japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — November 2012

New Takeo Kikuchi Flagship Store in Shibuya wants to redefine retail

photos by Nacása&Partners Inc | click to enlarge

There’s been a flurry of activity this year to redefine the retail experience in the face of online hegemony. Klein-Dytham Architects took a crack at it with their highly acclaimed Daikanyama T-site. Then there was Yoyogi Village. Now, the popular menswear brand Takeo Kikuchi takes on the challenge with their new flagship store in Shibuya (Gmap).

“Today we can easily buy clothes online, and we already have enough knowledge and experiences and know-how to judge good products from bad ones in our economically maturing society. What is the role a flagship store then?” – Jo Nagasaka, architect

The role, Nagasaka goes on, is to offer what online shopping can’t: a 2-way retail experience where customers can relax, be comfortable and absorb the essence of the brand. The new store, which opened just last week, made its home in a glass-clad building that previously housed several athletic gear brands. And upon looking over the plans, the first thing the architects decided to do was to let the building breath. Reconfiguring what is a traditionally an enclosed space with artificial heating and cooling throughout the year, operable wood frame windows were installed throughout the space for natural ventilation.

Benches along the facade, a garden, and cafe on the third floor – all seamlessly integrated – help to create a more laid back environment. One major deviation from a traditional shop is the elimination of cash registers, the thought being that the check-out counter is often far too dominant.

I love these outdoor benches/planters that were cast in large nylon bags using concrete!

source: press release

November 30, 2012   Comments Off

Photohoku – rebuilding one photo album at a time

After the Tsunami the “rebuilding spirit” of the Japanese people has simply been awe-inspiring. And behind all the turmoil and feverish activity, life slowly recovers and people get healed.

Along with a lot of valuable possessions, many families their photos – priceless artifacts that constructed the landscape of their memories. Photohoku is an initiative to help them rebuild new ones by taking instant Polaroid shots and building new photo albums on the spot. So simple but so efficient.

Photo x Tohoku = Photohoku 

Brian Petterson and the sweet Yuko Yoshikawa have been leading a team of volunteer photographers in the area of Tohoku since the aftermath of the Tsunami. The last Photohoku session was in the town of Yamamoto and I was lucky enough to join them. This was a great experience because through the media of photography the team exchanged a lot with the families, children, parents, and grand-parents. Each Photohoku session is a warm “smiling time” shared around photo albums. There is a ton of positive energy coming from this project!

image courtesy Katsumi Saiki

image courtesy Cameron Klein

image courtesy Cameron Klein

image courtesy Katsumi Saiki

November 29, 2012   Comments Off

Tatzu Nishi on the role of public art

If you haven’t been to Tatzu Nishi’s Discovering Columbus, I suggest you do so now. It’s not everyday that a pre-eminent symbol of our new world is encased in a pent-house apartment with grand views of central park. And it’s not everyday we are allowed to enter that apartment to ponder the 120-year old sculpture by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo and enjoy an intimacy reserved only for pigeons.

Our contributing editor Masako caught up with Tatzu Nishi earlier this week in New York to talk to him ahead of the closing of his exhibition, which was extended until December 2. Here, we bring you, in English and Japanese, his reflections on public art and its role in contemporary society.


15年前にパブリックアートでアーティスト活動を始めたんだけど,アートシーンの内輪だけのゲームに嫌気がさしたからなんだ。95%以上の普段は現代アートに興味がない人々を無視して、狭い世界で活動しているのがね。だから作品を作るときは,その95%の人が作品に興味を持つように仕掛けも考える。今回の Discovering Columbus の仕掛けは、建造されてから120年たつコロンブス像に始めて近づくことが出来るということなんだ。これだけを目当てに部屋に入る人も多いと思うけど,部屋に入った瞬間その異質な空間に気づかないわけにはいかない。そこがアートへの入り口というわけ。日常からはなれ,常識が壊れ,想像力が活発になり,何かから解放され自由な気分を味わうことが出来るんだ。

(English follows below….)

Photo: Tom Powel Imaging, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY | click to enlarge

Photo: Tom Powel Imaging, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY | click to enlarge

Photo: Tom Powel Imaging, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY | click to enlarge

An important role of art is to take ordinary objects, or point of views, and turn them upside down on their heads. By doing so, things are suddenly not what they first appeared to be. So that’s how art continues to stimulate and broaden our imagination. Perhaps that’s how art teaches us to be free.

Because art reveals another aspect, or perspective, it inevitably becomes something “different” from the norm. The reason NY is able to remain the epicenter of contemporary art is because they have a culture of accepting these differences. It’s a melting pot of different races, customs and religions, all coexisting together. Which then begins to explain why contemporary art isn’t fully accepted in Japan.

When I started creating public art 15 years ago, it was because I was tired of the art scene being a game played only by people in the know. It was made for the art world insiders, and ignored the 95% or so who have no interest in contemporary art. That’s why I try to make art that triggers the interest of that 95%. For Discovering Columbus, the trigger is the fact that this is your only chance to see a statue up-close – something no one’s been able to do since it was built 120 years ago. There must be a whole lot of people who come to this room for that reason alone. But once they come, they’ve already stepped into that anomaly, and they’re forced to confront it. That’s the entrance into art. That’s how we step away from the ordinary, shattering our common sense, and inspiring us to feel free by breaking away from boundaries.

