Sonia Rykiel opens library-themed store in Aoyama, Tokyo

Written by: William on May 15, 2015 at 9:02 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Sonia Rykiel has opened a new store in Aoyama, the designer fashion district of central Tokyo. Located at the former Jil Sander Navy flagship address, the shop features a unique interior with striking red fittings and floor-to-ceiling bookcases.

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

The Japan branch is part of a global campaign. The designer’s flagship store in Paris recently featured 50,000 books as a pop-up makeover themed on the history of the Left Bank. A similar theme is going to transform the London store in May.

In partnership with artistic director Julie de Libran, publisher Thomas Lenthal and artist André Saraïva, the launch is to present the Sonia Rykiel autumn-winter 2015 collection.

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

The two-floor, 165-square-meter Tokyo location features a carpet with artwork by Saraïva, as well as an exclusive fragrance created especially by Daniela Andrier.

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

sonia rykiel tokyo aoyama store pop-up library book bookshelves shop

The new Sonia Rykiel boutique can be found at 5-2-12 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku.

We’ve seen a growing interest in bibliophilic spaces in Tokyo.

Bookstore Junkudo began to offer special overnight stays for bookworms in 2014, while Mori no Toshi Shitsu is a book-themed bar in Shibuya that opened last year.

And although it’s now long-closed, Nakameguro was once home to Combine, a kind of hipster book lounge bar-cafe, for many years.

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A different kind of soft power: Japanese toilets and lavatory technology heading overseas

Written by: William on May 14, 2015 at 1:22 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The Japanese government has faith in soft power, hence all the “cool Japan” campaigns.

This might be J-Pop. It might be anime. It might be cuisine.

But there’s another unusual source of “cool” in Japan — toilets.

toto washlet hi-tech toilet technology japan

While the actual “Japanese” toilets (i.e. squat toilets) as they were originally designed are slowly disappearing except for some unfortunate train stations or far-flung corners of the land, makers like Toto have impressed the world and gone viral with their successful toilet technology innovations… like the talking toilet, the heated seat, the Otohime modesty sound blocker, and more.

The Japanese household toilet is as much an awesome part of what makes Japanese homes so different as tatami mats, sliding doors and futons. And the Japanese take them seriously. Junichiro Tanizaki waxed lyrical about the Japanese toilet in In Praise of Shadows, while a major toilet-themed exhibition at the Miraikan last year saw lines of kids with poop-shaped hats on climb into a giant toilet bowl. We are not kidding about that last one.

gallery toto narita airport toilet showroom dytham klein

Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham recently created Gallery Toto, a toilet “digital gallery” showroom at Narita Airport to demonstrate the wonders of the Japanese privy.

It’s perhaps no surprise that Toto is one of the exhibitors at Tokyo Designers Week.

According to news reports, the government wants to help Japan’s eco-friendly, forward-thinking toilet makers:

The government will support firms and organizations in the industries to obtain an international standard for household and similar electrical appliances certified by the International Electrotechnical Commission to boost the export of toilet products, including those equipped with warm-water spray options, according to the sources. It also plans to establish a system by the end of this fiscal year that would reward efforts to keep restrooms neat and clean.

Apparently wealthy Chinese tourists have taken an interest in Japanese toilets, with their multiple spray options and functions.

Toto, which is nearly 100 years old, makes one fifth of its sales overseas. A surge in Chinese wealth has finally seen it make profit in the market.

Could Toto et al be the answer to thawing the icy relations between China and Japan? Yes, toilet diplomacy could be a “thing”.

The Toto Washlet has been a multi-million-seller since it was introduced in 1982 and some 70% of Japanese households possess a toilet or toilet seat with enhanced functionality — on par with market penetration of computers and digital cameras.

Perhaps some day soon in the future, just as so many people now drive a Japanese automobile, most people may be sitting down on a Japanese toilet whenever nature calls.

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fukutegami turns clothes into a letter

Written by: William on May 13, 2015 at 9:08 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

Turn your clothes into letters to be sent in the mail. That’s what fukutegami does.

