Archives for category: design

Tokyo: a vast city, with so many things to see; so much to do. What follows is one of dozens of possible “best of” to do lists for this city. Individually, these places and experiences offer glimpses of Tokyo’s unique culture; taken as a whole, they should provide a multi-faceted view of the city to a first-time visitor.

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A few words of praise: Congratulations to the Japanese athletes who helped Japan achieve its highest ever Olympics medal tally in London. おめでとうございます。

Now that the XXX Olympiad – or London 2012 – has come to a close and the torch passed to Brazil for 2016, the push to secure the rights for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games will no doubt intensify.

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One of the enduring postcard images of Japan is of a snowcapped Mount Fuji dominating the background, while a sleek, white bullet train cuts through the frame. The shinkansen, as it’s known in its homeland, is not only the sexiest train set out there; its serpentine silhouette cutting a futuristic path through the landscapes it traverses, it is the quintessentially iconic image of Japanese design and engineering ingenuity.

Original images : : copyright fuji train : mega-tapety.info; bullet : oimax @ flickr.

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Original images copyright – clockwise from top left :: visvim 2011; limi feu 2009; matohu 2009; phenomenon 2011

To the casual observer wandering through Shibuya or Shinjuku, it would appear that Tokyo’s fashion culture comprises the global chain store brands that dominate the area’s landscape: H&M, Forever 21, Bershka, Topshop, Zara and Gap. These, in addition to the country’s own mass-market fast fashion chains, Comme ça du mode, Uniqlo, Muji, and fashion labels like Paul Smith, Takeo Kikuchi and the boutiques of OIOI, seem worlds away from the avant-garde heyday of Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and co.

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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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TeamLab, チームラボ, is a Tokyo based group, headed by Toshiyuki Inoko, that works in a variety of spaces, from conceptual installation art, through video and web technologies to industrial design. The group reconceptualizes commonplace objects as well as traditional forms and cultural expressions to create pieces that are at times quirky, beautiful and  inspired.

All original images : : copyright Teamlab Inc

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Issey Miyake is one of the holy trinity of Japanese fashion design. Along with Rei Kawakubo, founder of COMME des GARÇONS, and Yohji Yamamoto, Miyake was instrumental in reinvigorating the global fashion scene in the 1980s with clothing that helped to create an avant-garde fashion identity that was uniquely Japanese. Miyake, however, is no ordinary fashion designer. Business considerations aside, he approached clothing as a sculptor, shaping fabric through traditional techniques and employing methods that are technologically innovative to create clothing that is as much art as fashion.

 

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A photographer in Tokyo will never struggle to find an arresting sight or interesting composition to shoot. The photos in this post focus on architecture, in particular the shapes, lines and perspectives that form the building blocks and syntax of the buildings and other structures in the cityscape: cubes, planes, pipes, grids, triangles, cones and ellipses. For a bit of fun, and to add drama and emphasis to the images’ shapes, all the photos have been given the lo-fi treatment with various photo enhancement apps. 

torii : shinjuku

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Tokyo’s once seedy Roppongi district was changed dramatically upon the opening of the upmarket Mori center in 2003, which is not far from Roppongi subway station and has at its centerpiece the 54 level Mori Tower which houses the Mori Arts Center and Museum. At about the same time, ideas were cemented for what was to become the Art Triangle precinct in the Roppongi area. In 2007 the Midtown complex and the National Art Center Tokyo formed the second and third points of the triangle, with the Suntory Muesum of Art and the 21_21 Design Sight in the parklands of the Midtown complex and the NACT by Aoyama Park and Cemetary.

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The thing about Nendo is that it’s not easy to categorize. Oki Sato’s design practice has been prolific in various disciplines since he established his practice on graduation. The Nendo website is a catalog of the firm’s eclectic output: whimsical, inspired, unorthodox and unpredictable work that, this year alone, has seen Sato and his colleagues design, among other things, computer mice for Elecom, hinoki wooden music boxes for Isetan, an urbane picnic box for Ruinart, the interior design for PUMA House Tokyo, an installation and graphics for a retrospective exhibition of work by milliner Akio Hirata, an installation of Bohemian glass for the Salone in Milan, an exhibition of ‘dancing’ geometric furniture pieces for Singapore’s Art Stage conceptual carbon fiber furniture pieces for Atlanta’s High Museum, a wire frame chair for Cappellini, a series of mirrored circular tables for Moroso, cork based dining accessories for Materia and a rolled steel pendant lamp for Foscarini.

The work of Nendo cuts across architecture and interior design, through furniture and product designs for home and office to graphics, conceptual installations and exhibitions and in their creation, founder Oki Sato and his associates are constantly thinking outside the box. 

All images : : copyright Nendo

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