japanese art, design and culture


Contemporary Katana Sword by Marc Newson and Tohoku Craftsmen

This unique set of Japanese swords are the fruit of the collaboration between Australian designer Mark Newson and craftsmen from Japan’s Tohoku area. The piece aims to combine the minimalist aesthetics of contemporary design with the age-old skills of the traditional Japanese craftsmen.

Aikuchi is a contemporary art piece which is created by incorporating a Japanese sense of beauty, traditional craftsmanship and innovative design.



But the hard part of this project was not merely to come up with a good-looking design. It required a true, in-depth collaboration between Newson and the craftsmen in order to be able to produce the first Aikuchi sword. The Australian designer traveled to meet them in their Tohoku workshops and discover their time-tested techniques. As a Japanese craftsmen will typically master one craft only, several were needed for the project. Experts in lacquerware, woodwork, and blade-making put their skills to work during a tedious trial and error process.

You can have a glimpse of the adventure that led to the making of the swords in this video:

As you would expect, an object created to cross the borders between art, design and craftsmanship will not be easy to get your hands on: it comes at an undisclosed price, and only 10 pieces will be produced.



via w0w

April 2, 2014   2 Comments

Playful Memo Pads by Kenjiro Sano


The art director Kenjiro Sano, who goes by the moniker Mr. Design, knows a thing or two about design, and making people chuckle. “All you need in life are friends, good clothes, yummy food and a bit of humor,” or so goes the concept for his design label nico. As its onomatopoeic phrase – nico nico means “to smile” – would suggest, the product lineup is thoughtfully designed to introduce a few chuckles into daily life.

The Spoon & Tamago shop just started carrying the sushi memo pads, the hinoki wooden blocks and the house memo blocks.


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April 1, 2014   No Comments

Bird-Witched | Cock-inspired Stilettos by Masaya Kushino


Japanese shoe designer Masaya Kushino, known for his extravagant creations that walk a thin line between footwear and sculpture, has created a new line of shoes inspired by the chicken. “Bird-Witched” actually takes its cue from Jakuchu Ito, “a legendary painter who flourished during the Edo period in the 18th century,” says Kushino. “He depicted real life animals such as birds, tigers, and elephants in a really ingenious way, tinged with a bit of insanity.”

For his latest collection, Kushino decided to depict the process of a bird turning into a pair of luxurious, feather-clad shoes. But Kushino reassures us that the shoes aren’t only to look at. They are fundamentally wearable footwear which, in Kushino’s mind, clearly separates them from standalone art objects.

Bird-Witched is currently on display at the Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art. But Kushino’s heels will be traveling to the US for an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum later this year.

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source: artinfo

April 1, 2014   No Comments

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