Archives for the month of: September, 2010

Sony is recognized as one of the world’s most creative technology companies with a catalog of breakthrough products and technologies to its name: the Triniton TV, Betamax and Betacam video technology, PlayStation, VAIO personal computers, Cybershot digital cameras, Sony Ericsson cell phones, Blu-ray DVD technology, the Compact Disc (with Philips), the MiniDisc format, FeLica IC smart card technology, AIBO the robotic dog and the legendary TR-63 transistor radio. With this line-up, it’s a tough call, but the innovation that made the most significant contribution to the world of personal electronics and the status of Sony is the Walkman®.

Original images – TPS-L2, WM-2 : : copyright Sony Corporation

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It’s no secret that manga is big in Japan. Comics, or graphic novels, cover a dizzying choice of genres and titles and are widely read by people of all ages; young school kids devour the latest Doraemon, teenagers pick up their favorite teen titles at the local combini; young women sit in cafes with their preferred josei manga novels; a young man on the train might be poring over a seinen manga; a middle aged salaryman in the same carriage could be flicking through one of this week’s disposable manga collections. It’s a 400 billion yen – or US$4.75 billion dollar – a year industry that is at the heart of the nation’s influential otaku culture.

Detail of original dōjinshi artwork – akudō yūgi : : copyright 2004 Yuki Yasuhara

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Whereas information media in Japan is generally a case of substance over style, Yugo Nakamura (中村勇吾) uses digital technologies to create playful, dynamic virtual landscapes that connect with users at levels far beyond the interactions fostered though regular websites.

monocrafts utweetecotonoha dropclock
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In the world of fashion, COMME des GARÇONS (コム・デ・ギャルソン) is unique: having recently celebrated its fortieth year in business, it remains one of the world’s most avant-garde fashion houses and continues to innovate in its approach to the design, marketing and selling of its creations: like its brilliant creator Rei Kawakubo (川久保 玲), it lives by its own rules.

comme des garcons aoyama

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One of the joys of wandering through Tokyo’s stores is coming across products that make you pause to reflect or smile. They’re usually small, simple items, often colorful, their use sometimes questionable, but they plug into the Japanese sense of kawaii or cuteness and illustrate the refined aesthetic sensibility of this culture, where the smallest details and the most humble objects are considered worthy of thought and effort. In Japan, design often has a sense of playfulness about it, and products designed from this perspective enrich the most mundane tasks.

Since 2002, the Tokyo based design firm h concept inc has been creating such products in collaboration with various local designers under their +d. label. The catalog consists of modest everyday items for the home or office, small compact products that re-imagine forgettable things such as shoe horns and slippers, soap holders and soup ladles. This post looks at four humble products that show design brilliance but don’t take themselves too seriously.

cupmen 2 nekko

tube splash mini

All original photos : : copyright h concept inc

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Capturing the current zeitgeist in Japan, a mood of more restrained consumerism and environmental awareness, RAGTAG is a recycle store brand that has made thrift store shopping cool. Operating across the country, it offers excellent merchandise in stylish surroundings, selling – and buying – often barely used fashionable clothes and accessories as well as select interior items at some surprisingly affordable prices.

rt ginza

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Omotesando Hills is by Tokyo standards a boutique shopping mall, but its stylish design and fashionable location makes it one of the city’s better shopping experiences. The center on Omotesando is also a case study in the city’s approach to urban renewal.

Omotesando dori is perhaps Tokyo’s most elegant thoroughfare and it’s sometimes referred to as the city’s Champs-Élysées, connecting the funky fashion district of Harajuku with the refined shopping area that is Aoyama. It was created in 1920 to serve as a route to Harajuku’s Meiji Jingu and is distinguished by the rows of leafy zelkova trees that flank the wide avenue. The Omotesando Hills complex, which opened in 2005, straddles the informal boundary between Harajuku and Aoyama, its six levels evenly divided above and below ground level.

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