Spider webs, grass, bare branches and insects surround a young woman in a black dress who stares solemnly at the viewer. But look closely and you’ll soon realize that the gothic-style scene in interconnected, in the most literal sense. Every branch, blade of grass and strand of hair is cut from the same, single sheet of paper in a Japanese art form known as kirie. It’s the work of artist Ayaka Chigira, a student at Musashino Arts University who created the piece as part of her graduating senior thesis exhibition.
Jomon-era pottery, created roughly 4000-5000 years ago, is considered to be the oldest pottery in Japan. Jomon (縄文) literally means “rope-patterned” and as the name implies, much of the pottery was elaborately designed with coils and imprints, rendering them more decorative than functional. “The decoration and modeling of Jomon pottery is designed for the wishes and prayers for life,” explains Ryunosuke Okazaki, a graduating fashion student who recently created a series of haute couture dresses inspired by Jomon pottery.
The “Suienmon-doki” (2000 – 3000 BCE) is considered a national treasure of Japan
Bite into this sushi and you’ll not only lose your appetite but probably a tooth. Each piece is made from natural stone, hand-polished by an art student who created the series for his graduating thesis exhibition.
A newly polished floor shines pika pika. But after all that hard work your stomach might be peko peko. These are just a few examples of Japanese onomatopoeia: an element of the language that makes it so richly nuanced. The Japanese language is said to have over four thousand, making it the most onomatopoeia-heavy language in the world. An ambitious new book has compiled one hundred of the most-common onomatopoeia, alongside illustrations from artists all around the world.
Graphic designer Kenya Hara and his firm Nippon Design Center have self-initiated a project to release over 250 pictograms — free for anyone to use — in support of tourism in Japan from a visual design perspective.
the 17-year old artist with 55 of her paintings which are on display at Taro Okamoto Museum of Art (through April 11, 2021) all images courtesy the artist
Chifu Onishi is a 17-year old painter primarily working in oils. A junior attending high school in Osaka, Onishi creates bold and expressive paintings that often emphasize the shape of the human form through light, shadow and color. During a 4-month period when schools were shut down last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Onishi created a series of 4 artworks that have now won the Taro Okamoto Award for Contemporary Art, making Onishi the youngest recipient over of one of Japan’s most prestigious art awards.
160 years ago the Kingdom of Prussia and the Tokugawa Shogunate signed the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, which today is largely considered the starting point of German-Japanese diplomatic relations. In tribute to these long-standing ties, an expansive 80-meter (262 ft) mural has been created along the exterior wall of the German Embassy in Tokyo.
In 2008 the Iwate–Miyagi Nairiku Earthquake struck the Tohoku region. The 7.2M tremor resulted in over a dozen fatalities, landslides and power outages. Local company Shimanuki, a purveyor of the kokeshi doll tradition, awoke to find almost all of their craft work toppled over. But destruction gives birth to new ideas.
New York bodegas and Tokyo Conbinis are conceptually quite similar in their ubiquity and convenience. But the experience of using one couldn’t be more different. Therein lies the intrigue of a new experimental restaurant opening in Harajuku, which will function as a casual café and eatery by day, a restaurant and bar by night, and feature the culinary art of Bronx-based Ghetto Gastro.
Starbucks Japan has a Jimoto Made series in which stores across the country collaborate with local artisans to create coffee mugs and tumblers, which are then sold only at those local outlets.
Jimoto is a japanese word meaning “local area” and the initiative aims at highlighting and preserving local craft and materials. As soon as the pandemic is over we’re tempted to travel Japan, collecting mugs from all 14 locations. Below are some of our favorites.