Lanterns in Japan are called chochin and are featured on the front of most izakaya restaurants, as well as shrines. There is a famously huge one, for example, at Kaminarimon (“Thunder Gate”) in Asakusa, Tokyo.
Typically they are red and decorated with the name of the restaurant/temple, and sometimes the type of food being served.
You can also see white or other colored lanterns at shrines and temples, often decorated with the name of the local business that sponsored them.
Meanwhile, a great scheme to increase the consumption of Japan-grown ingredients has seen green lanterns (midori chochin) hanging from the entrance to some izakaya, with stars to indicate how much of their produce comes from local suppliers and farmers.
Well, here’s another smart way to use Japanese lanterns by GOES Inc, this time with traffic signals.
With the Japanese Lantern Signal, now pedestrians can cross the road with a bit of Edo chic.
The designers say that if you mistake the light for a regular izakaya chochin, then you’re already too drunk and it’s time to go home!
On another note, we’ve always loved how traffic signals in Japan feature men with hats. Even the symbol for a pedestrian is a salaryman!
The idea is that each girl showcases a pair of headphones that represents her style and look, along with the song they are listening to. Needless to say, the girls are on the cute side.
Headphone makers and series include Sony, Pioneer, Mix Style, Zumreed and more.
You can then preview the track choices by jumping to iTunes.
The media is a side project by Kubrick Design and has featured over 100 models, amateur and pro. It has also been exhibited a few times in Tokyo as well.
Headphones in Japan, perhaps more so than other places, are a design and fashion choice as much as an audio one.
A website like Tokyo Headphone Girls is playing up to this — these headphones tell you something about the girls and their personalities. They also mostly (and rather endearingly) seem to fall into a certain kind of demographic, what I nickname “cafe girls”, the laissez-faire young ladies you can find populating or working at the cafes of Harajuku, Aoyama, Shimokitazawa, Shibuya et al.
Unfortunately, music taste being perhaps even more defining than fashion accessories, you may find yourself disappointed just as much as you are charmed by the headphone girls. Um, Savage Garden anyone?
Nano Nano is a series of micro character toys and models made from miniature electronic parts and other metal objects.
Designed by Kouichi Miyajima and created in his atelier, they are sold as phone straps — Japanese people typically have something dangling from their device — but could also sit happily just on a shelf or desk.
We love how they mix retro robot motifs with Disney-esque creatures, and with a very original approach to how they are composed.
For example, the bodies might be bits of batteries and there might be little hooks for hands. All the eyes are these large black beads, which in any other situation would be a bit scary but here looks super cute.
Each one being handmade they are obviously also all a bit different, even ones ostensibly with the same design.
Currently on sale at stores at the Tokyo Sky Tree and Roppongi Hills and other specialist shops, this series has developed a bit of a cult following locally.
A couple of models are now available on JapanTrendShop for overseas shipping and no doubt they could deal with any other requests you might have for different models.
Designer dog houses adapted to match the breed of the pooch? Well, it already no secret that the Japanese do love two things — pets and good design — so perhaps this marriage was inevitable. After all, we’ve previously seen this two come spectacularly together to create duck-bill design Oppo Quack dog muzzles.
A group of architects, led by designer maestro Kenya Hara, has proposed a series of special dog homes, each one customized for a particular kind of canine.
Participants in the Architecture for Dogs project include Atelier Bow-Wow, Kazuyo Sejima, Kengo Kuma, Shigeru Ban, Sou Fujimoto and Toyo Ito, and more.
Here’s how Hara himself puts it: “Dogs are people’s partners, living right beside them, but they are also animals that humans, through crossbreeding, have created in multitudes of breeds. Reexamining these close partners with fresh eyes may be a chance to reexamine both human beings themselves and the natural environment.”
Word got out online about the project in November but the website has only just gone live, and it also recently exhibited at the Miami Design District.
From the website dog-owners can download blueprints for the designs, plus instructions and videos for how to construct and customize them for your own pet.
There will be another exhibition, this time in Tokyo, in October 2013, along with a book.
What makes a toy a good toy? Room for sensory discovery, imagination and creativity.
