japanese art, design and culture

Category — Interactive/ Technology

3D ice cubes let your scotch cool down in style

For 3D on the rocks, its latest liquor campaign, Suntory teamed up with Japanese ad agency TBWA\Hakuhodo to offer the world’s  first 3D-milled ice cubes. Each creation is the result of a time-consuming modeling process, and are carved to the smallest details with a precision drill. They are then placed at the bottom of a glass of whisky for their first and last journey into this world.


The fruit of such time and effort being bound to melt away might remind some of the ephemeral nature of Japanese beauty, while others may see it as pure obsession with Japanese luxury liquors. Either way, the result is mostly a treat to the eyes – we are not sure how easy it is to enjoy a drink with a Statue of Liberty towering over the edge of your glass, or a torch up your nose.


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Subscriptions for the campaign are now closed, but a few lucky participants who submitted their design ideas will have their very own ice cubes milled and served in fine liquor at a secret Tokyo bar. In the meantime, the rest of us can still enjoy pictures of the wild designs created by the agency.

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Correction: April 14, 2014

An earlier version of the article described the ice cube-making process as 3D printing, an additive process where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. The process is actually milling, a subtractive process that relies on the removal of material.

April 14, 2014   1 Comment

Illustrations that you can touch by Masahiko Sato and Tatsuya Saito

In the ongoing debate about the merits of print versus digital media, one assumption is rarely questioned: graphics on paper are static, and less immersive than interactive media. But Masahiko Sato and Tatsuya Saito want to prove the exact opposite in their exhibition “Putting Finger” at DDD gallery in Osaka.

The two visual designer have a radical message: they want their audience to understand that watching TV, playing video games or browsing the web are activities that are usually performed while forgetting one’s own body. Illustrations, on the other hand, are exclusively consumed in the material world. And by touching an illustration, instead of staring at a screen, viewers can connect with the physical world.

To prove this, the designers created a series of printed illustrations containing empty spaces for the viewer’s fingers. After placing one’s index or thumbs in them, the graphic suddenly feels like it includes the viewer as a part of the scene, and the image takes a whole new meaning. The feeling that the printed image changes and interacts with the viewer is at the core of the Putting Finger exhibition experience.




This subtle trick is hard to reproduce with pictures on a screen, so if you are in the area, you should head to the exhibition at DDD in Osaka and touch the graphics yourself.

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Graphics: Masahiko Sato, Tatsuya Saito and Masaya Ishikasa
Pictures: DNP Foundation, Euphrates News

April 10, 2014   No Comments

Tape Recorder Art by Ei Wada

Obsessed by the analog machines of the past, Japanese musician Ei Wada  mastered the craft of tweaking the sounds from old tape recorders. He performed wild shows with the Open Reel Ensemble, from the stage of TEDxTokyo to last year’s Issey Miyake catwalk, creating unique sounds from analog sources.

The artist recreated the analog magic for the visitors of last month’s Media Arts Festival in his work Toki Ori Ori Nasu. With their wheels slowly turning, 4 old-fashioned recorders poured their tapes into narrow glass containers, creating ever-changing twisted shapes. Once the tapes came to an end, the spectators were in for a surprising musical treat:

Among the elaborate high-tech installations of the festival, this surprisingly simple tribute to analog media resonated well with the audience. The tape patterns mesmerized those who came near the work, and crowds rushed to the recorders as soon as the tapes rewinded. We can thank Ai Wada for showing us that after decades of use – and years of abandon – old media still has surprises in store for us.

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Picture: Ars Electronica

March 24, 2014   No Comments

Ugoita | a salaryman’s adventure in mobilizing the analog

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“A salaryman toils away on electronic engineering during the weekend,” writes an anonymous Japanese man behind the website Ugoita (it moved). “Everything that I’ve somehow gotten to move is shown on this page.”

It’s a simple, yet romantic mission statement that embodies a child-like fascination with moving objects. From an umbrella that detects raindrops and converts them into sounds, to an 8bit video game harmonica, each project is more charming than the next.

source: @Darrell_Nelson

January 20, 2014   Comments Off

Extreme Hatsuhinode | Man Captures First Sunrise of 2014 from Space


Sunrise from 30km above ground | all images courtesy Keisuke Iwaya

Hatsuhinode (初日の出) in Japanese is the first sunrise of the year. It’s considered an auspicious event so much so that it’s enough to get people out of their warm beds to crazy heights, like the top of Mt. Fuji, for a view of the first sunrise.

