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The History of Animal Escape Drills at Japanese Zoos

Zoos are home to dangerous animals and for this reason they have a moral and legal obligation to protect the community and visitors. All zoos carry out semi-annual training in response to various animal escape scenarios. But zoos in Japan often take their drills a step further, staging elaborate dry runs by using costumed zookeepers as fugitive animals. The skits can seem silly at times but are rooted in an alarming, real-life incident that took place in Tokyo almost 90 years ago.

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Water-Activated Calligraphy Makes Shodo More Accessible

It is said that ‘Shodo’, the art of kanji calligraphy, was brought from China to Japan during the Asuka Period (538 – 710 AD). It was considered an essential part of education amongst samurai and aristocrats. And now it is an artform limited to professionals. Like painting, it also requires a bunch of tools, endless practice and is typically a messy affair. Hanakosumi’s range of ‘Water Activated Paper’ addresses some these issues, making Shodo more convenient.

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RAKKU’s New Jacket is a Wearable Bag

Rakku’ is a project initiated to revolutionize the mundane and tiring work culture. The word ‘Rakku (楽)’ means ‘Comfort’ in Japanese and the project’s objective is to question the current way of working, contemplating what really is necessary and also delving into new possibilities of doing the very same things in a relaxed, fun yet efficient way. Hence the motto ‘Work freely, fun and easy.’ 

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Graphic Design Kamishibai Tell Visual Fairytales

“Snow White” retold using only graphic symbols

The kamishibai (literally “paper play”) is a Japanese form of storytelling that involved a narrator using illustrated paper boards to tell stories. As the story would progress, a new board would replace the previous board, propelling the story forward. This concept served as the inspiration for graphic designer Katsuhiko Shibuya and his class of students at Joshibi University of Art and Design. The task, however, was to deconstruct fairy tales even further using only graphic symbols.

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Interiors for ONIBUS Coffee Made From Discarded Wood and Beans

images ©Katsuhiro Aoki

Onibus Coffee has brewed up their first location outside Tokyo. Designed by Torafu Architects and located in Nasu, Tochigi, the coffee shop joins Good News Neighbors, a group of environmentally conscious businesses.The idea was to establish the coffee brand’s identity while blending in with the surrounding neighbourhood and nature. 

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A Spoon & Tamago Guide to Ishikawa Prefecture

this post was sponsored by the Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Just quick ride from Tokyo aboard a speedy Kagayaki 505 bullet train, Ishikawa Prefecture is a hidden gem among popular tourist destinations across Japan. Offering a host of ancient gardens, historic temples, delectable dining, and exposure to artisanal crafts, towns like Kanazawa, Kaga, and Komatsu offer a rare glimpse at uncompromising beauty and tradition that spans centuries. We chose to visit Ishikawa in the fall, just as the maple and cherry trees turned a fiery red that formed a sumptuous backdrop to our daily explorations. 

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Artist Hikari Asano Experiments with Traditional Japanese Rooms By Spinning a Kotatsu

”marui chikyu no moyogae” / 丸い地球の模様替え (2023) by Hikari Asano

Artist Hikari Asano is currently a graduate student at Tokyo University of the Arts. Over the years, she’s developed a practice of experimenting with washitsu, or traditional Japanese rooms, in surreal and unexpecting ways. As part of her graduating thesis project, she’s created a tatami mat base and kotatsu that spins in the air like a child-propelled merry-go-round.

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Marc Newson’s New Tokyo Toilet Takes Cues from Vernacular Tea Houses

images ©Satoshi Nagare courtesy Nippon Foundation

Joining the likes of Architects Tadao Ando, Fumihiko Maki, Shigeru Ban and many other renowned names,  Marc Newson’s Toilet is the latest addition to the Nippon Foundation’s Tokyo Toilet Project in the hip neighbourhood of Shibuya. It is the only one to be contributed by a designer based outside Japan.

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Tofu Specialty Shop Hirakawaya’s New Restaurant in Takeo Onsen

unless otherwise noted all photos by Ben Richards courtesy Keiji Ashizawa Architects

Hirakawaya is a tofu restaurant that has been serving a local specialty for over 60 years. Known as onsen tofu, the dish (as the name implies) is cooked and served in pristine, mineral-rich water sourced from onsen, or natural hot springs. Their new, stylish space located in front of the historical tower gate of Takeo Onsen is a perfect place to enjoy this staple from Saga prefecture.

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Wearable Bean Bag Pillow from Japanese Brand Hanalolo Let’s You Rest Anytime, Anywhere

Are you like us and finding yourself perpetually tired, in need of quick naps and rests several times a day? Well then you’re in luck because we have the perfect attire for you. Meet the wearable bean bag pillow. Is it comfortable? Yes. Cozy? Sure. Will it make you look ridiculous? Absolutely.

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