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Japanese Designer New Year’s Cards of 2023

Welcome to the frolicking year of the rabbit! We love all of Japan’s quaint traditions around New Year’s: eating toshi-koshi soba on New Year’s Eve, having ozoni on New Year’s morning, visiting a temple or shrine for hatsumode. Well, we have a tradition of our own: admiring New Year’s cards (nangajo) created by some of our favorite Japanese artists and designers.

From anime and printmaking to minimal geometric and animated, enjoy all the different art styles of rabbits, mochi and moons.

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Hotamet is an Environmentally Friendly Helmet Made From Leftover Scallop Shells

Scallop shells, or any seashells for that matter, are intended to protect their inhabitants from predators. Using biomimicry along with a sustainable design process, a team of researchers and designers in Japan have created a helmet to protect human lives that’s made out of discarded scallop shells. The resulting product is not only better for the environment but is also more durable and lighter than conventional plastic helmets.

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Spoon & Tamago’s Most-Popular Posts of 2022

As we wind down our 15th (!) year of blogging, we embark on our annual exercise of ranking our most popular posts based on viewership. It’s always fun and interesting to see what captivated readers the most. Ever since our beginnings we’ve made a point of providing our readers with eclectic coverage of Japan that shys away from sensationalism. From mundane halloween costumes and cool visual tricks to matchbooks and cat cafe, we hope we’ve been able to add a little bit of beauty and insight into your daily lives by delivering stories about Japan through an art & design lens.

But enough from us. Happy holidays to everyone and here are our top 10 articles of 2022:

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Our Favorite Tokyo Designer Christmas Trees of 2022

If you’re doing some last-minute Christmas shopping in Tokyo, try and swing by some of these locations where you’ll find the best seasonal yet unorthodox designer Christmas trees. Happy Holidays!

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Creative Use of Perspective Turns Corridors into Christmas Trees

Apropos of nothing, other than the fact that this is December, we wanted to share one of our favorite holiday advertising campaigns. This one is by art director Yuni Yoshida, who applied a creative use of perspective to transform a green stairway and a red hallway into Christmas Trees.

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New Timber Takahama Cafe Offers Views of the Tottori Sand Dunes

unless otherwise noted, all images © Kawasumi-Kobayashi Kenji Photograph Office, courtesy Kengo Kuma Architects

If you’re headed to see the Tottori Sand Dunes, be sure to stop by the newly opened Takahama Cafe, a dramatic, timber structure that recently opened. Part cafe and part observation deck, the cafe was designed by architect Kengo Kuma and offers spectacular views of the Tottori Sand Dunes.

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A Museum Dedicated to Mistranslated Japanese Phrases

Anyone who has been to Japan has undoubtedly encountered the mistranslated phrase. Robotic translator gone awry? Translation job outsourced to intern who took a semester of English? Whatever the reason, these mistranslations have offered endless chuckles but are also a reminder of the nuances of language and how difficult it can be to accurately capture true meaning. So instead of scolding, this museum celebrates these mistakes, positioning them as valuable stepping stones in acquiring a new language.

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The 2022 Spoon & Tamago Gift Guide

Sometimes, particularly during the holidays, we can get so swept away in the deals and the promotions that we forget what the act of gift-giving is really about. At its core, gifting allows us to show appreciation and admiration to those who helped and supported us throughout the year. The beautiful thing is that the emphasis is not on the gift itself, but rather the act of giving. The value of the gift is of less importance than the intention and thoughtfulness in which it is presented.

2022 was a year for reuniting. The pandemic is slowly waning and Japan finally reopened its borders. We were able to travel back to Japan over the summer and visit family and friends we hadn’t seen in years. We also were able to rekindle our relationships with many of Japan’s independent makers and artisans, experiences which informed this year’s gift guide, which is all about hospitality, appreciation and admiration.

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Gato Mikio Has Been Preserving the Art of Hand-Turned Woodwork for Over 100 Years

Gato Mikio was founded in 1908 in Yamanaka Hot Spring, a town famed for wood turning. Following the intentions and spirit of the original kijishi wood-turners, the company has dedicated itself to preserving the craft of woodwork and lacquerware by creating timeless and functional tableware that accentuates the beauty of natural wood.

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A Temporary Floating Forest Will Replace Fukuoka’s Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine During Renovations

renderings of the temporary shrine set to replace the main hall from May 2023 – May 2026 | images courtesy Sou Fujimoto Architects

Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, one of Japan’s most-historically and culturally significant shrines, will undergo a massive renovation beginning in May of 2023. And for three years the honden main hall will be completely closed off to the roughly 10 million visitors who come to the shrine each year. So plans were made to create a temporary hall of worship and it was architect Sou Fujimoto who was selected for his use of blending nature with architecture.

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