Kirie Artist Carves Playful Narratives Into Tree Leaves

“Aquarium of Leaves”

A 37-year old Japanese artist who goes by the name Lito has been living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) his entire life. Lito had been searching for an outlet where he could channel his above-normal levels of concentration and hyper focus when he discovered the Japanese art of kirie (切り絵, literally ‘cut picture’). Several years ago he began experimenting, not with paper, but with leaves.

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The 2023 Spoon & Tamago Gift Guide

2023 felt like a turning point for Japan. After several years of covid-induced seclusion, tourism rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. And although just anecdotal, so many people we spoke to who previously had no connection to Japan, were planning trips and honeymoons that it truly felt like Japan was *the* place to be this year. With that in mind, we put together this year’s gift guide for everyone who took an interest in Japan, whether vicariously or through travel. With an emphasis on craftsmanship and quality, we’ve curated a list of items that are both functional but also serve as an extension of learning about Japan and its culture.

We hope you find something special for your loved ones.

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Exploring Japanese Hell Through Art from the 12th to 19th Century

demons can be seen tearing people at their crotch (ouch!)

As a child, growing up in Japan, there was one book that terrified me. Luckily, I didn’t own it. The red hardback sat on the bottom shelf in my friend’s room and every time I went over to play I could see it, out of the corner of my eye, staring me in the face. Once, we pulled it out and flipped through the pages; each featured a grotesquely illustrated realm of hell with scenes of fire, torture, and suffering. It was, I assure you, a children’s book. But it was made for parents to use as leverage whenever their child acted up, or misbehaved. And boy was it effective.

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Fruit, Not What it Appears to be in Artfully Arranged Compositions by Yuni Yoshida

I like to eat apples and bananas. Yuni Yoshida, the creative director known for her mind-bending visual illusions, likes to alter them, creating visually arresting compositions that make you look, and then look again. Often incorporating food into her work, Yoshida has an ongoing series in which everyday fruits are meticulously peeled, diced and rearranged to create works of art that display her subjects in new light.

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Download Over 30 Butterfly Designs by Meiji-Era Artist Yuho Tanaka

Yuho Tanaka (田中幽峰) was an accomplished artist and draughtsman active in Kyoto during the late-1800s. At the height of his career in the 1890s he created numerous graphic patterns inspired by butterflies that were eventually compiled into a book titled hyaku-cho-zuan, or One Hundred Butterfly Designs.

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Travelling Through Eizan Railway’s Picturesque ‘Momiji Tunnel’

all photos courtesy Eizan Electric Railway

Along Kyoto’s Eizan Electric Railway is a section known as “Maple Tree Tunnel” (momiji tunnel, in Japanese) that is lined with hundreds of maple trees. They are, of course, beautiful any time of year. But maple trees are particularly stunning in the fall and the railway goes out of its way to accentuate their beauty while allowing riders to get the most of all the sights.

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Japan’s Jimi ‘Mundane’ Halloween Costumes of 2023

Ah, it’s Halloween weekend. And that means it’s time for our favorite Japanese festival Jimi Halloween, where people dress up in costumes so mundane they have to be explained.

The tradition was started in 2014 by a group of adults at Daily Portal Z who “kind of wanted to participate in the festivities of Halloween, but were too embarrassed to go all out in witch or zombie costumes.” So instead of the flashy and flamboyant costumes they had been seeing gain popularity in Japan, they decided to dress up in mundane, everyday costumes.

You can comb through social media using the hashtag #地味ハロウィン but below we present to you some of our favorites from this year’s festivities. We’ve been covering this event since 2018 so you can also take a look at some past years too!

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Tsuchiya Kaban Creates Leather Randoseru For Dogs

Tsuchiya Kaban, the 58-year old Japanese leather bagmaker known for their highly-specific bags, has released their very first line-up of pet products. And their doggy randoseru is absolutely adorable. For those who aren’t familiar, randoseru are backpacks for kids. Typically made from high-quality leather, they are expensive but are made to last for the entirety of a child’s time in school. Tsuchiya Kaban’s new line of pet products are made with the same handmade quality and care that goes in to any of their bags.

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Laxative Literally ‘Empties Out’ All Other Ads in Creative Campaign Targeting Tokyo Metro

If you’ve boarded the Tokyo Metro this month, there’s a good chance you walked into a train car that was…well, different. Perhaps you felt unobstructed, light and fluid as you passed with ease through the typical blockage. If you experienced any of those symptoms, it’s the work of a creative ad campaign for Borraginol Smooth, an over-the-counter laxative developed by Amato Pharmaceutical Products.

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Elongated Engawa Defines this Community Welfare Center in Chiba

As Japan’s population continues to grow older—one in 10 residents are aged 80 or above—care for the elderly becomes an increasingly important issue. And while elderly populations are typically seen as a burden, there are places around rural Japan that offer glimpses of a more hopeful future. One where innovators and designers are demonstrating what’s possible, not with robotic caregivers, but with a fundamental redesign of what care for the elderly could look like.

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