At least, that’s according to designer Makiko Shinoda, whose Playing with Senses Perceptible Chess Game is suggested as a sensory toy for a lifetime.
The chess pieces vary in weight, smell, material, form and texture, and they are made from bee’s wax, ceramic, wood, bronze and aluminum.
Form and function is too standardized in plastic toys and computer games, so Shinoda set out to introduce something new to world of play.
The toy set apparently evolves over time and as the child ages. It can serve as a building block toy for younger kiddies, while the more mature children can progress onto chess games. Players/owners are also encouraged to adapt and customize the way the use the varying pieces.
Shinoda is a Japan-born, Netherlands-trained-and-based designer. Here’s how she describes her work:
The landscape of modern society finds us increasingly disconnected from a rich sensory experience.
Smells, sounds, colours and textures are standardized, categorized and controlled in urban life; thereby eliminating all the subtle nuances and richness that exist in the nature. This contributes to a lack of imagination, communication, and spatial perception.
How can we engage and stimulate our senses in our daily lives? My point of view for design is to create a sensory experience for urban life to develop the nervous system by stimulating the brain through interaction with sensory inputs.
The Japan Sport Council has selcted the winning architect for building the new National Stadium Japan.
There were 46 entries from architects around the world in the first stage, of which 11 were then put forward for the final slection. The jury chair was Tadao Ando, the Japanese architect famed for his use of concrete.
The winner has been announced as Iraq-born and British-based studio, Zaha Hadid Architects. Zaha Hadid beat out other short-listed candidates such as locals Toyo Ito and Pritzker-winners Kazuyo Sejima, and other entries from Germany, Britain, Australia and elswhere.
Hadid has previously won the Pritzker and Stirling prizes, and her sporting facilities include the London Aquatics Centre that was a large part of the recent Summer Olympics in the UK.
As Ando put it, the new stadium has “to establish a dialogue with its physical context, which includes sites such as the Meiji Shrine”.
Will the Hadid stadium be up to the challenge? The concept images as any rate look awesome.
The original stadium of course featured in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, although it is not nearly as well known as the nearby Yoyogi National Gymnasium, designed by Kenzo Tange, and which still graces north Harajuku with its curving roof and featured in background shots of the James Bond film You Only Live Twice.
It is to be built by 2018, in time for hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup (and perhaps another Tokyo Olympics in 2020 if Shintaro Ishihara et al has his way).
There has been a lot of this flag-waving based on Sixties nostalgia recently, from Ishihara’s new party name and logo to now the distinct tone of the stadium competition outline, which claims without a hint of irony that “the construction of the stadium is being undertaken as a national project on a scale unprecedented in this century”.
You could argue that a “national” stadium cannot avoid sounding, well, nationalist, though somehow these words chill: “We want to change Japan. We want to make it new again — a nation that lives each day with its head held hight. But we need a symbol — a symbol the entire nation can take pride in, and enthusiastically support.”
Funny, I thought that was the job of the Emperor, a veritable good ol’ egg if ever there was one and certainly a symbol of sorts for the people.
To our cynical eyes, this project smacks less of sport and design, but, like most similarly large-scale projects at times of national crisis, it feels more like bread and circuses: Distracting the population from all the bad things, namely Fukushima, TEPCO and the ineptitude of the government.
We’ve been a fan of Yuri Suzuki‘s work for a while now.
The Japanese designer is a bit of a globe-trotter, though he is largely based in the UK. He’s also a toughie to pin down. A sound artist? A designer? Okay, then what kind of designer? Product? Music? Or what?
He’s worked with manufacturers as varied (though always innovative and unusual companies) as Maywa Denki and even adult goods brand Tenga.
We first saw his work at the criminally under-the-radar Clear Edition and Gallery space in Tokyo, where his “The Physical Value of Sound” experimented with audio and aural sensations. The exhibits included “Sound Chaser” mini train cars running on rails made up of old records, as well as LP players with multiple arms.
Now he’s continued his odyssey with sound, this time creating a globe that is a spherical record, with grooves representing the outlines of the geographical land mass.
