforter. You can keeping the heater off to one side to allow maximum knee room underneath but be careful of creating fire hazards.

*Materials can be changed for similar items. Just make sure the comforter will leave enough overhang when placed on top of the table to trap heat.

You can create your custom, and much more modern looking, IKEA kotatsu for under $100!

WARNING: Unattended and misuse of kotatsu and kotatsu hardware are a cause of fires and injury. Make sure you consult the fan heater instructions and upkeep of equipment to prevent any accidents.

Source: IKEA Hackers

January 16, 2012   1 Comment

Vacuum-Sealed Couples | Photographer Hal

lim_kyohei by Hal

These disturbing and potentially NSFW are both colorful and intriguing. They were taken by artist “photographer Hal“ and are actual vacuum-sealed people!!! These pictures are Hal’s latest project called Flesh Love; which quite literary captures couples in vacuum seals. The name is very fitting, as with a small play on words, it can be seen as flesh or fresh (since the Japanese language does not have a “R” or a “L” but rather something in-between). Hal started out photographing couples in bath tubs, as he felt that couples were brought closer to each other, but slowly progressed to photographing them in the large vacuum seal packs.



Hal recruits his models from the streets of Kabukichou in Shinjuku, known for its off-beat and adult entertainment. When Hal comes across an interesting couple, he takes his time to negotiate. But when taking his photos, he has to be quick to snap a few photos of his vacuum sealed subjects before they run out of air.

On one assignment I had to visit a prison later to obtain permission for the final print. Happily though, for the most part I’ve had many joyful moments with many interesting scenes to capture. There was even a couple who married soon after one event, and it all began in a bathtub! – Hal

pinpq_omco__ringo_inga by Hal
pochi_miyake by Hal

Photographer Hal also has a photobook “Flesh Love” available on iPad (¥1,000).

Source: laughing squid | Photographer Hal

January 14, 2012   Comments Off

Table of Secret Compartments | Kai Table by Naoki Hirakoso and Takamitsu Hirataka

images courtesy Naoki Hirakoso | click to enlarge

This is one of those times my posts come in twins. Kai Table is an incredible piece of craftsmanship by Naoki Hirakoso and Takamitsu Hirataka . While presenting itself as a seemingly seamless rectangular low table, multiple pieces unfold, slide out and pull out to reveal secret cupboards and drawers. It reminds me a bit of Takeshi Miyakawa’s Fractal chest of drawers.

The custom-designed table is available for purchase (600,000 yen; ≈ $7,800 ) but due to its complexity it has to be custom-made and will require several weeks for completion.

source: notcot | Architizer

January 13, 2012   1 Comment