japanese art, design and culture

Posts from — August 2013

Japanese pastry beds let you be the filling

fellissimo pastry bedding (1)

I have a soft spot for Japanese bakeries. The smell of freshly baked breads and the immaculately displayed pastries make me want to devour everything and then curl up inside the shop and go to sleep. And while my fantasy will likely remain a dream, online retailer fellisimo is offering the next best thing: a new line of pastry beds!

The “Fluffy Big Bread Cushion Club” is a monthly subscription (16,000 yen/month) in which you receive either a chocolate cornet sleeping bag, a cream-filled pocket pastry, toast with jam cushions or a green team omelet wrap. Each bedding comes with a wearable cape, which transforms the user into the respective filling. The first shipment is scheduled for October.

That’s roughly $640 if you stay on for all 4 months. In my opinion it’s a fair price to pay for sweet dreams.


fellissimo pastry bedding (9)fellissimo pastry bedding (2)


fellissimo pastry bedding (8)    fellissimo pastry bedding (3)

fellissimo pastry bedding (4) fellissimo pastry bedding (5)


fellissimo pastry bedding (6) fellissimo pastry bedding (7)

source: kotaku | felissimo

August 30, 2013   1 Comment

Internet imagery collages by Kazuki Umezawa


It began as a hobby – one that many of us probably share – of saving graphics he found online onto his desktop. Realizing that he had amassed an overwhelming collection of data, 28-year old Japanese artist Kazuki Umezawa one day decided to begin turning his collection into art.

His work, which features beady anime eyes, figures and graphics that collide with his own paint, is now part of a large scale exhibition at the Mori Art Museum and a solo show at Diesel Denim Gallery.


He assembles his data in photoshop files, which can run anywhere from 3GB to 30GB. And the imagery he uses changes, along with the currents of time. For example, after 3.11 he began incorporating a lot of tsunami imagery because that was simply what he was coming across online. With appropriated online imagery and his own craftwork, Umezawa creates a world in which the data of physical reality and virtual reality clash together.



source: press release

August 30, 2013   1 Comment

LIFE-SIZED | an exhibition of paper cutouts by Risa Fukui

20130814171432_originalphotos courtesy keniichi shioda | click to enlarge

Another show I attended while in Tokyo was LIFE-SIZED, an exhibition of large-scale paper cutouts (kirie) by Risa Fukui. The 38-year old artist presented 10 new works that, while hard to believe, were created by simply cutting lines into the paper to create negative space.

For LIFE-SIZED, Fukui created her works on hanging translucent panels. Each cutout is double-sided and viewable from the front (in white) or from the back (in color). The intricate details are hard to ignore but what was especially beautiful was the cast shadow on the floor from each cutout.

Fukui’s show is on display at the Pola Museum Annex until September 8, 2013. (all photos by keniichi shioda)









August 27, 2013   3 Comments

2 a.m. by Yusuke Yagi

photo 5photos by spoon & tamago

If you’ve ever walked home late at night in Japan you may recognize some of the deafeningly quiet scenes created by Yusuke Yagi. Using primarily traditional Japanese painting materials like natural pigments (iwaenogu), mica (unmo) and mashi, a type of traditional paper made from hemp, Yagi portrays a world after dark, in which all creatures have gone to bed.

Born and raised in Kyoto, the 22-year old artist creates late-night scenes that are both realistic, but that also hint of mystery, or fantasy. Each piece’s title (ie: 2:46 am) is derived from the time in which the artist captured the scene. Although quiet and reserved, there’s a certain tension in Yagi’s paintings. It’s as if something is about to break the peaceful silence, pummeling our world into violent chaos. However, at the same time there’s a certain reassurance in knowing that nothing like that would ever happen in Japan.

photo 3photo 4

photo 2

photo 1

August 26, 2013   Comments Off

A Haunted House Art Exhibition for Kids

obake 1 largeunless otherwise noted, all photos by spoon & tamago

We highlighted it in our selection of Japanese haunted houses for this summer, but the only one I actually went to was with the kids at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. Typically art exhibitions are just one big pain for parents – no running, no playing and, most importantly, no touching. But for this Haunted Play House created by Torafu Architects, kids could not only touch the art but they could jump inside the canvas, often becoming part of the art.

The space was filled with replicas of famous paintings that were also part optical illusion. It was a really fun way to learn about art without all the museum rules and annoyances.

photo 4photo 2


obake_04_fuminari_yoshitsugu-400x600Photos by Fuminari Yoshitsugu for Torafu

obake_09_fuminari_yoshitsugu-400x600 obake_10_fuminari_yoshitsugu-400x600



August 25, 2013   Comments Off

Summer Greetings from Spoon & Tamago


Fireworks along the Tama River | Aug 17, 2013

If you follow me on twitter you know that I’m back in Japan right now with my family on vacation. You also know that it’s really, really hot. Both facts help explain why posts have been even more sporadic than usual, which I apologize for. Expect this to continue through the end of Aug when we’ll be back and regular posting should resume.

