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Toyota’s Stunning Concept Car Made From 86 Handmade Wooden Panels

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“Wood is not for cars,” lamented automobile enthusiast Jerry Seinfeld, recently. “It makes no sense.” But therein lies the beauty of Toyota’s new concept car Setsuna, whose exterior is made from 86 handmade wooden panels. Although it offers basic vehicular performance like driving, turning and stopping, the Setsuna, named after the Japanese Buddhist word for “moment or “instant,” is not supposed to make sense. It’s supposed to make us rethink our relationship with our car as one that is something more than just an industrial product loaded with the latest technology.

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Japan Finalizes Foreigner-Friendly Pictograms, Leaves Manji Symbol (卍) Unchanged

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6 of the 15 new pictograms Japan will be incorporating into maps

Japan is in the midst of a tourism boom, and it’s expected to continue as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics. Just yesterday the government doubled their estimates for annual number of tourists by the year 2020 from 20 million to 40 million. And one step they’re taking to make Japan more accessible is to redesign the pictograms used on maps to be more foreigner-friendly.

Earlier this year the GSI (Geospatial Information Authority of Japan), in an effort to improve some of the country’s pictograms that are only recognizable to the Japanese, announced an initiative to redesign many of them. And now they’ve officially finalized designs for 15 pictograms that will begin to be incorporated into maps. Most of the changes are understandable, but it’s going to be sad to see the postal code sign 〒 become a generic letter.

But on the flip-side, the organization decided to leave Japan’s manji symbol 卍 unchanged. The symbol, which indicates Buddhist temples, is often confused for the Nazi swastika and many groups had urged Japan to change it. But a counter movement to leave the symbol unchanged and educate tourists instead took root, which seems to have had an effect on the final decision.

Go treasure hunting in an Arita porcelain warehouse for just 5000 yen

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The Kouraku Kiln was founded in Arita (Saga Prefecture, Japan) in 1865 and has been producing ceramics for the past 150 years. Over that time the facility has accumulated a vast collection of pottery that has, for one reason or another, gone unsold. The warehouse is so vast that some workers use a bicycle to get from one side to the other. And they’ll be the first to admit that even they don’t really know what’s in there. The production facility is now inviting visitors on a “treasure hunt” to try and get rid of some of their stock.

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Tokyo’s Hippest New Select Shop is a Basement Parking Garage

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you won’t find any parking in the new Park-Ing (photos courtesy Fashionsnap)

After realizing people don’t want to shop inside a swimming pool, DJ-turned-fashion-guru Hiroshi Fujiwara has called it quits on his retail venture The Pool. Does that mean he’s getting out of retail? Hardly. In fact, he’s doubling down on unique shopping experiences by opening a new select shop called The Park-Ing and it’s located in – you guessed it – a parking garage.

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Music Monday: Wednesday Campanella

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cover art for Wednesday Campanella’s “ZIPANGU” album (released Nov. 2015)

It’s ironic that our sporadic music column, Music Monday, is featuring an artist with a conflicting name of the week: Wednesday Campanella. The group, who takes their name from the fact that they often practiced in the middle of the week, are formed around the lead vocal Kom I, known for her eccentricity and slacker vibe. Making up the trio are composer Kenmochi Hidefumi and Dir. F, who plays the role of manager/director.

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An elongated market in Niigata inspired by the Engawa

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Stage Engawa, which opened right outside Kita-Sanjo Station (Niigata)

The engawa is a generous hallway, often likened to a veranda, that is part of traditional Japanese homes. Located between interior rooms and the garden, the engawa defies typical architectural spaces by being not entirely closed yet not entirely open. Mimicking this feature, and hoping to inspire a community space where locals can come and go as they please, a new market has opened in the center of Sanjo City, Niigata.

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Haunting Photographs of Residents Returning to Daily Activities in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone

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Kanoko Sato in a gymnasium of a school in the Ukedo district, destroyed by the tsunami and left like this since the disaster. “If it was not for this project, I would never have seen this forbidden zone with my own eyes. “

A young student stands in her school’s gymnasium. A woman pushes a shopping cart through the fresh fish section of her local supermarket. A man looks at his winnings as he sits inside a pachinko parlor. Five years ago, before the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster, these all would have been normal activities. But now, after the government’s mandatory evacuation and the establishment of an exclusion zone, the town of Namie, as well as many others, have become ghost towns.

Working closely with the inhabitants, French photographers Carlos Ayesta and Guillaume Bressio set out on a long-term project to document Namie residents in their old settings in a project called Retrace Our Steps.

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6 Japanese Art & Design Shows to See This Spring in New York

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Although the winter this year in New York was one of the warmest in recent memory, we’re still excited that Spring is finally here. March brings warmer temperatures but it also brings new art shows. So why not get outside and enjoy both? We’ve put together a simple map of our top picks to see this Spring for lovers and admirers of Japanese art & design!

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Itoman Gyomin: a restaurant in Okinawa inspired by local fisherman culture

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“Nozura-Zatsuzumi” (野面雑積み) is a Okinawan technique of stacking Ryukyu limestone to create walls. It was used by fisherman in the Itoman region of the island to construct fishing grounds. Picking up where their ancestors left off, architects decided to use this same technique and material to create the facade of a restaurant “promoting the local tradition and culture through its cuisine.”

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Plate: An Idyllic Woodland Market that Promotes Local Production for Local Consumption

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PLATE: a magical marketplace for local fair

Chisan chisho (地産地消) is a concept that took root in Japan in the early 80s and translates to “local production for local consumption.” Similar to the notion of buying local, the movement, which was intended to deliver ultra-fresh, in-season food, fell out of favor in the 90s as trade barriers came down and imported foods became more and more cheaper.

But over the last couple of years several food scandals involving imported food, as well as domestically-produced food, has refocused people’s attention on the food they consume and where it comes from. And several restaurants have popped up around Japan, promoting this very concept.

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