japanese art, design and culture

Category — Art

Creative Chocolate Ideas from Japan

Forget Easter bunny chocolates. When it comes to reinventing the world’s favorite sweet, Japan does it best. From planetary chocolates to a chocolate-filled paint set, here are my favorite creative innovations using chocolate.

Chocolate Replicas of Your Face

Last year Fab Café in Shibuya held a workshop where participants – using a 3D scanner and printer – created a chocolate replica of their own face.

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100% Chocolate Cafe

If you’re heading to Tokyo’s latest landmark, Tokyo Sky Tree, you’ll also have a chance to satisfy both your sweet tooth and your design tooth by making a pit-stop at 100% Chocolate Café. The cafe features an open kitchen that would make even Willy Wonka proud. Visitors can watch the process of sweets being made through a display of glazed boxes containing ingredients of 56 different types of chocolate.

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Planetary Chocolates

Combining astronomy and good eats sounds too good to be true. But the Righa Royal Hotel sells a chocolaty solar system that includes Mercury (coconut mango), Venus (cream lemon), Earth (cacao), Mars (orange praline), Jupiter (vanilla), Saturn (rum raisin), Uranus (milk tea) and Neptune (capuccino) – sorry, pluto is no longer considered a planet.



Edible Art Supplies

For the inner-artist in all of us, design studio Nendo created this entirely edible set of chocolate oil paints. The limited edition paint tubes, created in collaboration with lifestyle magazine PEN last year, are made from chocolate while the insides are replaced by various syrups.



Rewind several years and you’ll find a somewhat-similar project in which the designer created a set of chocolate-shaped pencils. They were commissioned by top-chocolatier Tsujiguchi Hironobu. The pencils are served with a pencil sharpener to grate chocolate onto the desert.



The Temple of the Chocolate Pavillion

Japan’s Ginkaku-ji in Kyoto is probably the most famous temple in the country. In the hands of artist Yasuhiro Suzuki the “Temple of the Silver Pavilion” gets a silver wrapping and a sweet filling.

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Eye-Catching Easter Bunny Chocolates

If you insist on going traditional, head over to the Peninsula Tokyo’s popular pastry shop, the Peninsula Boutique & Café. The pâtissier will dazzle you with cute chocolate creations made to resemble bunny faces.


April 16, 2014   1 Comment

An Indoor Floating Forest by Sou Fujimoto

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Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto (previously) has created an indoor floating forest in which trees and shrubs are suspended from the ceiling. The installation was staged within the showroom of Cassina, the Italian furniture Manufacturer. The trees were each placed in mirrored boxes which were then hoisted above the furniture. The reflections create the illusion of trees growing out of thin-air.

The installation not only acknowledges the intrinsic relationship between trees and furniture, but it also helps highlight the company’s recent efforts in reworking their classics for outdoor use. The floating forest is on display during Milan Design Week, also known as Milano Salone.

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This post is part of our review of  Japanese design at the 2014 Milano Salone del Mobile. All posts are cataloged right here.

April 15, 2014   No Comments

Interconnection | an installation of weightless discs illustrates the unstoppable forces of nature


Designer Nao Tamura (previously) has completed an installation that comprises multiple purple petal-like pieces that hang from the ceiling on threads; each individual element moves in response to the natural flow of air as visitors pass the fixture. “There are forces in nature that are beyond the control of mankind. We have learned how fragile we are in the face of such forces,” says Tamura, referring – albeit subtly – to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan. “However, we have also learned the importance of accepting nature and learning to live in harmony with it.”




“Interconnected, ” which was designed for Lexus as part of Milano Salone 2014, demonstrates the constant give-and-take in nature, as well as our planet’s delicate balance.

The Brooklyn-based designer Takeshi Miyakawa (previously) was recruited by Tamura to assist in the complex structural design process. “I thought it was a piece of cake but it turned out to be one of the most challenging project I’ve ever worked on,” wrote Miyakawa. The pair were also joined by music composer Aya Nishina, who created an accompanying soundtrack for the installation.


Here are some photos from people who attended the exhibition:

This post is part of our review of  Japanese design at the 2014 Milano Salone del Mobile. All posts are cataloged right here.

April 11, 2014   No Comments

The Sleek and Soaring Ceramics of Sueharu Fukami

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Yesterday we offered Kyoto as a destination for art, but the arts and culture of Japan’s ancient capital are alive and well in New York as well. In an unprecedented collaboration with the Brooklyn Museum, “Points of Departure” is currently on view at the Japan Society Gallery. The exhibition showcases 2000 years of dazzling, unique, art-making in an attempt to depart from “the myth of a homogeneous Japan.”

An exemplary artist, in my opinion, is the ceramicist Fukami Sueharu. Conceptual and abstract, Sueharu’s porcelain forms are often considered a reaction to Japan’s history of traditional, utilitarian ceramics. The large, soaring forms and curved edges – they’re at times wave-like – are made by injecting liquid clay into molds and then carefully refining the edges. The bluish hues come from a traditional glaze that harkens back to Chinese, Korean and Japanese traditional wares. Fukami recalls an experience by the ocean when he was in his early 20s that was a defining moment in his career:

It was the memory of an encounter I had with a sharp breeze while on the cliff during winter… All the senses in my body felt the pleasure of the strange wind as it stabbed my cheek. This tactile experience is at the heart of my creations.

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April 9, 2014   No Comments

Photos from Japan’s 2014 Cherry Blossom Season

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photo by masato mukoyama | Keage Incline (Lake Biwa Canal) at night

This year’s cherry blossom season – thanks to some heavy rains over the weekend – is just about wrapping up in Japan. 2014 was made all the more poetic as “5% parties” bid farewell to the old tax rate and welcomed in the new 8% rate under short-lived, fleeting cherry blossoms.

