japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — August 2012

Buchi | a new line of sustainable wooden toys

I’m loving this new line of wooden toys and furniture for kids. The natural wood and pastel colors really make you want to touch (and play!) with the pieces. Buchi – a play on the word “fuchi,” meaning rim in Japanese – was designed by Fumie Shibata, well-known for her work on the 9h Hotel and the Next Century Vending Machine. Shibata is a seasoned designer when it comes to electronics, but in this new line she demonstrates that her precise sensibilities can also translate to the warm and fuzziness of kids design.

Buchi is debuting at the For Stockists exhibition next week.

source: Buchi facebook page

August 31, 2012   Comments Off

NookaNooka: the little creature from the infinite

Last night, I went to check out an exhibition at the Design Tshirt Store Graniph in Harajuku, Tokyo to see these little strange sculptures that were the result of a collaboration between Nooka and Graniph.

What is a Nooka Nooka?

NookaNooka is the brand mascot for the fashion company Nooka led by Matthew Waldman – well known for his watch designs. But, it is also a representation of our infinite comprehension of time.

But in the end, it’s also a cute toy that also serves as a rest for Nooka watches when you’re not wearing them.

Thanks to the collaboration with Graniph, if you bought some of these Tshirts:

 The deal was, if you pick up two or more of the NOOKA collaboration tees you receive a designer MINI NOOKANOOKA:

No worries if you are not in Tokyo now, you will have the opportunity to buy some of these sculptures online, come mid-september:

From Nagatake Uehara

From Alexander Yoo

From Yu Nagaba

From Takeshi Togo

NookaNooka has been prompting the imagination of designers for quite some time now. Here are some of my favorite previous collaborations:

The NookaNooka Kitty

Mad Nookanooka from Shin Tanaka and Matthew Waldman

NookaNooka by Taku Anekawa | image source: WY blog

I think it’s fair to say that this little creature from the infinite is an endless subject for Japanese and worldwide designers…who’s next?

August 30, 2012   Comments Off

The snack food art of Koshi Kawachi

images courtesy the artist | click to enlarge

Japanese artist Koshi Kawachi uses food – often of the snack variety – to create sculptures that one wouldn’t typically associate with snack foods. His favorites, probably because of their wide appeal, are Umaibo (a Cheetos-like corn snack shaped like a stick), Potechi (potato chips) and baby star (crispy noodle snack).

Perhaps his most extreme undertaking is 107 Buddhist figurines carved from Umaibo – just short of the sacred number 108, according to Buddhism. Originally an illustrator, Kawachi moved around various studios drawing illustrations for Wired Japan, as well as creating flyers for Takashi Murakami at the ad agency TSTJ. But when his grandfather passed away, Kawachi attended, for the first time, the funeral of a family member. The event had a profound effect on him, sparking an interest in Buddhism and religion. He came across a story about how a Japanese Buddhist monk named Enku would always present families who had befriended him with Buddhist statues he hand-carved into sticks. The sticks quickly became play-toys for the kids – abused and misused.

But Kawachi saw an interesting lesson in the story and, from that day on, began carving Buddhist statues into Umaibo (literally, “delicious stick”).

Kawachi has also worked with other snacks in his “Embalming” series. Below is a broken potato chip he repaired using kintsugi, a traditionally Japanese method of using gold seams to repair broken ceramics.

Below, Kawachi empties a bag of Baby Star noodle snacks and adheres them onto a canvas.

Want to learn more about the artist? Check out this PechaKucha talk he did back in 2010.

August 29, 2012   Comments Off

Light and shadow sculptures by Kumi Yamashita

 Let’s take a look at “Origami,” the latest work of artist Kumi Yamashita. Like magic, she uses just a simple piece of paper and her fingers to create the silhouette of faces.

As the artist is based in the USA, her work will be exhibited from September 13th to October 7th in the  Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan.

And she even does caricatures! Among them are some recognizable faces, like Angela Merkel:

source: Fubiz

August 29, 2012   Comments Off

Vegetabrella | an umbrella that looks like fresh lettuce

Oh shoot, it’s starting to rain. I look into my bag. Nothing there but that fresh head of lettuce I always carry around. Oh, but wait! It’s not lettuce. It’s an umbrella!

That’s the type of scenario I imagine would happen if I had this Vegetabrella (4,725 yen) designed by Yurie Mano for h concept.

If you need help ordering from abroad click here for assistance.

Source: koncent.jp

August 28, 2012   1 Comment

The whole world in your pocket | Geographia foldable globe

Geografia is a new line of stationary-type products with themes relating to geography, topography and the earth. Although their whole lineup is gorgeous, I particularly like this foldable globe that you can carry around in your pocket, or attach to your suitcase. What a cool way to get excited about geography!

Back in 2009 we wrote about the Geographia line, designed by Yusuke Hayashi and Yoko Yasunishi of Drill Design. But it looks as though they are finally marketing them. There’s a long list of retailers here.

I also really like the “Blank” sectional dome. It would make a fun kids project for long plane rides.

source: @jeansnow’s colunm in the Japan Times

August 28, 2012   Comments Off

Ken + Julia Yonetani respond to Fukushima nuclear disaster with radioactive chandeliers

“Chandeliers are not only an item of luxury, but also an extravagant emblem of the beauty of electricity and the seductiveness of consumerism.”

In response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Australia-based artists Ken + Julia Yonetani will display a total of 29 chandeliers, all made from vintage uranium glass beads. Each chandelier will represent a country that relies on nuclear power for energy with its size correlating to the amount of nuclear capacity. The U.S. will presumably be the largest, followed by France, Japan and Russia.

