japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — February 2012

suzusan by Hiroyuki Murase

all images courtesy suzusan | click to enlarge

A 100-year old tradition is interwoven with contemporary design to create this exquisite line of lighting called suzusan. It was started by Hiroyuki Murase, a graduate of the prestigious Kunstakademie Duesseldorf who, after refining his design skills in an academic setting, returned home to fuse innovation into a tradition his family has carried with them for over a century.

The tradition is known as shibori – literally, to wring, squeeze and press – and is a 400-year old technique in itself to refine fabric through a process that embodies it’s own name; wringing, squeezing and pressing. The results are quite spectacular, giving birth to incredibly tactile and unique textures.

They remind me a lot of this washi paper clothing. I think my favorite are the shizuku (drip) pendant lamps pictured directly below. So gorgeous!

Murase recently exhibited suzusan at maison et objet 2012 earlier this year. You can see the complete line-up on their website.

source: designboom | suzusan

February 29, 2012   Comments Off

Company seeks to solve Japan’s earthquake woes by levitating homes

The headline sounds like something from TheOnion.com. Or perhaps the plot of a niche-market Harry Potter sequel (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Antiseismic Architect?) However, the technology is real; and it’s being implemented all across Japan – at 88 sites, to be exact (based on company data as of 06/2011). Air Danshin Systems Inc. (danshin sort of means antisiesmic) was originally established in 2005 to market and sell the technology, which was invented by a man named Youichi Sakamoto. There’s a lengthy interview with him here (PDF, all in Japanese) if you’re interested.

In theory the mechanism is really quite simple:

1. A sensor detects the rumblings of an earthquake.

2. Within .5 to 1 second an air tank pushes air in-between an artificial foundation and the actual structure of the home, lifting it as high as 3cm off the ground.

3. While the earth below violently shakes, the levitating home quietly and patiently waits, returning back to the ground once the tectonic plates have settled.

In addition, the company claims that it’s a low-cost alternative to other earthquake-proofing. On average it’s supposedly 1/3 the cost of other systems and requires very little maintenance. I’m impressed to see that they’re also marketing their technology to larger facilities like laboratories and factories that often house sensitive, delicate and potentially hazardous material. I’m thinking nuclear power plants. If there was a way to implement this technology beneath the country’s 50-some power plants that would really be something.

The company has created a couple video to demonstrate the capability of their product. The first video shows one of their model homes levitating. The 2nd video, which is actually a bit humorous, is a demonstration using actual people. I hope that old man who got shook back and forth is okay.

February 28, 2012   3 Comments

Hand in Hand by Terada Mokei

photos by Kenji Masunaga | click to enlarge

As the 1-year anniversary of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami approaches, we’ll be doing several posts related to the topic, including ways you can help out. Remember: all of the posts can be found in 1 convenient place.

First up is Terada Mokei’s Hand in Hand – an uplifting version of their popular architectural paper model series. The people, both large and small, are all created at a scale of 1/100 and are depicted holding hands in a circle, symbolizing the outpour of support for Japan after the disaster. It comes in multiple colors and retails for 1000 yen with 100% of proceeds going to charity (via Japan Red Cross).

February 27, 2012   Comments Off

architectural paper model set of New York

I love this paper model set of New York! It comes with some of your standard NYC iconography like pretzel vendors, subway stops, police on horseback and a lot of people walking around – all at a scale of 1/100. For fans of the big apple I suppose the only thing missing is Jeremy Lin.

It was designed by Naoki Terada who runs his own architecture studio but also makes these great paper models. Get them at upon a fold.

February 26, 2012   2 Comments

Kamijiya Paper Display Table by Hiromitsu Konishi

photos by Yuna Yanagi | click to enlarge

Kyoto-based interior designer Hiromitsu Konishi created this magnificent display system for Suzuki Shofudo, a 140-year old retailer of paper goods. With the help of the client, who was understandably versed in the medium, the designer spent months studying the strengths, weakness, and flexibility of paper.

Eventually finding inspiration in the way Japanese fans open and collapse, Konishi created an entirely collapsible paper display system.

source: submission

February 24, 2012   Comments Off

1% products by nendo | 2012 edition

photos by Hiroshi Iwasaki | click to enlarge

Despite the negative connotation that the “1%” has taken on recently, nendo has released several new additions to their 1% Products. Originally launched in 2006, the product design label rejects both one-of-a-kind art pieces as well as mass-produced commercialization. Instead, 100 of each product is produced, entitling the owner to 1/100th, or 1%.

My favorite pieces are these ceramic teapots with wooden lids that double as spinning tops.

Also included in the new release are a stacking set mini-flower vases and a stacking set of sake cups that can be combined to make a tumbler, large cup or jug.