For one reason or another, this time of year is particularly difficult for me to travel to Japan and, once again, I am here in NY watching Instagram photos appear in my feed and then quickly disappear; transient as the cherry blossoms themselves. Here is a small selection of some of my favorites that I’ve come across recently. And you can see more over on visual aggregation site Bored Panda.

Last year was also special when a seasonally-rare snow made for some pretty amazing pictures too.

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photo by danny dungo | the drainage system of the meguro river never looked so good

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photo by yuga kurita |Mt. Fuji and cherry blossoms

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photo by akio iwanaga

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photo by ryosuke yagi |cherry blossoms in Aoyama, Tokyo

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photo by ta3mam | Tokyo

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photo by torne | a 200m-long slide at Nishihira-hatake park in Kanagawa

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photo by 紅襪熊 | along the meguro river

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photo by noisy paradise | along the meguro river


April 7, 2014   2 Comments

the best spots to take pictures of Mt. Fuji

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Pashadelic is a Japanese web service and app that crowdsources the best spots to take pictures of the best landmarks. The name comes from the words pasha – “click,” as in the click of a camera in Japanese – and the suffix delic (ie: psychedelic). In essence, the service enables photography fans to share their photos and, subsequently, their favorite spots for taking the photos. Flipping through the site I came across some magical photos of Mt. Fuji, perhaps Japan’s most famous and well-photographed subject. (photos by tsugiur and takuya suda)

On a related note, last year we did a week-long series on Mt. Fuji.

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March 29, 2014   5 Comments

Three-dimensional paintings by Fumihiro Takemura made only from paint

Japanese artist Fumihiro Takemura is not among the most famous Japanese contemporary artists — in fact, one will have trouble finding him on the Internet. Still, his work didn’t fail to impress visitors and collectors at this month’s Tokyo Art Fair. Vaccum and Flight, his two series of works on display at the Kodama Gallery stand, explored the three-dimensional capabilities of painting. His unique painting technique gives his minimal cityscapes and miniature scenes a truly mesmerizing look.




His technique strongly resembles that of the 3Doodler, a 3D printing pen launched on Kickstarter across the Pacific last year. But while the latter uses a special plastic material to allows DIYers to draw 3-dimensional sculptures, Takemura’s works are made exclusively with traditional acrylic paint. The paint is squeezed onto the canvas and let to dry until it becomes solid. This allows his creations to literally jump out of the canvas and result in this unique, immersive signature.



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Image sources: Kodama Gallery,Masaharu MakuuchiNicola Antony

March 28, 2014   No Comments

The double-sided anime images of Makoto Taniguchi

One side shows a blurry painting resembling a distorted, disturbing face. The other reveals the calm, comforting expression of an anime character. The journey back-and-forth between those images are what make the works of Makoto Taniguchi so special. Only able to see the blurry image at first, one has to move around the mirror to try and get a glimpse of the clear painting on the other side.


The 32-year-old Japanese artist wants viewers to feel lost contemplating his work. By playing on the ever-present faces of anime culture, he explores the mysterious ways in which our mind turns reality into fleeting images

When I try to draw the interior ‘images’ which though invisible to the eye surely do exist, the dazzling brightness and the ephemeral nature of that existence surges forth, and I start to think about my own ideas of ‘existence’ and my views on life

If you are in Tokyo, you can see Taniguchi’s works in his “Untilted” exhibition at Nanzuka Gallery until March, 29th 2014.




Images: public-image.org, White Wall Tokyo, Fudge.jp

March 27, 2014   1 Comment

Dark Lifeless Photos Capture the Future of Tsukiji Fish Market

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These are definitely not your everyday photos of the Tsukiji Fish Market, where – on a typical day – thousands of people bustle with activity, preparing for the 5AM auction where tons of fish and cash will trade hands. But Tokyo-based photographer Bahag de Guzman and writer Erin Emocling accidentally stumbled upon the market when it was closed, and decided to photograph the dark, cold and lifeless venue. However, the fish market, which opened in 1935, will soon resemble Guzman’s photos as Tokyo prepares to relocate the historic site as part of a broader facelift for Tokyo ahead of the 2020 Olympics.

Emocling puts Bahag’s photos to text:

You’re standing in the middle of this alleyway, living in the present, and you enter the vast and moving world of Tsukiji—a world-famous fish market in the heart of Tokyo that pumps its own blood every waking dawn, an almost 80-year old marketplace that gave sashimi and sushi their tasteful, incomparable meaning to the rest of the world, and, sadly, an old place that is bound to be deconstructed within a number of months from now.

But to those who have Tsukiji as their world, committing these into memories is the only way to immortalize what’s going to be left behind.

What Emocling and Guzman are trying to say, I think, is we’re not only losing a historic site, but also a way of life. You can read the entire photo essay here.

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(thx Erin!)

March 27, 2014   4 Comments

Meguru Yamaguchi Studio Visit

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As we entered the sun-drenched studio in Bushwick an elderly man stood with his back against a wall. A knit cap slouched over his head, a sweater draped over his shoulders and his eyes lay focused on the small turntable in front of him. “This is my Dad,” we were told. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had come to visit Meguru Yamaguchi, a Brooklyn based artist who has made a name for himself by incorporating modern day technological idiosyncrasies like copy & paste, Instagram and Facebook into his artwork. These contemporary promulgations have a tendency to be viewed as self-indulgent, narcissistic and artificial. And yet, at the core of Meguru’s work – and himself as an artist – we find something that is incredibly pure and honest.

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March 25, 2014   35 Comments