japanese art, design and culture


the best spots to take pictures of Mt. Fuji

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Pashadelic is a Japanese web service and app that crowdsources the best spots to take pictures of the best landmarks. The name comes from the words pasha – “click,” as in the click of a camera in Japanese – and the suffix delic (ie: psychedelic). In essence, the service enables photography fans to share their photos and, subsequently, their favorite spots for taking the photos. Flipping through the site I came across some magical photos of Mt. Fuji, perhaps Japan’s most famous and well-photographed subject. (photos by tsugiur and takuya suda)

On a related note, last year we did a week-long series on Mt. Fuji.

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March 29, 2014   5 Comments

Three-dimensional paintings by Fumihiro Takemura made only from paint

Japanese artist Fumihiro Takemura is not among the most famous Japanese contemporary artists — in fact, one will have trouble finding him on the Internet. Still, his work didn’t fail to impress visitors and collectors at this month’s Tokyo Art Fair. Vaccum and Flight, his two series of works on display at the Kodama Gallery stand, explored the three-dimensional capabilities of painting. His unique painting technique gives his minimal cityscapes and miniature scenes a truly mesmerizing look.




His technique strongly resembles that of the 3Doodler, a 3D printing pen launched on Kickstarter across the Pacific last year. But while the latter uses a special plastic material to allows DIYers to draw 3-dimensional sculptures, Takemura’s works are made exclusively with traditional acrylic paint. The paint is squeezed onto the canvas and let to dry until it becomes solid. This allows his creations to literally jump out of the canvas and result in this unique, immersive signature.



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Image sources: Kodama Gallery,Masaharu MakuuchiNicola Antony

March 28, 2014   No Comments

The double-sided anime images of Makoto Taniguchi

One side shows a blurry painting resembling a distorted, disturbing face. The other reveals the calm, comforting expression of an anime character. The journey back-and-forth between those images are what make the works of Makoto Taniguchi so special. Only able to see the blurry image at first, one has to move around the mirror to try and get a glimpse of the clear painting on the other side.


The 32-year-old Japanese artist wants viewers to feel lost contemplating his work. By playing on the ever-present faces of anime culture, he explores the mysterious ways in which our mind turns reality into fleeting images

When I try to draw the interior ‘images’ which though invisible to the eye surely do exist, the dazzling brightness and the ephemeral nature of that existence surges forth, and I start to think about my own ideas of ‘existence’ and my views on life

If you are in Tokyo, you can see Taniguchi’s works in his “Untilted” exhibition at Nanzuka Gallery until March, 29th 2014.




Images: public-image.org, White Wall Tokyo, Fudge.jp

March 27, 2014   1 Comment

Dark Lifeless Photos Capture the Future of Tsukiji Fish Market

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These are definitely not your everyday photos of the Tsukiji Fish Market, where – on a typical day – thousands of people bustle with activity, preparing for the 5AM auction where tons of fish and cash will trade hands. But Tokyo-based photographer Bahag de Guzman and writer Erin Emocling accidentally stumbled upon the market when it was closed, and decided to photograph the dark, cold and lifeless venue. However, the fish market, which opened in 1935, will soon resemble Guzman’s photos as Tokyo prepares to relocate the historic site as part of a broader facelift for Tokyo ahead of the 2020 Olympics.

Emocling puts Bahag’s photos to text:

You’re standing in the middle of this alleyway, living in the present, and you enter the vast and moving world of Tsukiji—a world-famous fish market in the heart of Tokyo that pumps its own blood every waking dawn, an almost 80-year old marketplace that gave sashimi and sushi their tasteful, incomparable meaning to the rest of the world, and, sadly, an old place that is bound to be deconstructed within a number of months from now.

But to those who have Tsukiji as their world, committing these into memories is the only way to immortalize what’s going to be left behind.

What Emocling and Guzman are trying to say, I think, is we’re not only losing a historic site, but also a way of life. You can read the entire photo essay here.

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(thx Erin!)

March 27, 2014   4 Comments

Optical Illusion Pen Cases Appear to be Three Dimensional


Derived from the word “fake,” FAKUS is a new line of products from Japanese stationary store Bundoki. A few simple, cartoonish illustrations turn a boring pen case into something bold and eye-catching. Are they 2D? Are they 3D? You be the judge.

