japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — January 2013

the toy all our action figures have been waiting for: 1/12-scale model toilets


To add some much-needed reality to every child’s imaginative games, Japanese toy-makers Aoshima and MileStone have collaborated on a model kit that all our action figures have been waiting for! Behold, the 1/12-scale model toilet, in both urinal and sit-down styles. The model kits will go on sale March 31, 2013 but you can preorder them on Amazon JP.

Now our action figures can engage in all those realistic, albeit less glamorous, activities.


As you can see from the picture above, the attention to detail is pretty fantastic. The toilet comes with a washlet, sanitary box, toilet paper holder and stickers. The toilet seat and cover can even open and close.



source: ITmedia

January 31, 2013   Comments Off

Creative Team THIRD HANDS Transforms Trash to Treasure

Second-Hand clothing may be the darling of hipsters in Tokyo (and abroad) but the creative team THIRD HANDS is taking it up a notch. Using their crafty skills they breathe new life into discarded items by altering them into something completely new.

third hands pass the baton (8)Baseball bat necklace

At an upcoming exhibition titled “Make Drama,” the team will debut their brand new collection of sportswear that has been altered into fashion items like shoes, hand bags and necklaces. The exhibition will be held at Pass The Baton (a trendy vintage shop in its own right) in Omotesando from 02.09.2013 – 02.24.

third hands pass the baton (7)Tennis racket bag

third hands pass the baton (6)Judo uniform shoes

And here’s a look at a few items from last year’s collection:

third hands pass the baton (2) third hands pass the baton (1)

third hands pass the baton (4)

third hands pass the baton (3)




January 30, 2013   Comments Off

Post Books in Tokyo Periodically Replaces Their Entire Inventory


Did you know there’s a book shop in Tokyo that periodically replaces their entire stock of books? I guess it could be frustrating if you were looking for a book you found once and neglected to pick up. But I like how it mimics the ever-changing landscape that is Tokyo – one day a barber shop, the next day vintage clothes, another day a café.

But there is a method to their madness. Each installment features a curated selection of books based on publisher. They opened in November 2011 with a pure selection of books from German publisher Walter Koenig. And they’re just about to debut their 8th rotation (which would mean a clean sweep every 2 months), featuring books from publishers MACK, LIBRARYMAN and Pierre von Kleist Editions. They recently relocated from Yoyogi Village to LimArt (Gmap) in Ebisu. Go check it out!


January 29, 2013   Comments Off

a gallery space for puzzles designed like a puzzle

JAIST01photos by Hiraku Ikeda | click to enlarge

the architect used a computer algorithm to generate an answer to his puzzle – how to fit 144 pentacubes into a space


Housed within JAIST (Japan Institute of Science and Technology) is a gallery space whose sole purpose is to house and display Japan’s largest puzzle collection, numbering some 10,000 mind benders. There you will find a selection of roughly 200 puzzles that include rare pieces from the collection of Nob Yoshigahara, “Japan’s most celebrated inventor, collector, solver and communicator of puzzles.”

But what’s a rare puzzle collection without a proper gallery space? Enter Tatsu Matsuda Architects, who collaborated with Rinno Architecutal office to redesign the JAIST Gallery late last year. Taking a page from Yoshigahara’s penchant for mathematics, the architect used a computer algorithm to generate an answer to his puzzle – how to fit 144 pentacubes into a space and still allow for display area and the flow of people? The result is a puzzle-like space in itself, which invites visitors to enter and explore the world of puzzles.




Source: @architecturephoto | Tatsu Matsuda | JAIST

January 28, 2013   Comments Off

New Stop-Motion Music Video for Shugo Tokumaru’s Katachi

tokumaro katachi (1)

I’m a huge fan of the freakishly gifted, multi-instrument-playing Shugo Tokumaru and his gentle, whimsical tones. And of course I’m not alone. Neojaponisme once wrote, “When it comes to artistic contribution and innovation, Shugo Tokumaru remains the most important member of Japan’s indie music scene. Yet Tokumaru also deserves credit for keeping himself in the business of making music within these incredibly turbulent times. Besides moving a good number of albums, he provides tunes for NHK and Mujirushi Ryohin, tours Europe, and sells-out his shows across Japan.”

