japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — April 2013

Kokeshi Matches by Kumi Hirasaka

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Since 1994, after noticing a resemblance between matches and Kokeshi dolls, Osaka-based artist Kumi Hirasaka has been handrawing small faces on matches. But it wasn’t until around 2000 when she realized the commercial potential of her hobby and ditched the brush for a rubber stamp, which was soon replaced by a printing press.

But even though the hand-made quality is gone, Hirasaka’s matches still retain a cuteness that almost keeps you from wanting to light up. In fact, if we replaced out entire supply of fire-igniting devices with these matches, don’t you think we’d see a significant decline in arson?

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In 2011 Hirasaka even staged in exhibition in which she created almost 50 different match and match box sets referencing various artistic, cinematic and literary works.

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Source: NOTCOT | thatshouldbemine

April 29, 2013   1 Comment

THE _______ | classic design now available in Tokyo

THE news-shop-02images courtesy THE | click to enlarge

The [th uh]
Used to mark a noun as indicating the best-known, most approved, most important, most satisfying, etc.


A natural process of selection occurs not only in life, but in the day-to-day objects we keep near us as well. We replace things as we find more suitable alternatives that, for one reason or another, enhance our lives. And so things change and evolve into more optimal forms. That’s according to Japanese designer Mizuno Manabu, at least, who believes that we are now at the point we can claim certain objects to be “classic” in design. And thus, on the back of his successful career as graphic designer and head of Good Design Company, began his now brand simply titled “THE.”




The initiative started online last year but has now morphed into a brick-and-mortar store on the 4th floor of KITTE, the new shopping center just outside Tokyo station. There you will find things like The Glass, The Plate, The Lunch Box and other daily essentials that claim superiority over their household brethren. But what makes the store work, saving it from the clenches of design elitism, is a carefully curated selection of non-originals.

A wide-variety – everything from toys and candy to bicycles – line the walls of the store. Before buying anything you can be certain that it’s gone under the design microscope. In one case they ordered and tested several hundred bowls, scoring each on things like form, durability and easy-to-clean. THE – with a name like that it’s hard to go wrong. (unless we’re talking about search engine optimization)


April 29, 2013   Comments Off

A shelving unit that looks like paper blowing away

yoy_blow_01Photos by Yasuko Furukawa | click to enlarge


This is pretty genius. The aptly titled “BLOW” is a wall-mount shelving unit that mimics a sudden gust of wind blowing papers away. Each piece is molded in A4 letter-size paper and made from thin steel, which is then twisted and contorted to create 5 different plates whose top and bottom can be used interchangeably. When several are combined it creates a dramatic scene, frozen in time.



It was designed by Japanese design studio YOY and as of now it’s only available through Italian home furnishings company Pianoprimo.


The frozen scene is reminiscent of a 19th century woodblock print titled “Travelers Caught in a Sudden Breeze at Ejiri,” from Katsushika Hokusai’s The Thirty-six Views of Fuji – a scene that was also famously restaged by Jeff Walls.


April 25, 2013   Comments Off

Klein Dytham Architecture unveils new YouTube production space in Tokyo

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Earlier this year Google announced that YouTube Space Tokyo, the company’s third global production facility, would open following its 1st location in London and 2nd in LA last year. Located in Roppongi Hills, the free collaborative production space was designed by Tokyo-based Klein Dytham Architecture (KDa).

Following a similar (and highly successful) approach to T-Site, in which they used tessellated Ts to adorn the walls, KDa incorporated the red TV-screen-like logo into their designs. Red lacquered ceramic tiles line the walls of the reception, which fades to lighter hues in other spaces to create consistency. Clear branding was an obvious consideration as the logo even takes the form of wooden shelving in the kitchen.

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The production studio, which includes 3 studios, equipment, a training/screening room, a café, and post-production resources, began accepting applicants in April.

We built the YouTube Space Tokyo as a way to support the incredible wave of Japanese creativity we have seen develop among our YouTube Partners over the last few years. The Space is an investment in these creators to support their quest to make even better videos and build even bigger global audiences.

-Google VP Tom Pickett, in a statement.

This is a big step for google, whose headquarters are also in the Mori Tower. Last year the company brought on 13 new media partners – amongst them heavyweights like Fuji TV and TBS.

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What’s impressive is that KDa managed to fit fully equipped production studios into regular office spaces.

In the past, production studios required high ceilings to prevent the hot lighting rigs literally cooking performers. Modern LED lights, however, are cool and can be used in the space offered by high-rise office floors.

- KDa, in their press release

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April 25, 2013   1 Comment

Botanical Blueprints by Makoto Murayama

makoto-murayama_tokyo-electron 1images courtesy Frantic Gallery | © Macoto Murayama

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Using his background in computer graphics and illustration, media artist Makoto Murayama creates technical, scientific blueprints of flowers that look like they belong in a manual for semiconductors. In fact, his work has just been selected as part of the solaé art gallery project, an initiative to bring art into the offices of Tokyo Electron, one of Japan’s largest semiconductor companies.

