Archives for the month of: November, 2011

Yayoi Kusama is an original. Born in 1929, her career as an artist spans six decades, two continents, various seminal art movements, painting, sculpture, installations, fashion, film, performance art, text and one recurring motif: the dot.

Original image : : copyright Yayoi Kusama

Polka-dots become movement … Polka dots are a way to infinity.
Yayoi Kusama 1978

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Hygiene. In Japan great emphasis is placed on cleanliness and hygiene. It’s evident everywhere and is infused in the culture and psyche of the Japanese. In the public bathouses and the onsen, bathers lather up and scrub their skin interminably before joining their fellow bathers in the pools. On the streets, cold and allergy sufferers don disposable surgical masks in consideration of those around them. Restaurants provide diners with hot or chilled oshibori hand towels – even cheap food outlets have synthetic plastic wrapped moist towels on the tables – for wiping their hands, and chopsticks are still predominantly wooden, disposable and sheathed in paper. 

In the home, outdoor shoes are forbidden beyond the genkan, or entry hall; residents go barefoot, wear socks or slip into house slippers, while visitors are also provided with slippers to wear (Deliverymen are very adept at shedding shoes while lugging TVs and washing machines indoors). Moving outside to the balcony will also be accompanied by a change of footwear, just as a visit to the toilet means swapping house slippers for toilet slippers. 

As for toilets, the Japanese have designed the most sophisticated device on the planet: the Washlet.

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From camera obscura and Daguerrotype to Instagram and Lytro’s light field photography, photography has come a long way and the Japanese brands have been integral in its development, helping to shape the evolution of photography and its technologies. 

The infatuation with photography has grown stronger as the technology has advanced – with plenty of help from local companies such as Nikon, Canon, Konica, Minolta, Fujifilm, Sony, Panasonic and Olympus. The caricature of camera-wielding Japanese is for the most part an accurate depiction: from the enthusiast retirees decked out with their state of the art telephoto lens kits and the vacationing tour groups snapping away at foreign landmarks with their gleaming compact cameras to the schoolgirls who frequent the purikura photo sticker booths or share cell phone snapshots with their friends.

Canon EOS 60D; Nikon D40X; Sony NEX-5N; Fujifilm FinePix X100 : : all original images copyright of their respective companies.

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As in most other areas, the packaged foods business in Japan operates according to its own concepts of how things should be. It’s evidenced in the banks of vending machines that adorn most any streetscape and provide convenient, 24 hour access to drinks, mostly, other consumables and a few more interesting products. It underpins the delivery strategy of 7-11 and its convenience store competitors, to which fleets of small vans deliver freshly prepared meals and snacks to city outlets several times a day, guaranteeing customers fresh take-out food. It’s in the packaging design on store shelves, exemplified by tubs of yoghurt that contain a folding plastic spoon concealed within the lid or onigiri with origami-like peel-away wrapping that separates the nori shell from the rice to maintain its crispness. And it’s expressed in the service, of, for instance, depato food hall staff, who add dry ice to your purchase of yoghurt or ice cream so that it won’t spoil before you get it home.

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