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Five Sculptors: an exhibition surveying contemporary Japanese sculpture

five sculptors exhibition at hpgrp

“Five Sculptors” | all images courtesy hpgrp gallery

Wooden masks hang on the wall. Most resemble those used in noh plays but one is most certainly batman. A bronze helmet-like sculpture sits on the ground. A hermit crab has a brand-new, translucent shell that’s been 3D-printed to resemble a wedding chapel. Thoughts of ritual arise, and also of play. These are the enigmatic sculptures that capture a concise view of the current state of sculpture in Japan.

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Flower Bouquets Frozen in Blocks of Ice by Makoto Azuma

iced flowers by makoto azuma

“Iced Flowers” | all photos courtesy Makoto Azuma (click to enlarge)

Over the weekend, a factory two hours North West of Tokyo, in a small town in Saitama, was converted into an art gallery. Botanical artist Azuma Makoto and his team were putting on an installation and, when they were done, 16 large blocks of ice stood, lined in columns of three on the concrete floors of the factory. It was like Stonehenge for the ice age. Within the shimmering blocks of ice were exotic flower bouquets, frozen in time.

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Jins Meme: the Japanese eyewear that just won best wearable technology at CES 2015

jins meme wearable tech eyewear

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas wearable technology was definitely one of the hottest trends. The majority of designs focused on watches and they ranged from the pretty to the ugly. But in the end, the award for best wearable technology went to Jins, and Japanese eyewear maker, and their Jins Meme smartglasses. Looking almost exactly like regular glasses seems to have gotten them a lot of points in the “socially acceptable” category (there’s no such thing – we made that up).

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Wanmock Kit: a recycled t-shirt hammock for your dog

wanmock kit by torafu

Observing that the Jack Russell Terrier is most happiest and most comfortable on its master’s clothes, Torafu Architects designed a piece of furniture for the dog. Making use of the scent on our old clothes, the architects created a wooden frame over which you could stretch on old t-shirt or sweatshirt to create Wanmock (wan is woof in Japanese): a hammock for your best friend. The elasticity of the fabric envelops the dog’s body as the smell and feeling of the fabric sets it at ease.

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New Curated Tokyo Guide: Koenji by Ryutaro Seki

koenji guide

Haruki Murakami chose Koenji as a setting in his novel 1Q84. Find out why so many others are gravitating towards the Western Tokyo suburb.

In the last 10 years Koenji has transformed from quiet Tokyo suburb to trendy hotspot. It became the heart of the anti-nuclear protests in 2011, its Awa Dance Festival in August has been attracting record visitors (close to 1 million last year) and Haruki Murakami chose the neighborhood as a setting for his novel 1Q84. So what’s the reason behind Tokyo’s popularity? Is it their microbrewery’s? Their public baths that also host musical performances? How about you find out for yourself?

Explore Koenji with one of its foremost experts, Ryutaro Seki. The DJ and Shinto priest has lived in Koenji for the last 35 years and when he’s not managing the family’s Shinto Shrine in Northern Koenji he’s organizing musical events and performances around town.

Head over to out Tokyo Guide for the Koenji map.

(Think we missed anything? Tell us in the comments!)

The One Thing ‘Back To The Future II’ Got Right About Japan

back to the future

As if they were just waiting to hit that button, publishers across the internet ushered in 2015 with articles about Back To the Future II. And that’s because in the sequel to the sci-fi hit movie of the 80s Marty McFly and “Doc” Brown travel to the future; the future is now: 2015.

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Identity For Organic Cotton Brand Pristine by Daigo Daikoku

pristine cotton by daigo daikoku

Unless you have models in skimpy underwear, it’s difficult to make cotton sexy. But Japanese organic cotton brand Pristine wanted to try. So they enlisted art director Daigo Daikoku to help with their overall brand identity. During a span of several months in 2014 Daikoku and a team of designers created everything from signage, pamphlets and posters to a new store and even creative methods of display.

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New Dentsu Razorfish Offices in East Ginza

dentsu razorfish office in east ginza

the offices of Dentsu Razorfish | photos by Daici Ano courtesy Torafu Architects

Last year advertising giant Dentsu announced that they would be moving into a new building, bringing their various subsidiaries with them. The idea behind the consolidation was to have the different offices close together and accessible, thereby fostering a sense of continuity and establishing more inter-office collaboration.

The move took place in late 2014 and Dentsu, along with their 4 subsidiaries and 700 employees now occupy 6 floors in the Yagura Bldg in East Ginza near the old Tsukiji Fish Market. And we’re now getting some initial glimpses of what their creative offices look like.

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Washi Torch: a paper pendant lamp inspired by the streets of Mino

the streets of Mino in Gifu Prefecture | photo courtesy tabiiro

the streets of Mino in Gifu Prefecture | photo courtesy tabiiro

When designers Koushi Ikegami and Kinue Oneda visited Mino (Gifu prefecture) they were struck by the numerous, warm glows of paper lanterns that lined the evening streets. The town, which is the birthplace of the chochin (paper lantern), is steeped in 1300 years of washi paper artistry. And it served as the inspiration behind Washi Torch, the latest creation by the two designers who form the Yuruliku studio.

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He-Gassen: Revisiting Japan’s Edo Period Fart Scrolls

hegassen japanese fart scroll

he-gassen: a34-ft scroll from the Edo period depicting a fart battle | click images to enlarge

As the comedian Louis CK once expounded, you don’t have to be smart to laugh at farts. But you would have to be stupid not to. And he gives some fairly convincing reasons why the fart is the perfect joke: it comes out of your ass, it smells like poop because it’s been hanging out next to it all day long, and it announces itself with a toot noise when it comes out.

Of course, Louis CK wasn’t the first to realize the inherent comedic effect of farts. And since today is National Pass Gas Day, I thought it would be appropriate to recall one of the most epic acts of flatulent artistry. Over 150 years ago a group of anonymous Japanese artists created a 34-ft long scroll titled He-Gassen (屁合戦), literally: “Fart Battle.”

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