They range from 577 – 787 yen, depending on the style, and are available online (but in Japanese only).





source: matomeno

March 26, 2014   1 Comment

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

Meguru Yamaguchi Studio Visit

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As we entered the sun-drenched studio in Bushwick an elderly man stood with his back against a wall. A knit cap slouched over his head, a sweater draped over his shoulders and his eyes lay focused on the small turntable in front of him. “This is my Dad,” we were told. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had come to visit Meguru Yamaguchi, a Brooklyn based artist who has made a name for himself by incorporating modern day technological idiosyncrasies like copy & paste, Instagram and Facebook into his artwork. These contemporary promulgations have a tendency to be viewed as self-indulgent, narcissistic and artificial. And yet, at the core of Meguru’s work – and himself as an artist – we find something that is incredibly pure and honest.

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March 25, 2014   35 Comments

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

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

The Secret World of Japanese University Cafeterias

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One of the cafeteria options at Toyo University

It’s arguably one of the best kept secrets of the Japanese culinary world: university cafeterias are open to the general public. That’s right. You don’t have to show ID or even look like a student. Even tourists or backpackers can enter and enjoy gakushoku, as it’s commonly referred to. But why would you want to? That’s a fair question, but only if you’ve witnessed the horrors of American university cafeterias. I’m sure there are more, but here are 3 good reasons:

  1. It’s cheap – Japanese university cafeterias operate on a non-profit basis so they’re able to charge only for the raw ingredients. The menu usually rotates but on any given day the staff are churning out hundreds of the same meal for all students, which also helps to dramatically lower the cost.
  2. It’s healthy – most schools usually have a dedicated nutritionist who ensures that all their students stay healthy and are able to focus on studies. Schools source fresh ingredients and most meals come with 3 or 4 side dishes for healthy variety.
  3. It’s Japanese – sure there are Western or even South Asian options but the majority of menu listings are Japanese. So if you’re in Japan and looking for a true Japanese meal, a university cafeteria is a sure spot. If you’re unsure of what to order, the pros suggest you go with the school’s signature dish, which usually has the school’s name in it.

Akira Karasawa, a professor, author and self-proclaimed university cafeteria expert compiled a list of the best cafeterias, taking into consideration his own experience but also polls conducted amongst students. The full list is below but here are a few of his top picks:

Aoyama Gakuin

The Christian University near Shibuya is the top pick – a 3-star Michelin ranking, if such a thing existed for cafeterias. In fact, says Karasawa, you shouldn’t even think of it as a cafeteria because it is much more. Beef stew is 460 yen, fried chicken is 480 yen and ramen is 230 yen. Just for reference, the national average for a bowl of ramen is 800 yen, a 250% difference.

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Toyo University

Toyo University, known for its philosophical studies (especially Indian philosophy) ties with Tokyo University for 3rd and 4th place. If you’re looking for ethnic foods this may be the place to go as they have a designated Indian chef baking Naan. Their cafeteria looks like a French restaurant. Prices start at 450 yen (Katsudon) and go to 850 yen (Chirashi-zushi).

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Nittai (Nippon Sport Science) University

If you’re looking for volume, Nittai is the place to go. The highly athletic school has an emphasis on sports and boasts many famous athletes among its alumni. It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but the cafeteria meals are supposedly extra-large because those young athletes sure do eat a lot. The majority of the menu ranges between 200 – 400 yen.

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List of Top University Cafeterias

Aoyama Gakuin
Chuo University
Toyo University
Tokyo University
Seijo University
Kokugakuin University
Nishogakusha University
Meiji Gakuin University
Kwansei Gakuin University
Nihon University
Komazawa University
Ritsumeikan University
Rissho University
Doshisha University
Taisho University
Toyo Eiwa Women’s University
Shirayuri Women’s University
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

Note: The cafeteria’s listed here are all open to the public. However, not all university cafeterias operate this way. If you’re going to one not mentioned here, do some research and make sure you won’t get turned away. Also, most cafeterias make you purchase a ticket at a vending machine, which you then hand to staff. Some basic Japanese language is necessary to operate the machine.

Source: this episode of Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai

March 20, 2014   No Comments