japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — March 2012

Link Roundup of April Fools Internet Pranks in Japan | 2012

Here’s a roundup of links to April Fool’s internet pranks in Japan on April 1, 2012 or, as some refer to it, the day when the internet is very annoying:

  • Forget keyboards. All you need is the space bar! Google Japan announces new language input system using morse code.
  • AU announces latest smartphone: MAKYU – designed by fictional baseball coach Hoshi Ittetsu (of Kyojin no Hoshi).
  • Dragon Quest’s Dragon King announces he has successfully taken over the world. His influence has already reached google maps. More on this development here. In related news, a dragon has established a military fort in offshore Africa.
  • Sky Tree to offer world’s highest bungee jump
  • Eiga.com, now in Chinese.
  • Graphic designers launch new ad campaign


March 31, 2012   Comments Off

Small House in Shinjuku by Junpei Nousaku Architects

Tokyo is plagued with small houses. Rather, small plots of land. So much so that it prompted the government to issue a manual for controlling land compartmentalization because they were concerned that it could lead to a decline in quality of life. Indeed, in order to maximize living space homes are often constructed around the limits of the perimeter, with floors stacked on each other, creating dark spaces that feel secluded from the community.

Junpei Nousaku Architects’ antidote is displayed in their most recent home, completed in July of 2011. The communal living room is situated on the ground floor. And instead of stacking another floor above it, the ceiling is vaulted a full 3-floors all the way to the roof, achieving the unachievable in terms of scale. The exterior is also impressive and hardly resembles a private residence. The finished home, the architects say, is actually an attempt to create an unfinished space that will engage with or, at times, clash with, the surrounding environment.

So the moral of the story? When it comes to small spaces, less is more.

source: architecturephoto

March 30, 2012   Comments Off

Yuji Dogane | Radio Active Plantron

Artist and professor Yuji Dogane has, for several years, been experimenting with what he calls “Plantron” – a system that converts the electrical waves in plants, into audible sound. As we all know, after the tsunami knocked out the cooling systems at Fukushima Daiichi triggering nuclear meltdowns, inhabitants within a 20km radius faced mandatory evacuation. This area, now known as the exclusion zone, will not be habitable for decades. Yet plant life has no choice but to stay.

For his latest project, Radio Active Plantron, Dogane has taken plants continuously exposed to mild radiation (equal to levels in Tokyo, which are said to pose no health risk) and wired them up to his system. He is broadcasting their “voices” over ustream (below). The stream will be accessible through May 14, 2012.

The project is hosted by piece unique, a website that connects artists with micro-patrons. If you like the project you can make a donation – part of which will go to Sakura Line 311, a charity organization that is planting cherry trees along the line where the tsunami reached.

password:  RAP2012

Mankind is not burdened with the ability to hear the voices of plants, but what if that were not the case? How would life have been different? Would we have constructed monstrous nuclear power plants that emit poisonous particles?

(thanks Kosuke)

March 29, 2012   Comments Off

Colorful Realm | Ito Jakuchu at the National Museum of Art

images courtesy National Museum of Art | click to enlarge

For the first time in history, 250-year old paintings by the Japanese artist Ito Jakuchu (1716 – 1800) have crossed the seas to be displayed at Washington DC’s National Museum of Art. Dōshoku sai-e (Colorful Realm of Living Beings), the 27-scroll set of intricately painted subjects from the natural world, are considered a cultural treasure in Japan and are actually being lent to the Museum by Japan’s imperial family to commemorate the country’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the U.S., 100 years ago.

The nature paintings are accompanied by Jakuchu’s “Sakyamuni Triptych” – three Buddhist deities that overlook the bird-and-flower paintings to serve as the exhibit’s centerpiece.

The exhibition runs for 1 month only, from March 30 – April 29, 2012. You can see a preview of the actual exhibition over on Yoshi Suzuki’s blog.

March 28, 2012   2 Comments

Misunderstanding Focus | Nerhol exhibition at limArt

images courtesy nerhol | click to enlarge

Nerhol, the enigmatic duo that is one part Ryuta Iida and one part Yoshihisa Tanaka, will present a large body of new work at limArt starting April 10th. Staring at their new series of photographs titled “Misunderstanding Focus,” the hand of Ryuta Iida (previously), well-known for his meticulous book carvings, is clearly evident. And yet there seems to be something else going on.

From afar each portrait seems to be out of focus or, in some cases, distorted. But what you’re looking at, in fact, are multiple photographs taken over a 3-minute period. Despite the subject model being asked to remain still, blood continues to run through their veins, muscles tighten and signals are sent back and forth between our sensory organs. It’s physically impossible for us to remain still. And in the same way that our bodies bear witness to the stronghold of time, our consciousness is encapsulated by our bodies. “Misunderstanding Focus” is an expression of the passage of time through our inability to stay still.

The group’s name, Nerhol, is derived from the duo’s synergistic traits: Yoshihisa Tanaka kneads ideas (Neru) while Ryuta Iida sculpts ideas (horu). The collaborative work between Tanaka and Iida, who come from backgrounds in graphic design and fine art, respectively, is an effort to deepen the concepts behind their art, and an experiment in opening up new possibilities for artistic expression.

Misunderstanding Focus
limArt (Gmap)
4.10.2012 – 5.13
12:00 – 20:00 (closed Mondays)

Source: colossal | cbcnet | Nerhol (facebook) | Nerhol

March 27, 2012   Comments Off

New Wire Works by Masao Seki

Artist Masao Seki (previously) just wrapped up a solo exhibition at the Kamakura-based antique shop Five From The Ground. The hosts were kind enough to send over some shots of the exhibition, which are gorgeous.

