This is the Time of Year Bamboo Shoots Grow, Sometimes Wreaking Havoc

a triptych by Toyokuni Utagawa depicting an excursion to gather bamboo shoots (early 1800s)

According to Japan’s ancient calendar of 72 microseasons, right now is microseason 21: the time of year when “Bamboo Shoots Sprout.” Known as takenoko in Japan, these voracious plants have numerous uses in Japan, both as building materials but also edible vegetables. They can be store-bought but in ancient Japan they were delicacies that had to be picked and eaten right away or they would harden. The image above from the 1800s is part of a series depicting seasonal activities around the year. This one, from May, is a beautiful triptych that depicts noblewomen out on an excursion to gather bamboo shoots.

However, their incredible vitality and speed at which they grow—sometimes as much as 1 ft per day—can also wreak unexpected havoc on homes, particularly in the countryside.

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The 2024 Toyama Kei-Truck Gardening Contest

The 2024 Kei-Truck Gardening Contest took place over the weekend. In what is perhaps the most-Japanese contest, professional gardeners and landscapers compete to create a beautiful, seasonal, and unique landscape , all within the bed of their kei-trucks.

This contest originated in 2011 after a landscapers association came up with the idea to promote a renewed interest in gardening. It’s since spread around Japan. Read on for scenes of some of the contestants.

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‘Puddle’ Are a Series of Flower Vessels Inspired by Puddles of Water

Simple and common acts of nature often inspire brilliant design. Such is the case with “Puddle,” a series of flower vessels that mimic a puddle of water. Using properties of transparency and surface tension, these whimsical vessels create the illusion of a single plant growing from a puddle.

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Five Unique Experiences at Harajuku’s Latest Development Harakado

Harakado, opened on April 17, 2024 at the Jingumae intersection along Omotesando Street in central Tokyo. The shiny, brand new facility was designed by architect Akihisa Hirata, whose interest in tangled, organic structures, is on full display in his rendering of the facade and outdoor spaces. The reflective surfaces are a nice complement to its sister site’s kaleidoscopic entrance of mirrors.

But where Harakado really differentiates itself is on the inside, occupied by an unusual selection of non-profit spaces and low-margin businesses. From public hot baths to a free magazine library, below are the five ways we would spend our time inside Harajuku’s latest development.

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Japan Quietly Shines at Milan Design Week

Milan Design Week—Coachella, but for furniture—is running this week from April 16-21. All the biggest names and brands in the design world descend upon the Italian city, which sees its population swell by nearly 25%. Now in its 62nd iteration, the design extravaganza is an opportunity for the aesthetically ambitious to showcase their latest ideas and set the stage for trends that will ripple out across the globe. Amidst all the lights and bells, a handful of Japanese designers quietly present their nuanced vision for home furnishings. Here are some of our favorites.

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Myaku-Myaku Footwear, Inspired by the Googly-Eyed Mascot for the Osaka Expo

Myaku-Myaku, the unsettling googly-eyed humanoid that was selected as the 2025 Osaka Expo mascot, has inspired numerous spinoffs, both official and unofficial. And with exactly 1 year to go before the Expo, we should all expect to see a lot more. The latest iteration comes in the form of a collaboration with Mizuno, who have created a series of footwear inspired by the benevolent blob.

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Death Fes in Shibuya Asks Visitor to Embrace Their End

images courtesy Death Fes

April 14th is the unofficial “day of good death” in Japan. The date 4-1-4 can be pronounced yo-i-shi, or good death, making today the perfect day to kick-off the Death Fes, an event aimed at encouraging people to think and talk about their inevitable end.

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Oyane-san Blending Tradition with Modern Technology In Shikokumura

all images © Takumi Ota courtesy of Kousou Inc.

Welcome to Oyane-san, affectionately known as “Honorable Roof,” standing proudly at the foot of Mount Yashima on Shikoku Island. This new addition serves as the entrance to the Shikoku Mura, an outdoor architectural park showcasing historic buildings from the Edo to the Taishō periods.

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Kenji Yanobe’s BIG CAT BANG is Now on Display at Ginza Six

Space cats in astronaut suits, ultraman figurines reenacting the beginning of the universe, and a tribute to Taro Okamoto’s iconic Statue of the Sun sculpture. There’s a lot to love about artist Kenji Yanobe’s new installation, BIG CAT BANG, and it’s now on view to the public inside the Ginza Six shopping complex.

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Tomona Matsukawa’s Realistic Paintings Reconstruct Fragments of Everyday Life

“Morning will come and my feelings will ease a little” (2024), Oil on linen mounted on panel

Kyoto-based artist Tomona Matsukawa creates realistic and somewhat dramatic oil paintings that are each inspired by conversations with other women of her generation, often strangers. The artist imbues her work with arresting narratives, both in the form of subject matter, as well as title, which are both derived from striking phrases or memorable moments during the conversation.

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