Late last year fans in Japan got an early Christmas present when Tokumaru released In Focus, his first full-length album in over 2 years. Now we’re getting a late Christmas present in the form of brand new music video for his track “Katachi” (shape, in Japanese). It was created by the Poland-based stop-motion masters Kijek / Adamski and features roughly 2000 “shapes” in a continuous stop-motion parade. “All these many ‘shapes’ are a representation of our memories – the good, the bad and the ugly,” says Tokumaru about the video. “In the same way that memories create incomplete pictures of the past, seemingly abstract, incongruous ‘shapes’ flow through the scene.”

tokumaro katachi (3)

tokumaro katachi (4)tokumaro katachi (2)

I’m also a huge fan of the cover art for his album. It’s a photograph shot by Hideki Otsuka, and represents a pretty drastic change for Tokumaru, who has always used illustrations (usually his own) for the art.


source: colossal

January 24, 2013   Comments Off

House H | Hiroyuki Shinozaki’s New Home Points to a Bright Future

House H Hiroyuki Shinozaki (1)all photos by Fumihiko Ikemoto | click to enlarge

House H Hiroyuki Shinozaki (2)House H Hiroyuki Shinozaki (5)

Matsudo City in Chiba, favored for its proximity to Tokyo, enjoyed a population influx in the 1960s of people looking for more space and lower rents. 50 years after a massive development boom, Matsudo is still a popular exodus destination for families, albeit without the stylish, modern homes being built in some of the less developed areas.

Enter Hiroyuki Shinozaki, a young 34-year old architect who spent 7 years under the wings of the luminous Toyo Ito before establishing his own office in 2009. He took on a young couple and their child, interpreting their desire to create a new symbol of hope and contemporary living in Matsudo.

House H Hiroyuki Shinozaki (6)

“House H for a family” was completed just last month, and represents a lovely use of light and space. It’s characterized by a large roof that sits upon eight Y-shaped wooden frames that make no attempt to conceal themselves within the house. Six floorboards hang at different heights, creating a dynamic space that opens and closes as inhabitants shift farther and closer to the roof. At its core, the home is an open floor-plan that manages to maintain a sense of intimacy through compartmentalized space. The wooden frames will hopefully become “a well-thumbed book,” the architect says, speaking of his hope for them to become integrated into the family’s lifestyle as shelving, clothes hangers or a growth chart for the child.

House H Hiroyuki Shinozaki (7)

House H Hiroyuki Shinozaki (8)

House H Hiroyuki Shinozaki (9)

House H Hiroyuki Shinozaki (10)

House H Hiroyuki Shinozaki (3)

House H Hiroyuki Shinozaki (4)

source: submission

January 24, 2013   Comments Off

Dramatic Moments | the dreamy scenes of Tomoko Nagai

tomoko nagai - dramatic (1)Dramatic, 2012 ©Tomoko Nagai

If I could choose what dreams I had, I think I would re-up with the imagery of Tomoko Nagai every time. Filled with fun things like friendly bears, bunnies, forests and princesses, Nagai creates stage-like sequences that almost seem like scenes from fairytales, frozen in time. And yet, contrary to any kind of formal storyline, Nagai says that the elements in front of her just come together randomly. There are never any advance sketches.

Speaking about her latest show at Tomio Koyama Gallery in Singapore (Jan. 18 – Feb. 24), Nagai says that “within our every-day lives we occasionally encounter split-second dramatic moments. These happen when element like time, weather, seasons and mood all perfectly align…. What I’ve tried to do for this exhibition is capture those precious moments, embed them with my own hopes and ideals, and vacuum-seal them.”

