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Bake: A Renovated Kyoto Townhouse Turned into a Cheese Tart Shop

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all photos by Takumi Ota

Bake isn’t any ordinary pastry shop. Although its roots date back 33 years to a small pastry business in Hokkaido, today it functions more like a tech startup. It has an R&D lab, as well as a web magazine. And with creative side-projects like Pictcake (upload smartphone photo and print it on a cake) and 99chocolate (customize your own chocolate bars) the company is defying many stereotypes associated with Japanese companies. So it’s no surprise that their latest shop in Kyoto blends traditional architecture and woodwork with Lego.

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Japan’s 5th Blue Bottle Location Opens in Nakameguro

all photos by takumi ota | click to enlarge

all photos by takumi ota | click to enlarge

In May of last year, James Freeman’s Blue Bottle coffee roaster opened their first shop in Tokyo. The company is known for being disciplined in their expansion due to Freeman’s obsessive stance on quality control. But that’s not the case in Japan. Perhaps because the country already possesses a sophistication towards coffee, or maybe because of such strong demand, within a year and a half the California-based coffee shop has grown to 5 locations (there will actually be 6 by the end of the year) with the latest in Nakameguro.

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Miniature Worlds Encapsulated Inside Fantastical Beasts by Japanese Artist Feebee

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“Three Wise Monkeys” (2016) by Feebe | click all images to enlarge

The Japanese artist who goes by the name Feebee is an illustrator by trade. But a self-taught one. She’s been helping create advertisements, CD jackets, characters and other forms of illustration since 2002. And her neo-Japonesque style of bold colors and delicate lines that form her primarily female subjects have won over countless fans. But it wasn’t until relatively recently that she pivoted in her career and began creating paintings as well.

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Music Monday: The Sounds of Industrial Japan

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Gears, springs, nuts and bolts: they’re the silent heroes of our gadgets and appliances, quietly playing a critical role in the shadows of technology. But there’s nothing silent about the way they’re made. In fact, a new project wants to give their beautiful sounds a voice!

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Sake Bottle Pillow Makes Any Sleeping Person a Passed Out Drunkard

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If you’ve had too much to drink, go to sleep. That was the idea behind the concept for this ishobin sake bottle pillow modeled after the largest of sake bottles.

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This Map of the World Just Won Japan’s Prestigious Design Award

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The 2016 Good Design Award results were announced recently with awards going to over 1000 entries in several different categories. But the coveted Grand Award of Japan’s most well-known design award, given to just 1 entry, was announced today. Last year the winner was a personal mobility chair and the year before that it was a robotic arm. This year, the grand prize went to a world map.

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Searching For Halloween Costume Inspiration in Ukiyo-e

halloween-in-japanMy Dad likes to say he began the Halloween tradition of costuming in Japan. When we first moved there in the early 80s hardly anyone had heard of Halloween. My Dad though, being the prankster that he is, found pleasure in dressing up in a white cloak with a Tengu mask and walking around our neighborhood. And at 6 ft 4 I’m surprised no one ever called the police on him.

We would also host small Halloween parties for the local kids, teaching them about jack-o-lanterns and the joys of trick-or-treating. These small gestures, combined over the years, may very well have helped contribute to the spread of Halloween consciousness in our small community.

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Rima Fujita’s Paintings Inspired by Women in Buddhist Iconography

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If you ever have a chance to see the work of Japanese artist Rima Fujita in New York, Los Angeles, Singapore, or some other major city around the world, do yourself a favor: get off the internet, switch off the TV and go have a look. It’s the perfect antidote to the hate-filled vitriol that seems to dominate the airwaves and megabytes these days.

Your latest chance is at a show in Tokyo that just opened.

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100 Views of Tokyo Now Available as a Book

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Three years ago the illustrator Shinji Tsuchimochi embarked on an ambitious project. Following in the footsteps of ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige who, 160 years ago, created One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, Tsuchimochi began illustrating 100 views of Tokyo. This summer he finished his project and the entire body of work (plus a few extras) are being turned into a book.

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Paper Trails: Rolled Newspaper Animal Sculptures by Chie Hitotsuyama

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Hitotsuyama’s first animal sculpture created in 2011, inspired by her encounter with a rhino in Africa

In 2007, artist Chie Hitotsuyama took an illustration job with an NGO and traveled to Africa. There she encountered a rhino that had been rescued from poachers who prey on the beautiful animal only for its tusk, which to this day, are bought and sold for high prices. “I still remember the kindness in that Rhino’s eyes,” she says, speaking about the encounter, which inspired her to begin making animal-themed artwork.

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