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Decaying Tokyo Storefronts Re-Imagined in Miniature Scale

all photos courtesy Christopher Robin / TokyoBuild

There’s a certain allure to Tokyo’s storefronts – the colors, the textures, the urban decay – that have inspired many artists and designers. For Stockholm-based designer Christopher Robin (yes, he was indeed named after the boy in Winnie the Pooh) that inspiration came when he had the opportunity to visit Tokyo for the first time last year. Upon returning, he began a side-project called TokyoBuild.

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Remembering Illustrator Makoto Wada (1936 – 2019)

Japanese illustrator Makoto Wada passed away on October 7, 2019 due to pneumonia. He was 83 years old. The Osaka-born artist graduated from Tama Art University in 1959 and entered the advertising industry where we quickly made a name for himself. He became in independent illustrator in 1968.

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The Completed Headquarters for Swatch and Omega by Shigeru Ban

Back in 2013, Japanese architect Shigeru Ban (previously) won a competition to design a campus of timber buildings to house the headquarters of watch brands Swatch and Omega in Biel, Switzerland. Now, after almost 5 years of construction, the campus was completed with an inaugural ceremony taking place last week.

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Laser-Cut Ukiyo-e of Ginza in the Rain

Miyakodori is a Tokyo-based print shop led by Takashi Kashiwagi. His great-grandfather was also a print-maker, and was involved in the Shin-Hanga movement around the turn of the century to revitalize ukiyo-e (woodblock prints). In keeping with his great-grandfather’s creative spirit of adapting to the times, Kashiwagi has spearheaded a new initiative in collaboration with contemporary illustrators to use laser cutters to carve woodblocks and create a new type of ukiyo-e. Borrowing from Japan’s new Reiwa era that began May 1, 2019, they’re calling it Reiwa Shin-Hanga.

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The Art Biotop Water Garden Designed by Junya Ishigami

Nestled within the foot of the Nasu Mountains, slightly North of Tokyo, is Art Biotop, an art retreat and artist’s residency. They offer classes in pottery and glass-blowing, as well as cycling and spa treatments. But one of their highlights is the meditative Water Garden designed by architect Junya Ishigami.

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Winners of Japan’s 2019 Laundromat of the Year Award

the overall top prize went to Hull (left) while the best design went to Eco Laundry (right)

Around this time of year, a coveted prize is awarded within a niche industry in Japan: the Laundromat-of-the-Year-Award (pdf). It’s presented at an industry fair in Tokyo known as the International Coin-Operated Laundry EXPO where excellence in laundromats are recognized within 3 main categories. There’s a top prize, a prize for best design and a prize for best user experience.

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Suburban Scenes of Japan Depicted in Paintings by Naoki Tomita

Tokyo, Shibuya (2019)

The painter Naoki Tomita uses thick layers of oil paint to depict suburban scenes of Japan: the facades of stores, high-rise buildings or a parking lot, devoid of anything but vending machines. For an upcoming solo exhibition, Tomita has focused on Tokyo as his prime subject, ahead of 2020.

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The Mountainous Sengyoji Temple and Indoor Mechanical Cemetery

all photos by Eiji Kitada

Mt. Fuji Architects is named after Japan’s tallest peak. The architecture firm’s founder, Masahiro Harada, grew up in Shizuoka which is also home to the famous mountain. Back in 2016 when Harada was asked to come up with a plan to renovate a Nichiren Buddhist temple and cemetery in Tokyo that dates back to the early edo-period, he recalled the words of his grandmother: “don’t step on that stone; it could be a grave.”

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Detailed Ballpoint Pen Illustrations by Manabu Endo

Manabu Endo creates dignified portraits of his subjects using a watercolor background and detailed ballpoint pen illustrations. The dreamy animals, plants and occasionally humans are reminiscent of picture scrolls and evoke a strong narrative.

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Rooms Where Time Stops: Miyu Kojima’s Miniature Replicas of Lonely Deaths

a page from Miyu Kojima’s new book, which features essays and photos of her miniature replicas

Twenty seven-year old Miyu Kojima (previously) works for a company that cleans up after kodokushi (孤独死) or lonely deaths: a Japanese phenomenon of people dying alone and remaining undiscovered for a long period of time. The instances first began to be reported around 2000, and are thought to be a product of increased social isolation coupled with a greying population.

Part art therapy and part public service campaign, Kojima spends a large portion of her free time creating detailed, miniature replicas of the rooms she has cleaned. Last month she released her first book, a series of essays that accompany the replica rooms she has created in the past.

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