“Chandeliers,” the artists say, “are not only an item of luxury, but also an extravagant emblem of the beauty of electricity and the seductiveness of consumerism.” The ultraviolet lights will emit small traces of radioactivity that, while not harmful, remind us of the deadly presence of radiation and how one of its inherent dangers lies in our inability to detect it through any of our senses.

The provocative exhibition will be on display from October 3 – November 4, 2012 at Artereal Gallery in Sydney, Australia – significant in that Australia is the number one exporter of uranium to Japan.

source: Ken + Julia Yonetani | MyModernMet

August 27, 2012   Comments Off

happy friday: watch ichiro throw baseballs into garbage can for new ad

Happy Friday. A new set of ads recently went live, featuring NY Yankees latest asset Ichiro Suzuki throwing baseballs from home plate, into a garbage can far in outfield. The amazing throws are being used in ads for Yunker, an energy drink marketed towards Japan’s league of salarymen to combat fatigue. Impressive!

Here is the extended version:

Source: @DaigoFuji

August 24, 2012   Comments Off

Echigo Tsumari Art Festival 2012

Summer is winding down. The locusts are fetching up new breath for one, final onslaught, humidity is on its last leg and back-to-school commercials are invading the airwaves. But you can still enjoy the great outdoors while simultaneously visiting the largest art gallery in the world. Running until September 17, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale is just about half-way through. But that still leaves you 3 weeks to immerse yourself in one of the largest art festivals in the world, in one of the most unlikely places in the world. Known for their heavy snowfall in winter, the Echigo-Tsumari region is located in mountainous Niigata – easily accessible from Tokyo in a little over an hour by train.

Once there, you’ll traverse 200 villages across roughly 190,000 acres, all dotted with site-specific artworks created by some 220 artists from all over the world. The organizers admit, it’s an “absolutely inefficient approach deliberately at odds with the rationalization and efficiency of modern society.” The intention is to interact with the beauty and richness of the land, which serves as a canvas for art.

Below are some of our favorite picks – a small cross-section of what you will see if you make the pilgrimage. Unless otherwise noted, all images are courtesy Echigo-Tsumari Art Field.
(Note: some works were created for previous triennials and remain standing)

Nakasato Village Juji Project (2003) by Ryo Yamada

Architect Ryo Yamada installed a foundation of colored wooden decks that interact with its surrounding nature. During summer, flowers and weeds grow through the boards while, in autumn, they transform into a canvas for fallen leaves.

photos by S. Anzai. Courtesy Ryo Yamada & Ayako Yamada

Kamaboko Storehouse Project (2003) by Tsuyoshi Ozawa

Artist and “The Group 1965” member Tsuyoshi Ozawa created a series of architectural sculptures inspired by Kamaboko Storehouses – an indigenous warehouse with a curved roof, designed to withstand heavy snowfall. The functional warehouses come with a fish-eye window so visitors can see what’s stored inside.

Reverse City (2009) by Pascale Marthine Tayou

Cameroon-born, Belgium-based artist Pascale Marthine Tayou created an installation of oversized pencils, hung at varying heights. Each is inscribed with the name of every country in the world. While awe-inspiring in its multiplicity, standing under it one is reminded of the menacing and destructive potential that each holds.

Forest (2000) by Jun Honma

Upside down pencils not your thing? Jun Honma created an installation of 7000 right-side up pencils, all collected from locals, in a kamaboko warehouse (remember those?). The forest of pencils works to merge with the real forest surrounding it.

image courtesy analoglife

Ikebana House (2012) by F-Nokai

The 12-member collective F-Nokai has transformed an old tea house into a large ikebana flower arrangement.

The Cosmology of Yusuke Nakahara (2012) by Tadashi Kawamata

Before his death, the art critic and triennale advisor Yusuke Nakahara donated his collection of 30,000 books. As a form of commemoration, the prominent artist and sculptor Tadashi Kawamata created an giant house-like installation using his books. An added bonus: free wifi available inside through the end of the festival.

images below courtesy boycooking

Restructure (2006) by Harumi Yukutake

Walking down a small, grassy dirt road you will come across a house, covered in thousands of small mirrors. Depending on your perspective, the house, at times, appears to melt into its surroundings. Harumi Yukutake, known for her large-scale installations in which she covers public structures with mirrors, hand-made every mirror, which gives me a new-found respect for her art. Stepping into the house is like stepping into another dimension – one where conflicting elements like truth and deception, light and shadow, still and moving, all peacefully coexist.

Golden Teahouse (2012) by Ryo Toyofuku

Nothing is more out of place than this Golden Teahouse, in which Ryo Toyofuku covered the disheveled interior with gold paint.

0121-1110=109071 (2009) by Lee Jae-Hyo

It’s hard to believe that Lee Jae-Hyo’s geometrically soothing spheres are made only from found wood. The sculptures will eventually be consumed by the vegetation surrounding it.

images courtesy the artist

Tsumari in Bloom (2003) by Yayoi Kusama

Yes, even Japan’s most in vogue artist is blossoming at Echigo-Tsumari.

August 23, 2012   Comments Off

Vinyl Furoshiki

Inspired by the traditional Japanese wrapping cloth furoshiki, Samira Boon designed this amazing zipper and button free bags. These are made from only a single piece of vinyl film folded (and remain folded using the adhesive qualities of the material) in such a way you can put almost anything you want inside.

Simple and fun!


Like furoshiki? Check out our in-depth interview and factory photo shoot with LINK.


August 23, 2012   Comments Off