Giant floats paraded down the streets of Aomori last week for the Nebuta Matsuri, one of Japan’s most-iconic and heavily attended summer festivals. It was held for the first time in three years after a long covid-induced hiatus. A total of 18 floats featuring scenes from scroll paintings depicting warriors and mythology lit up the heart of the city. Pictured above is a float created by Asako Kitamura, Japan’s only female Nebuta float artisan.
Rooted in Buddhism, incense are an essential component of Japanese funerals, as well as home altars where we reflect on and remember our loved ones. Thought to purify the space and create a tranquil mood, it’s a tradition that hasn’t changed for hundreds of years. And neither has the shape of incense. So when Japan’s oldest incense-maker asked how they can innovate on something so unchanged, the answer was to redesign them as a celebration of individual life.
all photos by Koji Fujii courtesy Toru Shimokawa Architects
Invented in the town of Dazaifu and dating back hundreds of years, umegae mochi is a type of rice cake filled with sweet red bean paste and imprinted with the petals of a plum blossom. The sweets are practically synonymous with Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, and have been a popular souvenir for as long as many can remember. Umegae mochi can be found in many shops in Fukuoka, and even at the train station, but one shop in particular stands out: the Yasutake mochi shop.
Every three years, Naoshima, Teshima and ten other islands including Megijima, Ogijima and Shodoshima play host to a collection of installations and artists for the Setouchi International Art Triennale. 2022 marks the 12th anniversary of the art festival and the summer season just kicked off today, August 5th. While many of the permanent installations remain up (but not all of them), the islands continue to add new site-specific artworks and one of those is a collaboration between Brazilian-Japanese artist Oscar Oiwa and architect Shigeru Ban.
“Akishiki” (2020) by Riusuke Fukahori | all images courtesy the artist
Artist Riusuke Fukahori has devoted his career to painting goldfish. His “2.5D paintings,” as they’re called, come to life through a meticulous and repetitive process of applying layers and layers of paint, each sandwiched between thin layers of resin, until the lifelike goldfish are complete and appear to rise up from whatever canvas he has chosen. A new exhibition in Tokyo reflects on the artist’s body of work and the deeper meaning behind the goldfish.
Inakadate, the village in northern Japan’s Aomori prefecture famous for their rice paddy art, today unveiled their latest creation. The seeds of their labor, which were planted in June, have now grown and filled out the canvas, rendering versions of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and Seiki Kuroda’s “Lakeside,” which depicts his wife Taneko Kaneko.
Have you ever had beer made from honey produced by the bee hives of Shimane Prefecture’s Hagi Iwami Airport? What about a kumquat and coriander ale from Shiga Prefecture? You never really know what you’ll find at Tokyo’s craft beer bar Special End but you can be certain that whatever is on tap will hit the spot, especially during summer’s horrendous humidity.
It’s been a while since we checked in on our favorite faux-magazine covers, The Tokyoiter, and were reminded that we need to do so more often. The initiative, originally inspired by magazine covers from The New Yorker, invites graphic designers and illustrators from all over the world to present their unique vision of Tokyo. From vending machines and convenience stores to dichotomies of old and new, check out some of our recent favorites below and come with us on a journey as we travel vicariously to Japan.
It’s summer gift-giving season, known as ochugen, in Japan right now. And if you’re looking for an unusual, outside-the-box gift we have the perfect answer for you. Kagurazaka Saitou is a new shop that opened recently in the Tokyo neighborhood of Kagurazaka and they specialize in one thing and one thing alone: karaage, or fried chicken. And it’s the most-beautifully packaged fried chicken we’ve ever seen.
Traditional Japanese silk kimonos are handmade and typically cost between $2000 – $20,000 usd. They’re reserved for special occasions like coming-of-age day and weddings. Some estimates put the total value of kimono that are stored away in closets all across Japan as high as $300 billion usd. In an attempt to extract some of that value and inject it back into society, a group of designers began the Tokyo Kimono Shoes project.