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It’s no surprise that these incredibly detailed renderings are made from an incredibly scientific process. The 29-year old Murayama begins by collecting and studying different flowers. The artist then begins sketching them over and over, literally dissecting every petal under a microscope to identify its structure. Murayama then turns to his computer, where he carefully models and renders out the prints. I would love to have one of these on my wall!

“My inspirations come from Yoshihiro Inomoto (a master of automobile illustration) and Tomitaro Makino (a pioneer in Japanese botanical illustration),” says Murayama in an interview.

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April 24, 2013   Comments Off

A night light that turns your wall into an entrance to another world

yoy_peel_02Photos by Yasuko Furukawa | click to enlarge


Confident and composed, they guide our children to the bathroom with the implicit, “see, no monsters here.” They illuminate our rooms and delineate our walls. I am, of course, referring to night lights – an object that, unless you have kids, has been replaced by iPhone flashlights.

But if you’re looking to add a bit of fun to those midnight strolls, the PEEL lamp might be just for you. Like an episode from The Twilight Zone, this playful lamp creates the illusion that your wallpaper is peeling off, revealing what seems to be a peak into another dimension. The trick is surprisingly simple – an ultra-thin OLED light attached to a Plexiglas-type mold that hooks onto the corner of a wall. I know my kids would approve!


It was designed by YOY, a Japanese design duo who have displayed a knack for incorporating playful illusions into their work.


April 23, 2013   Comments Off

Sushi tuna model teaches kids how to dissect maguro

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Workers at the famed Tsukiji Fish Market, a popular tourist destination in Tokyo, are a tough bunch who you don’t want to mess around with. Most of us buy our kids toy cars and building blocks. But not Kazuyoshi Watanabe, who owns a wholesale stand in the fish market. Watanabe, who wields his 2-ft long sword literally for breakfast decided to create a toy model that would teach people how to dissect a fish. He teamed up with Hobbystock, a maker of toy models, to recreate 10 genuine parts that you can slice and dice. And that’s just the fish. It also comes with a chopping board, large knife and other parts that all make the experience come to life. But the price tag of teaching your kid to be a badass, sword-wielding fishmonger is not cheap. The model clocks in at 29,400 yen (about $300).

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The model maguro (tuna) was released just last week – a timely offering that coincides with some other Tsukiji Fish Market news. Over the weekend a man stole a large fish-cutting knife and started wielding it around, threatening to kill someone. The cops arrived at the scene but the man had already been cornered by the workers. “…he picked the wrong place to do that,” tweeted a worker who observed the scuffle. Indeed, he had picked a fight with the wrong people.

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April 22, 2013   Comments Off

The Canvas Chair Doubles as Both Art and Furniture

yoy_canvas_09Photos by Yasuko Furukawa | click to enlarge


Art, for the most part, discourages physical interaction. Look, but don’t touch. And most certainly, don’t sit. But a new series of canvases encourage users to lean into it. To just go ahead and take all that weight off.

Almost like some odd illusion, the seemingly flat canvases are made from a highly elastic fabric that is meant to sustain weight. The screen-printed chairs conform to your body as you sit into them immediately transforming from art to furniture.


The “Canvas” series was designed by YOY (pronounced yo-ee), a relatively new design firm established in 2011 by Naoki Ono and Yuuki Yamamoto. Presented last week at Milano Salone, the canvases have yet to make their way into your nearest furniture shop. But hopefully we’ll soon be able to replace all our foldaway chairs that are stashed in every nook we can find.





Source: @yamamotoyuuki

April 22, 2013   2 Comments

Outdoor Living in Tokyo | NN-House by Kozo Yamamoto

NN House by Kozo Yamamoto (1)all photos by Torimura Koichi | click to enlarge

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It’s no secret that the city of Tokyo poses some of the toughest architectural challenges. With a population density that trumps every other metropolitan city in the world and land prices at a premium, architects are forced to get creative. That’s exactly what architect Kozo Yamamoto did when a client came to him and requested an “open house” with a courtyard and roof terrace.

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“Standing on the empty lot and carefully observing ‘open’ spots around it, we began to naturally envision the best locations for the courtyard and roof terrace,” says Yamamoto. This was tricky because the site was located in an area with lax zoning laws, sandwich between buildings of varying heights including a 5-story apartment building.

Quite literally thinking out of the box, Yamamoto came up with plans for a triangular courtyard, an L-shaped terrace and a loft space that sits above the kitchen on the first floor. “We made sure that openings are placed at an appropriate height and location so that they can open up the house towards outside while keeping privacy.”

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April 19, 2013   1 Comment

bridging the gap between analog and digital? | Fujitsu’s real world touchscreen interface

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At a press conference earlier this month Fujitsu unveiled a working prototype that they called a “Next-Generation User Interface for Intuitive Touch-Based Operations.” That’s a very long name. Put another way: a device that allows you to copy and digitize tangible documents using your finger. Or, another way: a fancy scanner.

Accordingly, they’re working towards making this commercially available by 2014. But is it just me or does this technology already feel almost obsolete? Admittedly it would be fun to copy quotes from books like this to save them for later. But then again, if that’s all I wanted I’d probably just get a kindle.

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April 18, 2013   Comments Off