2017 marked Spoon & Tamago’s 10-year anniversary. We celebrated it in Japan, surrounded by 100 of our favorite artists. And we also made this short video that sums up our last 10 years of writing about Japanese design, art and culture.
So instead of going on about how our year was, we’ll just let you watch the video if you like and we’ll move on to counting down our top 10 posts of 2017.
For all their charm and nostalgia, black and white photos do create a certain disconnect between the past and present. Looking at them, it’s easy to forget that we’re connected to that time by what is merely a blink of an eye in the grand scale of history. So when a team of Japanese researchers began releasing historic photos that had been automatically colorized through a deep learning program that had analyzed 2.3 million color photographs, it struck a nerve with readers.
We are only guests on this planet. “In the day after humans disappear, nature takes over and immediately begins cleaning house – our houses.” And that’s exactly what happened in Fukushima where, 6 years ago, residents were forced to evacuate due to the nuclear disaster that unfolded in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
In August we broke a story about Yayoi Kusama, the enigmatic 88-year old artist who would be opening her own museum later this year. Our scoop was heavily cited by news organizations around the world including the New York Times. When the museum did open, we sent a photographer there to check out the inside.
It’s called mukimono and it’s the rich Japanese tradition of food carving. It’s typically reserved for small vegetables carved into a floral shape or cute bunny to garnish your plate. But in the hands of this Japanese artist, the art of fruit and vegetable carving is elevated to a new realm of edible creations.
This was a controversial article. We reported on an initiative called “The Restaurant of Order Mistakes” about a restaurant in Tokyo with an inclusively-driven mission to hire waiters with dementia. The premise of the restaurant was that the staff who have dementia may get your order wrong. But if you go in knowing that, it changes your perception about those who suffer from brain disease and it makes you realize that with a little bit of understanding on our part, dementia patients can be functioning members of society.
Some readers were quick to attack the initiative, calling it “disgusting,” “vile” and “the people in charge of this should be ashamed.” We stand by the project though and think it’s great that they’re raising awareness for dementia with a sense of humor while also creating jobs for many who otherwise feel excluded from society.
In a captivating series, outdoor vending machines, especially the ones in remote locations, buried in snowfall, become not only a photographic subjects for this photographer but also a welcome oasis from the harsh winters of Hokkaido.
Japan has the highest penetration of vending machines per person in the world and the fact that the majority of them are outdoors is a testament to the country’s safety and respect for property. Very rarely are these machines ever vandalized.
It wasn’t the fact that FRUiTS, an influential Japanese street style magazine, was closing down that caught reader’s attention. It was the reason. According to the founder and editor, there just weren’t enough cool kids to shoot anymore.
Had UNIQLO killed Japanese street style? Readers were quick to comment on the contrary and the story is clearly not as simple as the editor made it sound. From the rise of “Instagram kids” to the magazine’s editorial choices, there seems to be more at play here.
Coming in at 3rd was the news that Starbucks had renovated an old Kyoto machiya townhouse and turned it into a wonderfully-designed coffee shop. Say what you will about the mega-chain and their coffee but the design ethic and conservational stance is wonderful. Despite rumors of long lines, we visited in November and were pleasantly surprised to find only a very short line.
Beating out 88-year old Yayoi Kusama and her new Tokyo museum both by age and readership and coming in at number 2 was 89-year old Kimiko Nishimoto. At the age of 72 Ms. Nishimoto decided to enroll in a beginners photography course and immediately fell in love with the medium. She began taking humorous, comical and sometimes surreal self-portraits. If there’s one thing you take away from this top 10 list, let it be this: it is never, ever too late to do anything!
Coming in at 1st is this mesmerizing twitter account run by a young Japanese man working in automobile marketing. Working with self-taught woodworking skills and mechanical design software, he began creating his animated gifs of Japanese wood joinery, a craftsmanship technique that involves complicated, interlocking wooden joints that form bonds without the use of nails, screws or adhesives.
Thanks for reading, and for a wonderful year. We’re looking forward to a great 2018!