But no one had ever traversed as high as Keisuke Iwaya did earlier this month when he sent a balloon-powered camera 30 km (18.6 miles) into space to capture the first sunrise, trumping those suckers at Mt. Fuji’s summit by about 16.3 miles. And he did it all on a shoestring budget – 25,000 yen (about $250) spent at his local hardware shop. This excludes the cost of the Gopro Hero 3, as well as the iPad he used to control his device from the ground. Both survived the rise and fall.


photos of the makeshift device that was sent into space. Written in bold is “not a dangerous object” in case an unknowing passerby finds it


On January 1, 2014 at around 5:30 AM the Hokkaido native set his contraption into the air. The entire flight lasted 110 minutes before the balloon popped (as programmed) 30km above land. The camera fell back to Hokkaido and was retrieved thanks to a GPS device.


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source: RocketNews24

January 14, 2014   2 Comments

Kimono Forest Lights Up Kyoto’s Arashiyama Station


all photos courtesy yasumichi morita | click to enlarge

Visitor’s to Kyoto’s Arashiyama Station were greeted with a bright surprise when the station unveiled its latest facelift. The designer Yasumichi Morita (previously) collaborated with Kyoto’s Kamedatomi Corp. to create yuzen kimono fabric patterns.

The patterns were then placed inside 600 illuminated poles that were strategically lined along pathways of the station, creating a bright kimono forest.





source: Yasumichi Morita

January 9, 2014   1 Comment

Thanks to Japanese Technology Lady Gaga Can Come To Your Birthday Party


Gaga poses for photographers with her life-size dolls during a news conference in Tokyo | photo © AP


Lady Gaga was in Japan earlier this month to promote her new album Artpop. The promotional tour included TV performances, a Yahoo Japan website decked out in Lady Gaga (live through 12/25) and, of course, anatomically correct humanoid dolls of herself.


The state-of-the-art dolls came about from a rare collaboration between a sex toy manufacturer (Orient Industries) and creative agency PARTY. A video created by the team to show how the dolls were made is fantastic. It’s like the trailer for a sadistic horror film.


And now that Gaga has left Japan, the dolls are sitting around doing nothing, just waiting for you to call them up. The website recently added a new “booking” section where you can apply for one of the dolls to come to your “television, magazine, or other event. They can even be displayed at museums or public schools,” says the website.

source: JapanTimes | @masakawa

December 9, 2013   Comments Off

Akebono Leads 1000 Zombies Through Tokyo

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Yesterday in Tokyo former Yokozuna sumo wrestler Akebono lead about 1000 zombies up and around Tokyo Tower. They, of course, weren’t real zombies and the event was staged by Fox International to promote season 4 of the TV show “The Walking Dead.”

Organizers recruited the Hawaiian sumo-wrestler-turned-TV-personality and about 1000 beauty school students, giving them an opportunity to show off their makeup skills.

On a related note, check out our analysis on Japan’s zombie outbreak preparedness.

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Reporters who were on the scene to cover the carnage got their brains chewed out.

Source: Yahoo News | lustik

October 31, 2013   Comments Off

189 spinning CDs as phenakistoscopes used to create Sour’s new music video


After successfully crowd-funding their campaign on Kickstarter and GreenFunding (a Japanese equivalent), the band SOUR has released their latest music video. With the help of directors Masashi Kawamura and Kota Iguchi, the band filmed 189 spinning CDs as phenakistoscopes to create their entire animated video, “Life is Music.”

The song is about “the circle of life, and how music is its rhythm maker,” says the creators. “We took this concept, and came up with an idea to use the spinning CD disc as a Phenakistoscope.”

Supporters of the project who pledged $70 or more were entitled to receive one of the actual CDs used in the filming. Leftovers are being sold for 3,000 yen (about $30) on the website.

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Masashi Kawamura & Co. are responsible for several other highly creative music videos that prove you don’t need million dollar budgets to create a great music video.

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source: @kota_iguchi

October 24, 2013   Comments Off

Pachelbel’s Canon in 700 samples of dripping water

Make sure you go to the bathroom before watching this new ad for Sony’s image sensors. A creative team of cinematographers, sound engineers and recordists ventured into the riverhead area in Kumamoto, Kyushu, a lush, tranquil location renowned for its high quality of pure natural water. There they recorded both audio and video of over 700 samples of dripping water – everything from droplets falling off of stalactites onto limestone and rainwater dripping off leaves to the underwater sounds of a gurgling brook. They even captured the sound that water makes when a frog hops.

Back in the studio the engineers remixed the 700 samples of audio and 1500 cuts of video to create a “rock version” of Pachelbel’s Canon. “Water Rock” is the work of Morihiro Harano and ad agency Mori Inc., who also brought us the extraordinary Forest Xylophone commercial. “We simply drew upon the natural beauty and scenery that can always be experienced in Kumamoto,” the creators explained. “We wanted viewers to sense the whole cycle of nature.”

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Source: @I_am_Mori

October 22, 2013   1 Comment