As we wind down our 11th (!) year of blogging, we embark on the annual exercise of ranking our most popular posts based on viewership. It’s always fun and interesting to see what captivated readers the most and looking at the top 10, at times it almost feels like a review of Japan’s news in general. News tends to be sad and depressing, especially these days, but we hope that we’ve been able add a little bit of beauty into your daily lives by delivering stories about Japan through an art & design lens.
Japan had a rough year after being pummeled by torrential rains, a large earth quake in Hokkaido and numerous hurricanes. In fact, 2018’s kanji of the year was chosen to be 災 (wazawai) meaning disaster. So it’s only fitting that a photographer who happened to find himself in the middle of one of these disasters, kicks off our list.
As the powerful Typhoon Trami moved through Tokyo in early October, transportation operators were forced to shut down services and residents were advised to stay home. Unaware that trains were being shut down, a Tokyo-based photographer headed out to his shift at work when he encountered some of Tokyo’s most crowded spots, empty.
Marie Kondo (or Konmari, if you prefer) and her decluttering empire has taken the West by storm. And it’s given Japan an image of ultra-minimalism where people live a simple lifestyle, free of all the material possessions that have plagued Western homes.
But if you’ve ever lived in Japan you’ll know that this really isn’t how the majority of Japanese live, which is why we were so happy to be able to offer an alternative mantra: it’s not hoarding if your shit is awesome.
“Truth is stranger than fiction,” Mark Twain famously wrote. And Tokyo-based street photographer Shin Noguchi is on our list for his particular knack for capturing extraordinary moments of excitement, beauty and humanism that play out on the streets of Japan.
One of the big events in 2018 was the closure of Tsukiji Fish Market and the subsequent move to the Toyosu Fish Market. During the wee hours of night on October7th, workers pulled off a relocation that included driving 2600 motorized carts and forklifts to the new location and arriving just as the sun rose. The great migration was captured in a series of beautiful and sentimental photographs.
Pets are like family. And for anyone who has lived with an animal, we know that losing one can be incredibly painful. But a Japanese artist who goes by the name Wakuneco helps cat-owners cope with that loss by creating realistic, three-dimensional felt portraits of their adorable kitty.
The Kei Truck, or kei-tora for short, is a tiny but practical vehicle that originated in Japan and is often used to access narrow back-streets of residential neighborhoods. But it has another use: it also serves as a canvas for a gardening contest.
The great Japanese actress Kirin Kiki passed away in September. We took the opportunity to remember her by looking at her beautiful wave-like decorations of funeral flowers, as well as the genre of Japanese funeral flower arrangements as a whole.
If you’ve ever wandered around Tokyo on foot you’ll know that it can sometimes be like a spider web of side streets and back alleys. It’s one of the elements that makes Tokyo so unique and therein lies the allure of exploring the massive city. One designer brought that magic to bookshelves by designing back alley bookends.
This stationery item took our site, and the world, by storm this year. The Omoshiroi Block (loosely translated as ‘interesting’ block) utilizes laser-cutting technology to create what is, at first, just a seemingly normal square memo pad. But as the sheets get used, a hidden object is excavated.
Our most-read article of 2018 is a dark topic, but one that is important in Japan, and around the world.
Twenty six-year old Miyu Kojima works for a company that cleans up after kodokushi (孤独死) or lonely deaths, a phenomenon thought to be a product of increased social isolation, coupled with a greying population. Part art therapy and part public service campaign, Kojima spends a large portion of her free time recreating detailed miniature replicas of the rooms she has cleaned, in order to bring awareness to the tragedy and immense weight of kodokushi. She also has a deeply personal reason for why she dedicates so much of her life to this.
And that concludes our list of most-popular posts from 2018. Thank you to all the artists and designers who allow us to tell your stories! And thank you to everyone for reading. May 2019 be filled with even more beauty.
(P.S. If you’re interested in diving into our archives of annual “bests” those can be found right here.)