The new collection of 1% products will be shown during the Milano Salone at nendo’s solo exhibition.

source: press release

February 24, 2012   Comments Off

Starbucks in Fukuoka by Kengo Kuma

images courtesy Kengo Kuma | click to enlarge

Depending on where you are on the spectrum of coffee politics, you may consider Starbucks a neighborhood boon or blight – a convenient place to get your caffeine fix on every corner, or a symbol of capitalistic mass-production that now has a stronghold on your cup of joe. Either way, you have to admit that this new Starbucks interior in Fukuoka is pretty awe-inspiring.

Late last year we reported that architect Kengo Kuma was working on a starbucks in Fukuoka. Well now we finally have images of the completed store. The new location, which opened in late December, is located near Daizaifu Tenmangu, a Shinto shrine first constructed in the year 905. Given the deep history and cultural significance of the site, Kuma opted to go with the traditional technique of interlocking wooden blocks, a stylistic genre he has been experimenting with quite a bit.

The wooden beams partially extend out onto the street, resembling branches in a forest. The pure, natural materials are consistent with the Shinto aesthetic and are a gorgeous fusion of contemporary and traditional.

source: contemporist | Ryutsu

February 23, 2012   Comments Off

Sagashitemiyo! | Benesse’s new iPhone app for little explorers

I love the idea behind this new iPhone app for kids called Sagashitemiyo! (さがしてみよ!), or Let’s Search! The simple interface starts off by prompting little explorers to search for objects based on certain criteria like something “round,” “white” or “sparkly.”

The kids then set off on an expedition, capturing objects with the phone’s camera.

The app then allows you to catalog your discoveries into a virtual field guide of things around you. You can even share your discoveries with friends who are also using the app.

The app is available in both English and Japanese. $1.99 in the app store.

What a great way of empowering kids with technology, helping them to make sense of all the objects around them. Hat-tip to the folks at MKFTR who developed the app for Benesse, a correspondence education and publishing company and also patron of the arts.

source: @cpalmieri

February 22, 2012   2 Comments

Obayashi Corp Plans 36,000 km Space Elevator

In what would quickly be dubbed the longest elevator ride ever, passengers would spend 7.5 days traveling up to the station

left: anchor planted in the ocean | right: counterweight spaceport

For centuries mankind has aspired towards greater things. And whether those things are climbing mountains, building pyramids, climbing on each others shoulders, constructing skyscrapers or traveling to the moon, our aspirations have continuously manifested themselves in the form of reaching for the sky.

But in it’s latest iteration, Obayashi Corp, the Japanese engineering and construction firm that is building the Tokyo Sky Tree, has announced plans that it will aim to complete a space elevator by the year 2050. The plan calls for 96,000 kilometers of carbon nanotube cables extending from an anchor planted in the sea, into space where it would be secured by a spaceport – also serving as a counterweight. Below the midpoint – at 36,000 km – would be the terminal station, which would house labs and housing. In what would would quickly be dubbed the longest elevator ride ever, passengers would spend 7.5 days traveling up to the station.

Obayashi Corp has declined to put a price tag on their vision: “At this moment, we cannot estimate the cost for the project.” But the JSEA (Japan Space Elevator Association) – what? you didn’t know there was such a thing? – has estimated costs of building a space elevator to be 1 trillion yen.

Whether the space elevator will turn out to be simply a pipe dream or an awesome reality of the future, only time will tell. Either way, I commend Obayashi Corp for dreaming big.

source: Japan Times | Obayashi Corp press release

February 22, 2012   4 Comments

Apple pencil sharpener

Sometimes I think about things. Things like, why is fruit – for the most part – the size of our palm? Is it some weird coincidence that most fruit and vegetables conveniently fit into our hand? After mulling this for several weeks I realized that this is simply another case of evolution-explains-it-all. If fruit was too big animals wouldn’t carry them home. They wouldn’t poop the seeds in different places and the seeds wouldn’t spread across the land.

So while fruit has done a fine job adapting to our bodies, other things, like pencil sharpeners, have always felt a bit awkward to me. Trying to twist my pencil while holding this unnecessarily small sharpener I always thought there must be another way. That’s exactly what product design brand Rabbit Hole must have been thinking about when they came up with this awesome apple-shaped pencil sharpener.

Even if you don’t agree with my theory on how this product came about, you must surely agree that having this bright red apple-looking pencil sharpener on your desk would be way too much fun.

Launched in 2010, Rabbit Hole is a Japanese design trio comprised of designer Atsushi Suzuki, furniture designer Hidenori Takeuchi and photographer Masakazu Ohnishi.

Found through Atsushi Suzuki’s website

February 22, 2012   Comments Off