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The Art Biotop Water Garden Designed by Junya Ishigami

Nestled within the foot of the Nasu Mountains, slightly North of Tokyo, is Art Biotop, an art retreat and artist’s residency. They offer classes in pottery and glass-blowing, as well as cycling and spa treatments. But one of their highlights is the meditative Water Garden designed by architect Junya Ishigami.

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Winners of Japan’s 2019 Laundromat of the Year Award

the overall top prize went to Hull (left) while the best design went to Eco Laundry (right)

Around this time of year, a coveted prize is awarded within a niche industry in Japan: the Laundromat-of-the-Year-Award (pdf). It’s presented at an industry fair in Tokyo known as the International Coin-Operated Laundry EXPO where excellence in laundromats are recognized within 3 main categories. There’s a top prize, a prize for best design and a prize for best user experience.

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Suburban Scenes of Japan Depicted in Paintings by Naoki Tomita

Tokyo, Shibuya (2019)

The painter Naoki Tomita uses thick layers of oil paint to depict suburban scenes of Japan: the facades of stores, high-rise buildings or a parking lot, devoid of anything but vending machines. For an upcoming solo exhibition, Tomita has focused on Tokyo as his prime subject, ahead of 2020.

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The Mountainous Sengyoji Temple and Indoor Mechanical Cemetery

all photos by Eiji Kitada

Mt. Fuji Architects is named after Japan’s tallest peak. The architecture firm’s founder, Masahiro Harada, grew up in Shizuoka which is also home to the famous mountain. Back in 2016 when Harada was asked to come up with a plan to renovate a Nichiren Buddhist temple and cemetery in Tokyo that dates back to the early edo-period, he recalled the words of his grandmother: “don’t step on that stone; it could be a grave.”

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Detailed Ballpoint Pen Illustrations by Manabu Endo

Manabu Endo creates dignified portraits of his subjects using a watercolor background and detailed ballpoint pen illustrations. The dreamy animals, plants and occasionally humans are reminiscent of picture scrolls and evoke a strong narrative.

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Rooms Where Time Stops: Miyu Kojima’s Miniature Replicas of Lonely Deaths

a page from Miyu Kojima’s new book, which features essays and photos of her miniature replicas

Twenty seven-year old Miyu Kojima (previously) works for a company that cleans up after kodokushi (孤独死) or lonely deaths: a Japanese phenomenon of people dying alone and remaining undiscovered for a long period of time. The instances first began to be reported around 2000, and are thought to be a product of increased social isolation coupled with a greying population.

Part art therapy and part public service campaign, Kojima spends a large portion of her free time creating detailed, miniature replicas of the rooms she has cleaned. Last month she released her first book, a series of essays that accompany the replica rooms she has created in the past.

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Autumnal Views of a Tokyo Suburb by Ryo Takemasa

Musashino Magazine (Autumn 2018)

For the past several years, Ryo Takemasa, the illustrator behind the Birds of Tokyo handbook, has been illustrating the cover of the quarterly magazine Musashino. The eponymous magazine is dedicated to Musashino, a Western suburb of Tokyo along the Chuo line. Since today (September 23) is the Autumn equinox and the official beginning of Fall, we’re sharing the Autumn covers that Takemasa illustrated for the magazine.

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Atsuko Yukawa Creates Homopolar Motor Sculptures Using Wire and a Battery

Japanese artist Atsuko Yukawa runs a small studio called Trill where she primarily spends her time illustrating birds. But recently, in her spare time, she’s been experimenting with simple wire sculptures. At first sight they don’t seem like much, but that’s because they’ve been designed for a very specific purpose: to be carefully balanced on a battery.

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Overhead Electric Wires: a Neighborhood Boon or Blight?

The prolonged electricity outages that are occurring in Chiba, Japan thanks to Typhoon Faxai have renewed an age-old debate: whether or not to bury Japan’s utility poles and electric wires underground.

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Ultimate Infill: A 2.7-meter Office Building Rises in a Ginza Alley

all photos by Takumi Ota courtesy SO&CO

Along one of Ginza’s many backstreets, just steps from Showa-dori, sat an L-shaped plot of land. At just 2.7-meters wide, or a little less than 9 ft, it had remained vacant for the past 3 years, obscured by the shadows of the towering grey buildings around it. Until finally a developer stepped in.

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