japanese art, design and culture

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Junpei Tamaki’s Wintry Set of Furniture

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the entire snow collection

I think the majority of us can agree that this year’s winter was pretty brutal. And since it’s been on everyone’s minds the past several months, a winter-induced chill factor has been influencing the design world. First it was fashion. Now, furniture.

At this year’s Milano Salone, Junpei Tamaki is presenting “Snow,” a collection of furniture inspired by cold weather, ice and – finally – the great thaw.

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The “Snowscape” cabinet | hexagonal holes on the sliding doors overlap to create different patterns of snowflakes

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The “Fluffy” dining chair uses wood and cushioning to express new, fluffy snow.

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The triple spiral linear structure of the “Sleet” shelf is designed to reflect the image of fallen sleet.

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The “Thaw” sofa. The softly exposed wood appears to be poking out of thawing snow.

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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 14, 2014   No Comments

Light Bulb Flower Vases | an ode to an obsolete product


In 2007 Japan’s Ministry of Environment began asking companies to voluntarily desist production and sales of inefficient incandescent light bulbs. Toshiba obliged, and others followed. Similar movements are happening all around the world and it’s clear that it’s only a matter of time before the incandescent light bulb is completely replaced by its more eco-friendly brethren.

Product designer Yuma Kuno decided to preserve this nostalgic form by turning incandescent light bulbs into flower vases. Using real discarded bulbs, Kuno simply opened a hole and turned an obsolete object into something completely new. The filament – a vital component of the bulb – even gets repurposed as a holder to keep the stem in place.

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all photos by Satoru Ikegami

At 26, Kuno is a young artist turned product designer. After graduating from Tokyo Zokei University he worked as assistant to the artist Yasuhiro Suzuki, which explains the playful nature of Kuno’s work.

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March 25, 2014   2 Comments

Papa’s Maze Featured in Popular Japanese Web Comic One Punch Man

Several weeks ago @Kya7y, the daughter of the creator of Papa’s Maze, got in touch with us to see if it was all right if the maze was used in a Japanese comic book. We, of course, agreed, but had no idea what comic it would appear in, or in what context. Last month it was revealed that the maze was appearing in the wildly popular web comic One-Punch Man.

In issue 42, there is a scene that cuts to the maze itself.

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Then it zooms in…

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And again…

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Until we realize that one of the protagonists has wandered into a labyrinth that is the belly of the enemy’s spaceship.

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Many thanks to everyone involved for featuring, and immortalizing, the maze. If you want your own copy, we sell them in our shop!

March 13, 2014   Comments Off

An immersive installation inspired by the streets of Tokyo


all images courtesy the artist | click to enlarge

Some of the most exciting art happens on the street, outside the enclosed white walls of a gallery. Shiori Yano, a graduating art student from the prestigious Tama Art University, was inspired by the artists and musicians creating art on her city streets. “Tokyo changes at a dizzying speed but seeing communities being formed and the interactions between people became the inspiration for this project,” writes Yano, referring to her thesis exhibition “Mothers Mountain. Briefly stepping outside and peering into her own ecosystem, Yano picks and chooses from her vast visual memory to create an immersive installation that crystalizes her experience of growing up in Tokyo.

The installation will be on view next week (3.14 – 3.16) in Yokohama.





(this post is part of our review of student artwork from 2014 senior thesis exhibitions. You can see all our coverage of student artwork here)

March 5, 2014   Comments Off

Multi-Leveled Living | Case by Jun Igarashi

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all photos by Daici Ano | click to enlarge

Hokkaido-based architect Jun Igarashi’s (previously) latest home is perhaps as close to tree-house living as you’ll find. Unless of course you live in an actual tree house. The multi-leveled home in Sapporo features a main living room with 23-ft high ceilings. Three different winding staircases access multiple level mezzanines, just like the platforms that are constructed on top of sturdy tree branches. The different levels are used as a study and a children’s playroom.

It’s certainly a unique way to make use of high ceilings but I can’t help but wonder: how could you let a child wander through this precarious jungle gym?