Below is a selection of older work from 2010…
tomoko nagai - dramatic (6)tomoko nagai - dramatic (7)

tomoko nagai - dramatic (2)

tomoko nagai - dramatic (3)

tomoko nagai - dramatic (4)

tomoko nagai - dramatic (5)

tomoko nagai - dramatic (8)

Also on display will be plans for a new nursery school in Shichigahama (Miyagi prefecture), which was damaged by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The school is being fully funded by the Singapore red cross and Nagai has agreed to create a large-scale mural at the bottom of their new swimming pool. The school, which was designed by architect Takashi Ippei, is on track to be completed in March 2013.




January 23, 2013   Comments Off

Dad spends 7 years on incredibly detailed maze

BAjvOvjCEAElMvX unless otherwise noted, all images courtesy @Kya7y | click to enlarge

Some people have hobbies. Other people are obsessive. But when the two cross paths, this is what you get. Japanese twitter user @Kya7y recently unearthed an incredibly detailed maze that her father created almost 30 years ago. When pressed for details, the father explained that he spent 7 years creating the map on A1 size paper, which is about 33 x 23 inches.

Unsure what to do with the discovery, @Kya7y reached out on twitter but was quickly inundated with requests to receive copies. I wonder how long it would take to finish the maze?

[Update] People have been asking @Kya7y about her father. Everyone seems to want to know more about the man behind this amazing maze. This morning she wrote, “Where does my father work? At a public university!! In the athletic department!!! As a janitor.”

[Update 2] We have begun selling the maze on our e-shop. You can purchase a copy HERE.


720286312photo by @Phantom_ss


source: matome | @Kya74

January 21, 2013   253 Comments

Weekend Links from Around the Web

This new B movie about killer sushi looks like all kinds of awesome.

Akira Kurosawa’s favorite actor Toshiro Mifune was tapped to play Darth Vader (but he turned it down)

A sad week for Japan. Film legend Nagisa Oshima passed away. So did industrial design giant Riki Watanabe.

And the New Yorker remembers Japanese photographer Shomei Tomatsu, who died last December at the age of 82

Interesting new site kokomae.jp – basically a record of what used to be here. Good for fast-changing cities like Tokyo.

We were interviewed in the Japan Times! Yay!  You can read the full article here.

Stablemates: Rei Kawakubo collaborates with Hermès

Pictures from Tadashi Kawamata’s exhibition at BankArt

MoMA talks about the work of Noriko Ambe.

Exactly how hard is it to buy a gun in Japan? Very hard.

Japan had a big snowstorm this week so the local community helped clean up.

January 20, 2013   Comments Off

Riki Watanabe, the Charles Eames of Japan, has passed away at age 101

riki watanabe profileRiki Watanabe (1911 – 2013)

Riki Watanabe, an industrial designer often likened to Charles Eames in America, passed away last week. He was 101 years old.

Born in Shirogane, Tokyo in 1911, Watanabe obtained a degree in woodworking in 1936. After graduation he moved to Gunnma prefecture where he met, and consequently studied under, Bruno Taut, a German architect who had fled to Japan to escape the Nazi regime. Throughout the 1930s Watanabe absorbed the many principles of the modernist movements like Bauhaus and, in particular, Le Corbusier. However, Watanabe was interested in purely importing western modernist ideals into Japan. Rather, concerned himself in how to weave them into a Japanese lifestyle. He succesfully managed to incorporate the concept of chairs into a predominantly floor-based lifestyle. The chairs he produced in the 1950s like the Himo Isu and Torii Isu became iconic images of Japanese modernism.

Major works (click to enlarge):

Himo Isu (1950)

Himo Isu (1950)

Torii Stool (1956)

Torii Stool (1956)

Uni Tray (1976)

Uni Tray (1976)






Watanabe was involved in the establishment of many of Japan’s groundbreaking organizations, from the Japan Design Committee to the Japan Industrial Design Association. He was also responsible for the interiors of many famous buildings including the Tokyo Hilton (currently Capital Tokyo), Keio Plaza Hotel and Prince Hotel. One of his greatest skills was creating beautiful furniture using cheap, affordable materials as resources were scarce after World War II.

Riki Watanabe CFS-kids-set-blue

C.F.S. Kids Set (1965)

Riki Watanabe CFS-kids-set-assembly

C.F.S. Kids Set assembly

January 18, 2013   Comments Off