japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — June 2013

Mozilla Japan’s New Open Source Office


Mozilla, the developer of the open-source browser Firefox, has collaborated with Nosigner to create their new office in Japan. Since their outset in 1998, the foundation has attempted to counteract the challenges of dominant corporate products by providing open source technology – essentially, free access to all the blueprints so that anyone can redistribute or make improvements on it.

Keeping with that same philosophy, Nosigner has not only created a set of original furniture but an entire “open source office” using commonly available objects and throwing all the drawings online for anyone to download (zip file) and reference.


The floor consists of plastic palettes covered with wood panels. Concealed cables travel underneath it in every direction. And polycarbonate panels enable easy editing of the space.




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The signage, comprised of dots that mimic the pixilation of a screen, are also available in the download package.


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June 30, 2013   1 Comment

Meltdown | Manbu Ikeda’s compressed megalopolis depicts the dangers of industrialization

manabu ikeda meltdown 1Manabu Ikeda, “Meltdown” (2013) | © IKEDA Manabu Courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery

This is “Meltdown,” 40-year old artist Manabu Ikeda’s latest creation. It’s about 4ft x 4ft and took only 5 months to create. That’s right: ONLY. That’s because Ikeda was working quickly. Typically, he spends years on a single creation, which is so dense in detail that a single 8-hour work day yields just a 4-inch square.

“Meltdown,” as the title would suggest, is based on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the artist’s concerns of radioactive elements being released into the atmosphere. “My work expresses the dangers humans have when they live so closely with industrialization,” says Ikeda, who’s been creating post-apocalyptic artwork for some time now. But also embedded within the staggering details of his compressed megalopolis are bits and pieces of day-to-day life from Vancouver, where he and his family have been living for the past 2 years on a cultural-affairs grant. “Meltdown” was on display at The West Vancouver Museum earlier this year.

manabu ikeda meltdown 5“Meltdown” (detail)

Where is Ikeda headed from here? He and his family are off to Madison, Wisconsin where he’ll begin work on a massive disaster and recovery-themed piece that won’t be ready till 2016. We’ll check back in 3 years.

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source: Hi-Fructose | North Shore Outlook

June 29, 2013   Comments Off

Residence of Daisen | A house designed to fit in between the gaps of trees

Residence of Daisen (1)photos by Koji Fujii | click to enlarge

“The figures of the trees are beautiful. They are the legitimate habitants of the forest.”

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“Trunks reaching towards the sky with bountiful leaves. The figures of the trees are beautiful. They are the legitimate habitants of the forest,” says architect Keisuke Kawaguchi, describing the forest where he designed a home to fit in between the gaps of trees.

Residence of Daisen, named after the mountain in Tottori prefecture where the house rests, is made up of several containers positioned in open areas of the forest. They’re connected by passageways that strategically meander around trees. But the topography of the land wasn’t the only field that required careful study. In the winter Daisen gets between 6 -7 feet of snow. By raising the house off the ground on pillars the architects not only prevented potential snowfall problems but also allowed for more breeze to pass through the home. It’s a home that, in the truest sense of the phrase, coexists with nature.

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Source: submission

June 28, 2013   6 Comments

Tokyo Craft Guide: A Collection of Japanese Craft Shopping Adventures

S&T contributor Angela Salisbury recently co-authored  Tokyo Craft Guide: A Collection of Japanese Craft Shopping Adventures. She tells us about the book, and why it’s meant to help you find craft gold among the side streets of Tokyo.


One of my favorite things about Tokyo is the abundance of specialty shops for the most serious of enthusiasts. For me it’s fabric, but for others it’s French wine, custom robots, toy trains, or even kaleidoscopes, where a shop owner graciously let me handle a ¥80,000 ($800) vintage kaleidoscope filled with glass marbles. I almost lost mine.

These shops are like secret gems in the vast metropolis that is Tokyo, where finding them, even with an address, is sometimes the largest hurdle.

That’s why we wrote Tokyo Craft Guide, a specialized shopping guide for people as excited about crafts and Japanese fabric as we are. Tokyo Craft Guide helps visitors — as well as Tokyo residents — navigate the city’s back streets through a collection of illustrated neighborhood guides and curated craft-shopping excursions. They are treasure maps, and X marks the spot for vintage Czech buttons or a perfectly sculpted fruit parfait. Tokyo Craft Guide presents an insider’s guide to the best craft shops the city has to offer, and provides a uniquely Tokyo experience — the hunt for small yet serious, specialized hobby shops.

TCG_P02 and map Tokyo Craft GuideTokyo Craft Guide

June 28, 2013   1 Comment

Takeda Castle Ruins Appears to Float in the Sky

takeda castle ruins (1)unless otherwise noted, all photo courtesy Hyogo Tourism Association | click to enlarge

Japan is famous for its castles, a large majority of which were constructed in the 16th century as strategic sites during the sengoku (warring States) period. But one particular castle is known, not for its high stone walls or golden roof tiles, but lack thereof: its ruins. Built in 1441, Takeda Castle, or what’s left of it, sits at the summit of a mountain that towers more than 1100 ft., hence earning it the nickname, “castle in the sky.”

Indeed, the sight is one that is reminiscent of Machu Picchu. Except one needn’t hop on a flight to Peru or hike the Inca trail almost 8000 ft up. All one needs to do is plan a day trip from Kyoto. It’s about 3 hours away. It’s a must-see for fans of the movie Laputa.