Photo: Liz Ligon, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

Photo: Liz Ligon, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY

November 29, 2012   1 Comment

ASE | Takuya Tsuchida’s renovated country house

photos by Koichi Torimura | click to enlarge

A 100-year old house built in Yokohama for foreign settlers received a gorgeous renovation earlier this year by architect Takuya Tsuchida. A rarity in itself, Tsuchida attempted to preserve what he could of the western-style home, instead of scraping it for anew, which would be common practice.

The styling is nice too. I like the use of old paint cans as planters, which nicely complements the brick wall, now coated in white paint. “This project is incomplete,” the architect tells us, because a choice was made to preserve “memory” over complete functionality.

Read about Takuya Tsuchida’s other house in Yokohama, this one built very differently to contrast the Western-style homes of Yokohama.

November 27, 2012   Comments Off

LEGO bonsai tree by Makoto Azuma

images courtesy azuma makoto | click to enlarge

We’ve seen our fair share of bonsai (everything from the inflatable to the hangable) but, oddly enough, we’ve never seen one made from everyone’s favorite building block, LEGOs. And this one is as exquisite as any serious miniature plant comes. Which is no surprise, when you learn it was built by botanical artist Makoto Azuma, whose attention to detail is apparent in the uneven ground and the moss on the tree.

Source: Azuma Makoto

November 26, 2012   3 Comments

FIKA | a home that converts into a weekend shop

photos by Koichi Torimura | click to enlarge

You’ve heard of weekend homes, right? Well meet FIKA, a weekend shop that functions as the shop owner’s residence during the rest of the week.

The brand new multi-purpose building was completed about 2 months ago under the wings of ON Design Partners, whose job it was, among other things, to maximize the ultra-tiny 355 sq ft (10 tsubo) plot of land.  The shop is located in a quiet neighborhood of Toshima, Tokyo where the owner’s collection of Scandinavian antiques and household items, goes on sale on Saturdays and Sundays.

The entrance to FIKA, which means “coffee break” in Swedish, is prominently displayed on the corner, while a private entrance is located around back.

The 2-story structure features a high-rise shelf that, at the bottom, functions as the main display shelf for the store. But towards the top, as it stretches into the private residence, it carries the day-to-day objects that the owner uses as well. But as it turns out, within this quaint little shop, there is a thin line between product and object.

The owner’s collection is comprised of objects they have collected over the years, each with its own history and story. The process of customers coming in to shop, the owner says, is something akin to “meeting” an object, rather than “buying.”

source: ON Design Partners

November 25, 2012   Comments Off

Chichu Art Museum by Tadao Ando

0101Benesse-3756all photos by iwan baan

“Chichu Art Museum, established in 2004, is itself a quintessential site-specific work of art. The museum invites us to rethink our relationship with nature, a central theme in the ideological landscape of Naoshima. Located on the south side of Naoshima, the Tadao Ando-designed facility has a permanent collection of works, many commissioned for the museum over the past two decades, and includes such artists as Claude Monet, Walter de Maria, and James Turrell.”

The photos were part of the book Insular Insight.










November 21, 2012   Comments Off

House In Chigasaki by Suppose Design Office

all images courtesy suppose design office | click to enlarge

If you walk east from Chigasaki Station along a narrow back-street, through a thick forest of residential homes, you will come across a cocoon-like structure that resembles a large zōri, or Japanese sandal. The simple home is covered in corrugated steel with a single large window, complemented by a large opening at the bottom. It’s oval-shaped form seems somewhat inspired by a Swedish home one might come across in a Moomin picture book.

Completed early this year year, House in Chigasaki is the work of architect Makoto Tanijiri. It’s a small home. And there’s nothing fancy about it. But the architect’s signature use of layout, combined with a blurring of indoor/outdoor boundaries, makes it an inviting, comfortable home.

source: suppose design office

November 14, 2012   Comments Off

Kohei Nawa’s new work merges 3D scanning and texture mapping

all photos by Nobutada Omote, courtesy the artist | click to enlarge

Looks like computer graphic-generated renderings, right? Wrong. These are very real sculptures.

Perennial Sculptor Kohei Nawa will show an entirely new body of work next week. After obsessing over the manipulation of form through his series of bead-covered animals, Nawa shifts his attention to the human body. “Trans” is a series of human silhouettes produced from 3D scanning, which seems to be all the rage now, combined with texture mapping to create abstract, organism-like forms.

After debuting the work in Korea, Nawa will head to his homeland of Osaka where he will put on a large-scale experimental exhibition of new work, mixed with some old pieces. It will be on display at the Umeda Gallery (general admission 1,000 yen) within Hankyu Department Store from November 21 – December 9, 2012.

source: @kohei_nawa

November 14, 2012   Comments Off

a butcher shop to drool for | Hagiwara Seinikuten

photos by Joshua Lieberman | click to enlarge

what the old butcher shop used to look like

Nestled amongst the shopping streets of old town Kamakura, just steps from the station, is a butcher shop unlike any other. Renovated by Design Eight, the shop of over 60 years received a face-lift earlier this year to much acclaim.

I want a modern look that fits with the landscape of Kamakura, the owner told the designers. But I also want it to  prioritize my longstanding client base, rather than grow the business. The solution – one based on an earlier project from several years ago – was to relocate the display case to a more accessible location: upright, next to the counter.

Conventional Japanese butcher shops showcase their meats underneath the counter, which limits viewing to one customer at a time.

A wooden interior, a leather counter and special lighting to showcase the meats, finish of this gorgeous shop, which does an amazing job at highlighting their product and what they do.

The shop was a recent recipient of the 2012 JCD Design Awards.

A great logo designed by SPREAD.

November 12, 2012   4 Comments