japanese art, design and culture

Category — notes from the editors

Colossal Manhole Covers


Japan is a country full of amazing art. Some of it is housed within museums and galleries while others are right underneath our feet. I’m talking, of course, about Japan’s peculiar obsession with artistic manhole covers, a unique phenomenon which I wrote about for the art blog colossal.

I’m also going to take this opportunity to announce that I’ve officially joined the one-man wonder Christopher Jobson. I’ve moonlighted over there in the past but now plan to regularly contribute to Colossal. I will of course continue to write about Japanese art and design here, but Colossal is just one more place you’ll be able to find me.

March 24, 2014   2 Comments

Top 10 Spoon & Tamago Posts of 2013

It’s been a fun and exciting year here at S&T headquarters. 2013 marked the launch of something that’s always been a twinkle in my eye since the start of this blog 7 years ago: the Spoon & Tamago Shop. It means a lot to not only write about Japanese art & design, but to also be able to deliver something to someone’s hands. I see it as an extension of learning about Japanese design.

Below are our most-read blog posts of 2013. They say web traffic is unpredictable, but going through the top 10 made me realize something. A large majority of our posts that did the best, actually were the best. By that I mean that they were stories that we spent a lot of time on and, in many cases, we were the first to report on them amongst Western media outlets. Sometimes we were even ahead of the Japanese media.

So thank you to all our readers who keep coming back, as well as those who are just discovering S&T. I wish you all a Happy Holidays wherever you are in the world.

1. Tatsuo Horiuchi | the 73-year old Excel spreadsheet artist

tatsuo horiuchi (1)

Our most-read post this year was about ingenuity and invention. A 73-year old retired man took a seemingly boring tool, Microsoft Excel, and used it to create some amazingly beautiful landscapes. Take that financial analysts!

2. Dad spends 7 years on incredibly detailed maze


Everyone dreams about discovering treasure in their attic. Well that’s what happened to @Kya7y earlier this year when she discovered this amazingly intricate hand-drawn maze that her father had created 30 years ago. Coming home after his job as a school janitor, the father spent his nights creating the masterpiece. It took an astounding 7 years.

We reached out to the daughter and became the first outlet to carry prints of this amazing work of art. It was also an important catalyst in actually launching our shop.

3. 6 Months of Tonal Vibrations of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Expressed in Crystal

crystalize tokujin yoshioka (16)

Everything that Tokujin Yoshioka does is amazing, which is why he’s featured in our explore page. It also explains why he’s in the top 3 for an incredibly poetic piece. For 6 months he subjected crystals to the tonal vibrations of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The resulting bed of crystal growth became part of his solo exhibition that took place over the Summer.

“Nature shows us a beauty that exceeds our imagination,” he says. “The forms of nature are unique and cannot be reproduced. This endows them with mysterious beauty and makes them fascinating to us”.

4. The world’s first inflatable concert hall will begin touring ravaged areas of Japan

arc nova inflatable concert hall (8)

Some questioned it’s acoustics but conceptually it wowed the world. Japanese architect Arata Isozaki teamed up with British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor to create an inflatable concert hall. Dubbed Arc Nova, the mobile venue toured the earthquake and tsunami-ravaged areas of Tohoku, delivering hope and encouragement in the form of music.

5. X-Ray Portraits of Couples by Saiko Kanda and Mayuka Hayashi

MCJDA (x-ray portrait 2)

I love reviewing art school exhibitions and uncovering talent in the creative youth. In fact, the student work sub-genre is one of my favorites. And one of our most popular posts was a relatively recent feature we did on two girls who photographed coupled cuddling. And they did it with x-ray machines. Romantic? No. Intimate? Absolutely.

6. The Deep Sea Mystery Circle – a love story

underwater mystery circle 2

Interestingly, this was our only post to make the top 10, that wasn’t published in 2013. Last year we broke the story about a small sculptor on a quest for true love. A rate type of puffer fish found in Amami-Oshima creates underwater sand sculptures designed specifically to attract mates. It’s a fascinating story and I suggest you read it in its entirety, if you haven’t done so already.

We even helped coordinate a BBC shoot about the puffer fish for an upcoming documentary.