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takeda castle ruins (2)Bonus: photo by hiroshi ookura

This is what Jcastle, a guide to Japanese castles, has to say about the history:

Takeda Castle was built on this site in the path of aggression between Harima/Tanba and Tajima as a stronghold of Izushi Castle. It was built by Ohtagaki Mitsukage, a retainer of Yamana Sozen, lord of the area, in 1441. Ohtagaki, who had been a military commander of the Yamana clan for 5 generations became lord of the castle.

Takeda Castle was conquered by Hideyoshi in his Tajima of 1577. Hideyoshi placed it in the control of his younger brother, Hidenaga, who moved to Izushi less than 2 years later. Akamatsu Hirohide, the last lord of the castle fought on the side of the Western Forces for Tokugawa at the battle of Sekigahara in the attack on Tottori Castle. Hirohide served valiantly in the battle, but was accused of setting the castle town on fire. Later that year he committed seppuku and the Takeda Castle was abandoned.

June 27, 2013   Comments Off

Wire Frame Furniture by NOIZ Architects


Say goodbye to your TV remote disappearing into the cushions. Goodbye hidden crumbs and lost change. Goodbye cat scratches . Goodbye bed bugs. Wire Frame Furniture, created by Tokyo-based NOIZ Architects, eliminates all those problems. Sure it may not be comfortable, but it’s a small price to pay.

Sure, the series, which not only includes chair, desk and book shelf but planters as well, is probably not for everyone. But I’m sure there are some die-hard 3D artists obsessed with wire frames that would put these in their homes.







June 27, 2013   Comments Off

Projection Mapping FTW | Perfume performs at the Cannes Lions

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Last week marked the 60th Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France, where the best of the best creative advertising is honored. Agencies from Japan came home with a total of 33 awards (down from 55 last year) including top nods for projects like World Wide Maze, Tokyo City Symphony and Penguin Navi. But perhaps the most high profile act was pop idol group Perfume, who not only won an award for their Perfume Global Site Project but also put on an impressive performance with the help of Daito Manabe, digital creation director at Rhizomatiks.

Perfume performs their hit “spending all my time” (fast forward to around the 2-min mark for the song to actually start)

Manabe’s skillful use of projection mapping, a technology used to turn irregularly shaped objects (in this case, the 3 girls’ outfits) into video projection screens, won them a standing ovation at the end of the performance. This was the first time a Japanese act has performed on the Cannes Lions stage.

Perfume Global Site Project

June 26, 2013   1 Comment

IRO | a beauty salon aligned with the earth

IRO-Reiichi Ikeda (5)photos by Yoshiro Masuda | click to enlarge

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The IRO hair salon is located in Osaka, on a nondescript side-street on the ground floor of a large condo. IRO, which literally means color, boasts a minimal interior that has been stripped of all bells and whistles. Bare concrete, wood and brick come together to complete the space, thanks to architect Reiichi Ikeda.

One unique property that runs consistently throughout IRO, which opened in April of 2012, is the diagonally placed wood paneling, which compliments the diagonal stripes on the frosted window. These are placed at an exact angle of 23.43 degrees, which just happens to be the same axis that the earth is rotating on.

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The artfully designed logo by Yuma Harada follows the same concept, with the O rotated to be in line with earth. And IRO has a secondary meaning, referring to the different shades and colors created by the seasons. “The light streaming through the diagonal lines and its shadows shifts from season to season,” explains the architect.

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June 26, 2013   Comments Off

Treasure hunting in the woods | Onico is a kid-friendly hair salon

Onico Hair Nai-RyoIsobe (1)

Earlier this year a new hair salon opened in Kamishinden, just North of Osaka City. Onico was designed by Ryo Isobe, an Osaka-based architect who specializes in beauty salons. Isobe worked with the owner to create custom antique and DIY furniture, including mirrors, lighting and display boards. “We don’t just make things look pretty. We design user experience,” says Isobe, who goes on to explain that he imagined Onico as a woodland filled with whimsical curiosities.

The space is filled with birch trees wedged between the floor and ceiling. And dotted throughout are odd objects like a stuffed owl. It’s as if you’re going on a treasure hunt through the woods. The antiquey look makes it seem very delicate and not kid friendly, right? Well you’d be surprised to learn that kids are more than welcome. In fact, they even have a room where kids can hang out and wait for their parents. Now that’s a cool idea.

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If you’re just catching up, we’re doing a short series this week on recent trends in Japanese hair salon architecture. You can read the intro here.

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June 26, 2013   1 Comment

a minimal beauty salon with an emphasis on form

tsubasa iwahashi folm arts beauty salon (1)Photos by Yoshiro Masuda | click to enlarge

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“When it comes to design and hair sculpting, form is incredibly important,” claims the owner who, in 2002, opened a small beauty salon in Osaka. It was located on an incredibly large 6-lane street that also sandwiched a street car. 10 years in the owner decided it was time the look of his shop also represent his philosophy. So they hired architect Tsubasa Iwahashi and, for 2.5 weeks, closed up shop to undergo a renovation.

On March 30, 2013, they reopened as “folm arts beauty salon” (it’s not clear whether the misspelling of “form” was intentional) with a sleek, minimal façade that countered the busyness of the surrounding area. A house-shaped entrance greets customers, who are then led into a tranquil, white space that’s divided into different areas: reception, styling and a hidden station for beauty treatments in the very back. Wooden panels and built-in storage for magazine racks complements the white, cubic form.

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June 25, 2013   Comments Off