Photos by Hiroshi Mizusaki courtesy Case-Real Architects
The Town of Yobuko, located at the tip of North-Western Kyushu, is named after the migratory path that whales swam. Beginning in the 1700s, Yobuko prospered as a whaling town, birthing the idiom, a single whale flourishes seven towns. Whales were a symbol of vitality, prosperity and hope. But times change. Fast-forward to today and the town’s population has fallen below 6000 due to a younger generation’s migration to larger cities.
For all the preaching on the health benefits of drinking more water, very few tools help us actually achieve this. So when Taro Mukasa, an illustrator and toy designer at creative agency Zariganiworks came across a manga panel in which the protagonist declares that his hobby is drinking water, it sparked an idea for a seemingly ordinary yet extraordinary pair of tumblers.
Roughly seventy per cent of Japan is forested and therefore wood has been historically tied to architecture and design since ancient times. In fact, the world’s oldest surviving wooden structure is the Horyu-ji temple that was built in the early seventh century. From the harvesting of Japanese cypress to production and restoration, numerous tools, skills and techniques have evolved alongside wood building. The Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum in Kobe is the only museum in Japan dedicated to collecting and conserving these tools and techniques, curating exhibitions to pass on this cultural heritage to future generations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!