7. Kazuki Yamamoto takes latte art to the next frontier

latte art dali clock

The title says it all. When it comes to latte art, it’s hard to beat Kazuki Yamamoto.

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

Residence of Daisen (6)

Giving first priority to the legitimate inhabitants of this forest in Japan, architect Keisuke Kawaguchi, designed a home to fit in between the gaps of trees.

9. Chew on this: FabCafe lets you create a gummy replica of yourself for White Day


For a White Day project FabCafe in Shibuya let guys come in and make gummy replicas of themselves to give to that special lady.

10. Rough draft sketches turned into actual furniture by Daigo Fukawa

rough sketch products (9)

Last but certainly not least is another student project. Daigo Fukawa took his rough sketches of tables, chairs and other furniture, and turned them into actual pieces.

Thanks again for reading! Want to get caught up over the holidays? Check out our top posts from previous years!

December 23, 2013   1 Comment

Introducing the Spoon & Tamago Shop

shop logo

It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and finally it’s happening: we now have our own shop! The concept has always made a lot of sense but the stars have just never aligned. But now we’re ready to make the official announcement, which I wanted to do last week but we ran into a few bumps. (if you tried to access the site during the last 48 hours you probably saw this…..sorry!)

We’re starting out with a small selection of hand-picked goods that we love and have tried. And if you’re a reader of the blog you’ll most certainly recognize many of them (but there are also a few new goodies). We’ll continue to slowly add to our selection and you can follow along on our designated twitter account, or through our newsletter.

Oh, and of course if you have any suggestions for the shop, be it UI or product-related, drop us a line. All we ask is that you keep it polite. (we don’t really know what we’re doing)

November 18, 2013   6 Comments

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics | A Roundup

As you’ve probably heard, Tokyo was formally selected as the host of the 2020 Olympics, beating out Madrid and then Istanbul. The activities will be held from July 24 to Aug. 9, 2020, under the theme, “Discover Tomorrow.” The initial reaction has been split. There were scenes of jubilation in Japan early Sunday, mixed with criticism that Japan has more important things to deal with like Fukushima. However, the fact that attention from the international community will increase exponentially is probably a good thing.

For your convenience, here is a round-up of many of the reactions and preemptions leading up to the announcement.

A Reuters photographer snapped this great shot the moment the bid was announced.


And then citizens in Tokyo formed a “Thank you” in the civic square.


Everyone seemed to be excited about the Olympics, except TV Tokyo.


Ahead of the announcement, Tokyo-based digital media producer, artist and runner Joseph Tame ran 385km (240 miles) on the streets of Tokyo, tracking his path and “drawing” the Tokyo 2020 emblem – all 83 petals.


In his 1988 film “Akira,” Katsuhiro Ootomo makes an amazing prediction, accurately setting the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. My friend Ashley Rawlings sez in a FB post: “It’s curious how things come full circle. “Akira” (1988) was possibly the first encounter I had with Japanese visual culture when I was about 11, and it affected me enormously. The film is set in Neo-Tokyo, built some time after WWIII, and it’s 2019, the year before the city is due to hold the 2020 Olympics. This epic scene toward the end of the film takes place in the city’s Olympic Stadium and the mutation, as in so many aspects of postwar visual culture, is a legacy of post-Hiroshima anxieties about radiation. So, approximately 20 years after seeing this film, here I am today, in the city that has just been awarded the 2020 Olympics, but against a backdrop of renewed fear about radiation. I just hope that having the Olympics here can bring the kind of international scrutiny needed to push the government to do more in Fukushima, give Japan a new boost of confidence, and maybe help open this country up more to the rest of the world.


Yahoo Japan put together a lovely interactive piece celebrating the announcement

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 11.38.12 AM

And someone has already created a Google map of Tokyo 2020 Olympics venue plan:

Twitter users were touched to discover that “Congratulations Tokyo” was trending on Twitter in Istanbul. It also recalled memories of Turkish Airlines captain pilot Orhan Suyolcu who saved 215 Japanese stranded in Tehran during the 1985 Iran-Iraq war.


Finally, this is what Zaha Hadid’s new national stadium will look like when it’s completed in 2019.

Zaha Hadid Stadium

And this is what SANAA’s stadium would have looked like if they had been chosen.


