japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — May 2012

spoon x chogre debuts this weekend at Carroll Park Flea Market

This weekend my wife Tomomi’s clothing line will unveil an exciting new collaboration with graphic designer Nobuko Hori. Their new line of kids clothing, spoon x chogre, will debut at the Carroll Park Flea Market in Brooklyn, which takes place this Saturday (June 2) Sunday (June 3) [date change due to expected inclement weather on Sat] in Carroll Park (Gmap). The market runs from 10 AM – 5 PM. If you’re around, come say hi!

May 31, 2012   1 Comment

Blank USB memory storage

What a gorgeously minimalistic USB drive (and case). In this tiny empty bottle, you can store many, many messages – up to 2 GB of messages. It’s, quite literally, a digital reincarnation of the romantic message-in-a-bottle. Imagine, in a couple years, walking along the beach and finding one of these washed up on shore!

The “blank” USB drive is part of a whole stationary series designed by Saburo Sakata.

Coincidentally, one of the more bizarre stories about messages in bottles comes from Japan. In 1784, Chunosuke Matsuyama and 40-some seamen set sail to find buried treasure on an island. Doomed from the start, their ship struck a coral reef, forcing them to seek refuge on an island. And as fate would have it, the sailors were unable to find fresh water and food. Matsuyama and all his crew died on that island. But the reason his story survived is because Matsuyama carved it into thin pieces of wood, shoved it into a bottle and tossed it out to sea. About 150 years later is was washed upon shore and discovered in the village where Matsuyama was born.

The story appears in Robert Kraske’s The twelve million dollar note.

May 30, 2012   Comments Off

Softbank’s new PANTONE cell phone is colorful, detects radiation

Last night in Tokyo, Softbank announced that their latest cell phone, the PANTONE 5 series, would go on sale later in July. Masayoshi Son, the president of Japan’s 3rd largest mobile phone operator, took to stage to announce the new phone’s various characteristics, which include 8 different PANTONE colors to choose from, waterproof and dustproof technology, playful calendar and wallpaper widgets, an elliptical form that fits comfortably in your hand and, last but not least, a radiation dosimeter.

That’s right. This cute little device is the world’s first ever radiation detecting smartphone. With just a simple push of a button the phone is able to measure radiation levels in microsieverts per hour. Users can upload locations to a map, making radiation tracking fun for the whole family.

I completely agree. RT @denebu31: I hope the day comes when nobody uses this because there’s no need RT @masason: in response to public demand, Softbank has developed its first-ever radiation detection [mobile phone]

On twitter, Masayoshi Son, who has been a vocal critic of nuclear power, expressed his mixed feelings about releasing the product. (tweet translated by Spoon & Tamago)

Softbank’s new phone is a chilling reminder of the surreal new reality we now inhibit. Late last year S.T. Corp announced that they would begin selling “Air Counter,” a Geiger counter that – evidenced by its cute design that resembles a pregnancy detector and tamagotchi (below) – is marketed towards your everyday consumer. Technology that was once only required by scientists and people with PhDs, is now being offered to housewives who are concerned that atomic hotspots are nestled in their neighborhood.

Source: @japan_pulse | @HirokoTabuchi
(thanks for the tip Aaron)

May 29, 2012   Comments Off

Designers attempt to simplify chopstick etiquette

Sitting down for dinner in Japan requires a certain amount of dedication, especially if you’re not familiar with the endless rules surrounding dining etiquette. Many of those guidelines concern themselves with how to use chopsticks (hashi) or, more importantly, how not to use them. Things like, sticking your chopsticks in rice, or passing food from chopstick to chopstick, are all well-known to be dinner-table-faux pas (because of their association with funeral proceedings). But the question of what exactly you’re supposed to do with your chopsticks during a meal can be the cause of much tension and anxiety.

image source: BBT

If you’re in a fancy restaurant, chances are you’ve been provided with hashi-oki, typically a porcelain placeholder where you can rest your chopsticks when they’re not in your face. If not, you’re left to fend for yourself: either fold your own placeholder with the paper packaging or, never stop eating. Although preferable, the latter breaks its own code of manners.

Here to take the guesswork out of chopstick etiquette are designers Takeshi Hamana and Yuya Iwagaki who have created “temotoasobi,” an elegant packaging design for chopsticks that includes origami-like folding directions to create your own rest.

If you’re up for the challenge you can also attempt to fold more complicated chopstick rests like a boat or a swan.