But instead of goofing off the whole time I’ll try and post a few quick items – mainly shows or exhibitions I went to go see that I think are worth highlighting. If you’re bored you can check out two recent features we did, one on Mt. Fuji and one on Japanese Trains.

I hope everyone is having a happy summer!

- Johnny

August 22, 2013   1 Comment

The Ceramic Miniature Figurines of Mayumi Yamashita

-1images courtesy the artist | click to enlarge

Ceramic artist Mayumi Yamashita makes hand-built and wheel-thrown sculptures and then adds miniature figurines to create whimsical, humorous works of art. The tiny figures are a representation of humanity, Yamashita tells us, which arouses both her curiosity and inspiration. “People make us happy but also angry and disappointed. People are curious but also foolish. We never seem to learn, despite knowing deep down that we’ve taken others for granted and knowing that we shouldn’t have.”

While rather straightforward in concept, the interaction between figurines and the seemingly functional ceramics help create curious objects that solicit 2nd and even 3rd views, drawing us closer into her world.


Yamashita got her start in textiles and fashion. But after moving to the UK for studies she discovered the world of clay and slowly became hooked. She has since moved back to Japan and is currently based in Kagawa.



source: submission

August 21, 2013   Comments Off

LT Josai | a new shared living space in Nagoya

001sphotos by Masao Nishikawa

Thanks, in part, to exposure through Japanese TV dramas, shared living has now become a viable option for young kids looking to gain independence but are not ready to make the leap to getting their own place. According to Oak House, Japan’s largest operator of shared living spaces, available units have grown 20 fold since the company’s inception in 1998.

Whereas older buildings are typically converted, Naruse-Inokuma Architects were asked to create a newly constructed building for shared living. In other words, the architects were given the opportunity to rethink shared living and redesign the entire experience, giving birth to LT Josai, which opened their doors last month.



The space is divided into 13 different individual rooms that all range between 58,000 ~ 62,000 yen per month. The negative space created by the layout of the rooms serve as shared living areas – some more dynamic and inviting while others are intended for smaller, quieter usage.

022s 023s

And anyone who thinks shared living can’t work in Japan needs only harken back to the Showa era when homes were primarily left unlocked and neighbors would come and go as they pleased. The home functioned more as a community center than a private residence. In an increasingly isolated age where people immediately turn to TV and Internet for the “voices” in their home, shared living offers a more personable, community-oriented voice that once was the backbone of Japanese society.




August 20, 2013   4 Comments

Bonus: trainspotting in Tokyo

So, now you know almost everything there is to know about Japanese trains. There’s just one thing left to do: go trainspotting. But of course we all don’t have the time and resources to visit individual lines. So here are some of the best spots in Tokyo to see different trains at once. They’re all easily accessible and don’t even require you to enter any stations.

1. Nippori

Start at Nippori Station. Walk over Shimogoinden Bridge (just outside the North exit) where you’ll find one of the busiest train crossings in all of Japan. You’ll be able to catch top-down glimpses of the Keihin Tohoku Line, the Hayate-komachi Shinkansen, the Takasaki Line and the Joban Line all at once if you’re lucky (and if you go during rush hour).

2. Shinjuku

There’s a wooden deck just outside of Tokyu Hands department store – a perfect spot to watch the trains go by.

3. Ichigaya

Walk north from Ichigaya station towards Iidabashi Station. Along the way you’ll come across Shinmitsuke Bridge where you’ll find the colorful orange Chuo Line and yellow Sobu Line doing a little dance together.

trainspotting-Ichigayaphoto via

4. Yurakucho

Just outside Yurakucho Station is a secret garden that’s just perfect for train-spotting. On the 3rd floor of the Kotsu Kaikan is Coline, a wooden patio (free of charge) where you can go out and watch the Shinkansen bullet train. trainspotting-Yurakuchophoto via

5. Oosaki

Walk north for just a bit and you’ll have great views of the Yamanote Line, Nanboku Shinjuku Line and the rarer Narita Express.

This post is part of week-long series on trains in Japan. The complete series can be found here.

August 16, 2013   Comments Off

Represent your favorite line with train postcards

We all now know that trainspotting is a legitimate and acceptable hobby in Japan where, on any given day, it’s not unlikely to see the hobbyists in the wild, snapping pictures of incoming trains. The railway fans or, more pejoratively, densha otaku, exist in a variety of sub-genres that range from “toritetsu” (obsessed with taking pictures) and “ototetsu” (obsessed with recording sounds) to “ekibentetsu” (obsessed with station box lunches). But now there’s another way to show your love: through the near-extinct method of snail mail.

Yuruliku Design, who are known for making stationary sexy again, have designed a set of train postcards (368 yen) using 4 of the major train lines in Tokyo. The illustrations are adorable and I love how they’re actually shaped like trains, rather than your typical 3” x 5”. And for those who find nostalgia in the pre-redesigned trains, the flipside of each postcard reveals the old design.


This post is part of week-long series on trains in Japan. The complete series can be found here.

August 16, 2013   Comments Off