“The Sound of the Earth” literally drags a needle across a vinyl world to conjure up snippets of folk music, national anthems and random sounds.
The recordings are ones that Suzuki has been collecting in his travels over the past few years for a resulting “aural journey around the world in thirty minutes”.
The result is a cultural soundscape.
He has also in the past made a “Tube Map Radio”, a kind of spoof circuit board based on the London Underground map.
This is him with his eccentric “Breakfast Machine”, a sort of Rube Goldberg machine to make toast.
We also once saw Suzuki present at Pecha Kucha night in Tokyo and he’s a funny guy in person too, very “Tokyo designer quirky” but with sensibilities seemingly refined through his international experience.
We recently heard about how one down and out old love hotel got a face lift and a whole new lease of life.
Tokyo Style CC, a company which organizes building renovations, chose a love hotel in Sumidagawa, east Tokyo, for its next project.
If you ever fancied living in a love hotel, Tokyo Style CC is offering customized rooms for you, not mentioned amazing views of the Tokyo Sky Tree.
Love hotels are of course the short-stay places where couples can go for some “rest time”, as it is euphemistically advertised.
Although Shibuya and its “love hotel hill” are likely the most famous for foreigners, there are actually far more hotels in more dubious areas like Nippori.
And despite the whole “east Tokyo boom” courtesy of the Sky Tree, Bakurocho art gallery district et al, these hotels are in poor shape and surely rather uninviting to the younger couples of the capital.
This particular cramped hotel (it’s not named) was in not in any large hotel cluster but just tucked away on a street in Shitamachi. It was all by itself and just a short, tempting distance from Asakusa.
There were few windows but what it lacked in natural light, it made up for in flair, especially its red bath tubs!
The renovation was a big job. Water would leak in when it rained and the whole building needed attention, including the out-dated hot water system.
Tokyo Style CC actually employed a kind of crowdsourcing approach, at least in terms of skills, publicly recruiting artists and designers to paint “something” exciting on the outside wall of the former hotel.
You can see the results below…
The walls have been painted with a pop art “paintbrush strokes” motifs. Each room has been individually designed and now the roof has also been opened up so you can pop up to get a great view of the Sky Tree.
The giveaway “wall of discretion” which masks love hotel entrances has been stylishly half-cut away. And now the main outside wall has some vibrant Roy Lichtenstein-esque colors.
The price for a room? It varies a bit per apartment but the average is currently around ¥70,000 (c.$900) a month.
The contour Coca-Cola bottle has to be one of the most iconic beverage vessels in the world.
But even when something is that established, it doesn’t mean it can’t be given new life sometimes when there is a great concept.
It’s a kind of eco idea fused with classic Japanese artisanship. The bottles will be “up-cycled” from degraded glass contour bottles. After all, Coca-Cola bottles are already collected, cleaned and recycled. But still some of course deteriorate over time and these are the ones that will now be turned into this superb new tableware range, courtesy of Oki Sato and his team at nendo.
Sato says: “We were captivated by the particular greenish-blue tint, fine air bubbles and distortions that are a hallmark of recycled glass, so decided to create simple shapes that would enhance these traits. But we also wanted users to feel a remnant of the distinctive bottle in the new products. Our solution was to create bowls and dishes that retain its distinctive lower shape, as though the top had been sliced off.”
“The dimpling on the bottle base that keeps the bottle from sliding is not ordinarily a strong visual feature, but it’s part of a bottle’s identity nonetheless, and visible to anyone who picks up the bottle to drink. Keeping these ring-shaped dimples on the base of our bowls and plates doesn’t just retain their non-slip quality, but also helps to convey important messages about the way that glass circulates between people as it’s made, used and recycled for further use, and about the connections it makes between people in this process.”
The actual creation of the final products has been entrusted to a small workshop in Aomori in northern Japan, known for its glass craftsmanship utilizing local traditions.
The resulting bowls and dishes are on sale priced from around ¥5,000 ($60) to nearly ¥15,000 (nearly $200). They will be on display as part of Design Tide Tokyo 2012 later this autumn (October 31st to November 4th) and then on sale at highly select stores in the capital in strictly limited numbers.