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source: dezeen

January 28, 2014   3 Comments

If you’re an exchange student in Japan you may end up staying in this gorgeous house

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If you’re headed to Japan as a foreign exchange student staying with a host family, and if you’re really lucky (I mean, stepped in dog poo lucky) you may end up lodging in this gorgeous home designed by Apollo Architects. Located in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo it was designed specifically for a family who regularly hosts foreign exchange students. “One of the key design concepts is to respect the privacy of the family and guests to achieve comfortable and relaxing lifestyles,” said lead architect Satoshi Kurosaki.

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On the 1st floor is the guest room. It’s designed in traditional Japanese style – tatami floors and all – to help foster a more authentic feel. It’s attached to a courtyard that’s surrounded by exposed concrete walls. By opening the sliding doors it connects to an open space facing the street.

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source: dezeen

December 12, 2013   2 Comments

Tracing Acton | Minami Arai on the lost art of the written word

MCJDA (minami arai 1)all photos courtesy Mitsubishi Chemical Junior Designer Award and the artist

In a fascinating installation, artist and student Minami Arai uses books and wires to illuminate the lost art of the written word. “Before typewriters there was the written word,” says Arai in a statement. “The text would trace the action of writing , offering glimpses of the author’s personality current state of mind.”

In “Tracing Action” Arai uses thick wire and to recreate an elevated text from her favorite books. It’s as if the text is rising off the page and being brought to life.

The installation was part of Arai’s graduating thesis show at Musashino Art University. It then went on to win an award in the Mitsubishi Chemical Junior Designer Award, which celebrates the work of student artists. You can see all our previous coverage of the awards HERE.

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Arai even goes as far as to adjust the depth of edits made after the original writing to illustrate the passage of time.

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source: Mitsubishi Chemical Junior Designer Award

November 25, 2013   Comments Off

Mamoris | a chair that transforms into a helmet

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Safety, right under your butt. That’s actually the slogan for this new helmet. But, the designers weren’t joking around when they created Mamoris, a chair that transforms into a helmet. The name comes from the words mamoru (to protect) and isu (chair).

“You never know when a natural disaster like an earthquake might strike you,” says Yuji Ikawa, one of the co-founders. “We thought about how best to implement safety into our daily lives.” Realizing that chairs are not only ubiquitous but that they could also take inspiration from its shape and form, the designers created a helmet that doubles as the backrest of a chair.

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The helmet chair does have a lot going for it. Not only does it completely eliminate the need for helmet storage, it’s unique design offers protection to delicate areas like neck and back as well.

Even though it’s been 2 and a half years since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, safety continues to be a dominant theme in the Japanese design industry, whether it’s with unique helmets or conceptual pieces of furniture to remind us of the threat of radiation.

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This post is part of a series covering the 2013 Tokyo Designers Week.

October 30, 2013   2 Comments

A Charcoal Candle and Other New Works from Nosigner

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Japanese designer Eisuke Tachikawa, who runs the design firm Nosigner, is currently in Paris where he is unveiling several new works at the major French trade show Maison et Objet.

Working with one of his favorite themes of memory, Tachikawa has created a candle modeled from, and blended with, charcoal. The design harkens back to days before electricity when our ancestors would burn charcoal to pass the dark nights.


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And expanding on his Cartesia series, which features a bi-directional drawer system, the designer has created a dining table. The Cartesia #3 Table is a beautiful, sleek table with hidden drawers that make it easy to retrieve cutlery or stationary even when sitting down.

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source: press release

September 11, 2013   Comments Off

Yoshi Bar | a pop-up bar constructed with reed grass

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Naoya Matsumoto, along with students from Seian University of Art and Design, constructed a pop-up bar this summer using Yoshi, a type of reed grass. Yoshi grows freely around Lake Biwa, where the University and pop-up bar is located. Each year students are asked to design objects using Yoshi grass but this year was different. “With just 2 days for construction the students decided to create a functioning bar where people could come and hang out,” explains Matsumoto. “The most important point was how to create a simple yet attractive space for the user.”

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July 22, 2013   Comments Off