May 29, 2012   1 Comment

SIWA 2012 Collection by Naoto Fukasawa

I’m loving the pieces in SIWA’s new 2012 collection, which includes wine bottle carriers, envelopes for small accessories and some lovely tote bags.

SIWA (previously) is a collaborative project between innovative Japanese paper company ONAO and renowned industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa (i.e. ± 0, MUJI CD Player). SIWA means wrinkle in Japanese (and – in Japanese – is also “washi” written backwards), and is made out of an original material that was engineered by the company.

The new products made from the faux-paper are on display at doinel in Aoyama through June 8th.

source: hitspaper

May 28, 2012   Comments Off

Setsudenkyu Candle | a not-so subtle reminder to conserve electricity

images courtesy midtown design award | click to enlarge

In the wake of Japan’s nuclear disaster and subsequent shutdown of all nuclear reactors, designers have been scrambling to generate ideas and products that help conserve electricity. (setsuden – to conserve electricity – was one of the biggest buzz words of 2011.) One of my favorites is this app that converts your twitter avatar to a dimmer version during peak electricity-usage hours – a subtle reminder to conserve.

But designers Kakeru Asagi and Sakiko Nagasuna have a developed a not-so-subtle way to conserve. Setsudenkyu is a gorgeous light bulb-shaped candle that not only reminds you to switch off your lights but provides an alternative light source after switching off your lights. It’s specifically engineered to burn for a full day. However, at 1050 yen a pop, some may find it difficult to justify the savings.

source: tokyo midtown

May 25, 2012   Comments Off

MUJI Keyboard Memo Pad

What’s the best way to leave a coworker a note if they’re away from their desk? Why, simply use these adorable keyboard memo pads, of course.

source: press release

May 24, 2012   1 Comment

House in Chiharada by Studio Velocity

stillshots from the video, courtesy shinkenchiku | click to enlarge

If there’s 1 thing you should know about “House in Chiharada” it’s this: the home’s Japanese name is much more interesting. Translated to the effect of, “a bottom floor with a view of the sky and a top floor that’s like a town,” the residential home is the latest project by Studio Velocity (previously), who are known for their clever us of space and unique-looking structures.

Located in Aichi prefecture, the home derives it’s name from the way stairwells rise up in the living room to resemble buildings in a town.

The oval-shaped dining room on the 2nd floor has 4 towering stairwells of varying heights, mimicking the landscape of a town.

The 2nd floor dining room, as seen from above.

Various openings and windows create dynamic focal points. Skylights in the stairwells also pass light down to the first floor where there is a kids room and bedroom.

architectural model courtesy the architects

source: @shinkenchikusha

May 24, 2012   1 Comment

Underwater Sea Creature Sculptures by Noriko Kuresumi

Sea of Memory 012 (2010) | click images to enlarge. All photos by Shin Ono

Over the weekend at LIC Open Studios I stumbled upon the intriguing work of Noriko Kuresumi, a Japanese artist making anemone-looking sea creatures out of porcelain. In her artist statement she writes:

The sea is the origin of life.
All lives are connected and have been supporting each other.
I create my work by imagining the source of harmony and balance of the ocean.

While mind-numbingly detailed, I find myself in an odd, calming trance while gazing at her work. The fluidity and airiness that Kuresumi is able to achieve through porcelain is astonishing.

Sea of Memory 018 (2011) | click images to enlarge. All photos by Shin Ono


Sea of Memory 012 (2011) | click images to enlarge. All photos by Shin Ono


Sea of Memory 023 (2011) | click images to enlarge. All photos by Shin Ono

May 23, 2012   Comments Off

Nintendo Characters as Ukiyo-e Prints

Link from Zelda | click images to enlarge

Mega Man/Rockman and his trusty sidekick, Rush. The artist has admitted that Megaman is indeed Capcom, not Nintendo, but couldn’t resist because he has “a thing for arm cannons.”

Samus Aran from Metroid

I think my favorite so far is the Mario Kart!

Donkey Kong- the artist’s latest piece.

Illustrator and all-around Japan aficionado Jed Henry has begun producing a series of amusing prints illustrating classic Nintendo characters/games as woodblock prints of 17th and 18th century Japan. The response from geeks around the world has prompted him to set up a Facebook group. He’s also promised to start a kickstarter campaign in order to sell the prints.

Source: Geekologie (thanks for the tip @sheishine)

May 22, 2012   Comments Off