It’s an annual tradition at casa Spoon & Tamago to reflect on the year that was by taking a look back at the posts that resonated the most with our readers. In doing so, we try to make sense of the year which, for Japan, was very much a year of homecoming. Japan felt like *the* place to be this year. Tourism came back strong but Japan’s soft power was also on full display with popular films and anime doing remarkably well with viewers outside Japan, both at the box office and on streaming platforms. With that quick backdrop, let’s check out which posts our readers enjoyed the most this year.
Gaku Yamazaki, a 21-year old college senior, spends his spare time traversing Japan in search of what he has dubbed ikei-yajirushi, or ‘unusual arrows.’ There are thousands of these abnormal road signs dotted across Japan and while drivers might find them confusing or even annoying, Yamazaki has developed a certain affection for them, particularly towards the more bizarre ones.
Trains are an integral part of daily life in Japan, supporting commutes, errands and all other forms of daily life. And while their existence can be taken for granted, their many forms and colors add to the uniqueness of each neighborhood they traverse. Capturing the scenery of the city and the warmth of trains lines that envelop them throughout the seasons is street-walking illustrator Shinjiro Ogawa.
Coming in 3rd was an intersection of two of our favorite things: coffee and art. Japan’s numerous museums offer a little bit of everything. Whether it’s cutting edge, contemporary art in Tokyo or a tiny museum in the countryside dedicated to a single sculptor, seeking them out is always rewarding. What’s also rewarding is the calm break at the museum cafe. We present to you, a few of our favorite museum cafes. And whether they’re in Tokyo or beyond, each is definitely worth the visit.
At the risk of spoiling our most-popular article, it was really interesting (and fulfilling) seeing which articles came in first and second. Both are similar in that they combine Japanese soft power with traditional craftsmanship, which is something we’ve always tried to highlight and elevate. With that said, our second most-popular article was Studio Ghibli bringing a lineup of Totoro collectibles to the market, in collaboration with some of the best craftsmen from around Japan. The collection comprises Totoro figures, paper treasure boxes, flower vases, plates, handkerchiefs, and furoshikis (traditional wrapping cloth), teleporting children to the world of Ghibli through role playing goodies.
Earlier this year, an exhibition opened in Kanazawa featuring over 20 artisans working across multiple disciplines and ranging in age from young to Living National Treasure. But rather than tea bowls and lacquerware, they had created unique interpretations of Pokemon. Admittedly, it initially sounded kitschy to us but after seeing the caliber of the work on display we immediately wrote a glowing review of the show.