I’m a huge fan of Seki’s minimal wire sculptures that are infused with charm and whimsy. As delicate as they seem, each is full of expressive vitality and spirit, as if they are frozen, waiting – with anticipation – for someone to flip their switch back on. I would love to see these pieces as part of a stop-motion film.

moon (9,000 yen)

The shop owners are accepting international orders. All you have to do is contact them with the product you want.

guruguru (3,800 yen)

yokomachi (4,500 yen)

ladder (1,800 yen)

sedan & van (1,500 yen)

building (12,000 yen)

large basket (25,000 yen)

March 26, 2012   Comments Off

Switch Box in House by naf architect and design

photos by Toshiyuki Yano

For centuries the box has been an object of choice for magicians who used it to create illusions like dividing things (or people) into more pieces. In what is perhaps the first appropriation of the magic box in the field of architecture, naf architect & design has accomplished a unique renovation by inserting a box into the middle of a home.

The 17-year old Tokyo home was recently purchased by a family of 3. However, without much character and purpose, many spaces were left undefined, creating awkward living arrangements. The architects decided to insert a box made of deck panels, which acted as a switchbox; an intersection, if you will, that directs the flow of traffic into different spaces. The box was successful in defining a multi-purpose space that included a clinic that the husband and wife run, a bedroom, porch and stairs that lead up to the living room. Oh, and last but not least, an entrance into a karaoke room, which was previously a concrete garage. That in itself is a great reallocation of resources given the soundproofing that had been part of the garage.

The home was completed in December 2011 and the family was able to move in right before new year’s.

source: naf website

March 23, 2012   Comments Off

Yuruliku Desk Bag

The Desk Bag or, as I like to call it, the pick-pocket bag, is based on the concept of carrying around everything on your desk. Or better yet, your desk becoming your bag. There are designated pockets for a book, pens and cellphone; except they are on the outside of the bag, exposed, just like a desk. Although it’s a thing of beauty, I wouldn’t recommend it for commuting on a crowded train.

Each felt bag is made-to-order for 17,850 yen. Or, whiterabbit express can help you import one.

March 23, 2012   Comments Off

Yoyogi Village / code kurkku

photos by Nacasa & Partners | click to enlarge

They say once is chance, twice is coincidence, third is a pattern. So I’m not quite ready to chalk this up as a Tokyo trend, but it’s certainly interesting to see the emergence of another “retail village.” I’m speaking, obviously, of Yoyogi Village, the new urban oasis that just opened during November of last year – 1 month earlier than its sisterly Daikanyama T-site. The similarities between the facilities are obvious: both boast a roster of rock-star creatives, they offer their own version of carefully curated retail shops and they target a specific sophisticated audience. Where daikanyama T-site staked out their specialty in the realm of books, Yoyogi Village claims music as their forte.

Heavy wooden gates help create the image of exclusive resort

Yoyogi Village is divided into two zones: container zone and village zone. Akin to the street of souvenir stores that greet you when you enter Disneyland, the former is dedicated to a handful of specialty retail shops nestled away in, as the name hints, shipping containers.

an assortment of exotic plants – the work of Seijun Nishihata – line the pathway

As you progress deeper into the site you come to the village zone, which houses the main attraction: code kurkku; a restaurant serving up Italian organic cuisine. Its executive chef, Yasuhiro Sasajima, hails from Il Ghiottone – a notoriously hard-to-get-a-table restaurant in Kyoto. For more on the restaurant head over to Robbie Swinnerton’s article. Caution: be sure to bring a drool bucket.

Yoyogi Village is the brainchild of Takeshi Kobayashi, a musician and record producer known for his work with household J-pop names like Mr. Children, Southern All Stars and Remioromen. He’s supported in his venture by recording artist Shinichi Osawa (aka Mondo Grosso). The two collaborated in 2009 to form the duo Bradberry Orchestra, so it’s understandable that these musical heavyweights went out of their way to ensure that the “Music Bar” – one of the pinnacles of their main restaurant – lives up to all their acoustical standards. Helping to achieve the overall look-and-feel of urban oasis is self-proclaimed “plant hunter” Seijun Nishihata, who is in charge of the landscaping. And rounding out the exhaustive list of designer talent is interior designer Masamichi Katayama of Wonderwall, who worked his magic on the space.

a fantastic green wall serves as the main focal point in the lounge area

the restaurant

the “music bar”

I’ll be on the lookout for the next retail village but in the meantime, Yoyogi Village has been added to our Tokyo Design Guide!

March 22, 2012   2 Comments

Battleship Sushi by Mayuka Nakamura

photos courtesy Mayuka Nakamura | click to enlarge

Gunkan-maki – literally, battleship roll, is a type of sushi in which seaweed is wrapped around the perimeter of the rice, creating a vessel to hold loose sushi like uni or ikura. And while quite effectively serving its purpose, it falls short in resemblance. So I was delighted to see that someone was finally challenging this misnomer. Mayuka Nakamura, an art student at Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music, created her own version of Gunkan-maki as part of her senior thesis exhibition. Now that’s a battleship!

Each sushi roll is modeled after a historic Japanese battleship, from Kongo and Hosho to Yukikaze. And the book she made documenting her work is filled with all sorts of nerdy specs: everything from measurements and active dates to the number of torpedoes it was equipped with.

source: Kotaku | Mayuka Nakamura | IT Media

March 21, 2012   2 Comments