September 8, 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

Thank You + Shop Preview + Giveaway

shop logo 1-001

We recently surpassed 10K fans over on our facebook page (thank you!) so I wanted to take a quick moment to express my gratitude for all the support and to give a quick update AND to play a little game.

It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do but I’ve finally made the leap and decided to open a small e-shop on the site. It’s still a work in progress and probably won’t launch until later this fall, but I wanted to announce it to the world. This way I really have to do it!

And to commemorate this confluence of events, we’re giving away a small gift package (pictured below) as a sneak peek of some of the stuff we’ll be stocking.

How to Play
1) Leave a comment below
2) We’ll contact 1 random winner at the end of the week
3) That’s it

If you want to keep up to date with shop news you can follow this brand new twitter account, or sign up for our newsletter where we’ll infrequently spam you with new products and other Spoon & Tamago related news.

[Update] Comments are now closed. Congrats to Andrea. Your prize is on the way!

STgiveawaythe giveaway package – left: floating ripple vase | right: house coffee measure | background: papa’s maze

July 1, 2013   169 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

2013 Reader Survey

We need your help! We’re running a short 2-minute reader survey with our advertising partner Nectar Ads to better understand our audience.

This information will help us understand the types of people visiting our site, leading to better, more useful advertising that will continue to help fund this site and other great art sites.

The survey is anonymous and we will not be collecting or sharing any personal information about individuals.

Please take a moment now to fill out the reader survey. We’d really appreciate it. Thanks!

Click Here to Start the Survey

April 10, 2013   Comments Off

Link Roundup of April Fools Internet Pranks in Japan | 2013

While you were asleep, Japan was busy posting various internet pranks on the Internet. Japan’s new-found holiday seems to get more and more popular each year. There were simply too many to post so here is a small selection of some of my favorites.

If you’re interested, you can check out what kind of lies Japan came up with last year.

April Fools 2013 (1)

April Fools 2013 (2)
Cell phone provider AU launched a phone bed stating, “since people only use their smartphones in bed, why not turn the bed into a smartphone?” You can sleep with your favorite anime character, use it as a head-pounding alarm clock, or even jog on it while scrolling through webpages.


April Fools 2013 (3)

iKA, the new e-reader from major publishing house Kodansha

April Fools 2013 (4)

SanktGallen Brewery is selling a dark beer made from elephant poop or, “Black Ivory.”

April Fools 2013 (5)

Google Japan unveiled a revolutionary new way to type Japanese using only the spacebar. It’s incredibly annoying and time-consuming.

April Fools 2013 (6)

Canned pizza anyone? Only from Domino Pizza.

April Fools 2013 (7)

Mixi, Japan’s home-grown SNS, has launched a new “like” button that is compatible in all different dialects.

April fools 062

If you’ll recall, earlier this year a team of researchers from the U.K. and Japan captured footage of a 10-ft long giant squid. In other news, an udon noodle shop in Gifu is advertising giant squid tempura. Just 87,000 yen!

April Fools 2013 (8)

Hirotada Ototake, the famous writer born without arms and legs, tweets “I grew arms and legs.”

April Fools 2013 (9)

The official crime task force in Japan tweeted to remind us that “A liar is the beginning of a thief.” But then they also said that on some occasions it can be forgiven.

April 1, 2013   1 Comment

Weekend Links from Around the Web

This new B movie about killer sushi looks like all kinds of awesome.

Akira Kurosawa’s favorite actor Toshiro Mifune was tapped to play Darth Vader (but he turned it down)

A sad week for Japan. Film legend Nagisa Oshima passed away. So did industrial design giant Riki Watanabe.

And the New Yorker remembers Japanese photographer Shomei Tomatsu, who died last December at the age of 82

Interesting new site kokomae.jp – basically a record of what used to be here. Good for fast-changing cities like Tokyo.

We were interviewed in the Japan Times! Yay!  You can read the full article here.

Stablemates: Rei Kawakubo collaborates with Hermès

Pictures from Tadashi Kawamata’s exhibition at BankArt

MoMA talks about the work of Noriko Ambe.

Exactly how hard is it to buy a gun in Japan? Very hard.

Japan had a big snowstorm this week so the local community helped clean up.

January 20, 2013   Comments Off