The clever concept was launched on the crowdfunding platform Readyfor? and cleared its target of ¥550,000 ($4,500). Now it’s going to be send out to the funders in mid-June and eventually will be a regular product sold online or in shops.

fukutegami clothes white shirt send mail post item letter japanese keio masako yokoi

With fukutegami you write a “letter” directly onto the clothes (the name itself is a play on the words fuku — clothes — and tegami, letter), fold the clothes into an “envelope”, and then send it to someone in the mail. In these days of digital communication (how many school students today have actually even handwritten and sent a physical letter?!) it stands out as a great way to show someone you care.

fukutegami clothes white shirt send mail post item letter japanese keio masako yokoi

You write onto the “letter” space on the inside of the clothes, so your private message to the receiver is not shown on the outside. Wash the clothes and words will disappear, thanks to the qualities of the textiles. The clothes are designed to be folded into an “envelope”-like shape, and with a space to write the address and add the stamp. The set includes a pen and even a stamp.

fukutegami clothes white shirt send mail post item letter japanese keio masako yokoi

The unique product doesn’t come cheap, though, planning to retail for around ¥12,000 ($100).

It works best with a plain white shirt, since that most resembles letter paper. But the design can be adjusted for different colors and different types of clothing.

fukutegami clothes white shirt send mail post item letter japanese keio masako yokoi

It was developed by a media design grad student at Keio University. Masako Yokoi previously honed her idea through workshops and regional versions. Then she turned to crowdfunding to make it happen as a general product.

fukutegami clothes white shirt send mail post item letter japanese keio masako yokoi

It is being made in partnership with three factories in Iwate, Kyoto and Osaka.

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Tokujin Yoshioka’s “Kou-an Glass Tea House” on show to public in Kyoto temple

Written by: William on April 8, 2015 at 8:42 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Tokujin Yoshioka is one of Japan’s most famous and popular designers, known for his use of transparent materials.

“Kou-an Glass Tea House” started life as a small-scale model at Glasstress 2011 at the 54th Venice Biennale.

Now a full-scale reproduction of the glass teahouse is on display at a temple in Japan.

tokujin yoshioka kou-an temple kyoto seiryuden shonen-in glass tea house transparent

Kansai Art Beat has more on the event:

Yoshioka has been interested in the Japanese conception of nature which is characterized by its distinctive spacial perception that involves the sensory realization of the surrounding atmosphere through what may be described as signs of energies or aura. Such a sensual appreciation of nature’s intrinsics and beauty can be recognized in Japanese tea ceremony practice.

Until April 30th, 2016 visitors can experience Yoshioka’s work at Seiryu-den, which is part of Shoren-in Temple.

tokujin yoshioka kou-an temple kyoto seiryuden shonen-in glass tea house transparent

The tea house has been installed on a platform 220 meters (721 ft) above ground, offering a stunning view of the old capital.

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Kenchiku Soko (Architecture Warehouse): Japan’s first architecture model museum

Written by: William on March 13, 2015 at 8:40 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Japan’s first architecture model museum is opening this summer.

It is set to open as a museum in August, though will begin operating from April. Applications for architecture scale model exhibits are now open.

terrada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

As well as serving as a de facto classroom for students of Japanese architecture hungry for case studies, the museum will also function as a sort of showroom for architects, since it can act as a sales agent for the models.

The “depot” offers five types of service: storage of models; exhibition to the general public through permanent and temporary exhibitions; sales to art museums and collectors; collecting and archiving, so models can be loaned to other museums and exhibitions; and education, being a venue for talks, lectures and workshops.

terrada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terrada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

The tentatively named Kenchiku Soko (Architecture Warehouse) will be housed in the ground floor of Terrada Warehouse in the Shinagawa area. The closest station is Tennozu Isle.

terrada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terrada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

terada warehouse depot architecture model museum japan tokyo kenchiku soko

Facilities include 120 shelves measuring 3.8 meters tall and 1.5 meters wide.

[Images: Openers]

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Shonan T-Site: Tsutaya’s new chic retail complex in surfer town

Written by: William on January 8, 2015 at 9:03 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

After wowing hipsters the world over with the first T-Site in Tokyo’s upmarket Daikanyama district three years ago, Tsutaya continues its quest to stop being the Blockbuster of Japan and be taken seriously as a sophisticated retailer: Shonan T-Site opened in mid-December, a complex of over 30 stores.

Like its Tokyo predecessor, the new T-Site in the beach resort area of Shonan, some 50km from the capital, is sleek and curated, with an uber-hip bookstore, restaurants, cafes, an Apple reseller, and even a posh FamilyMart convenience store. The same design team, led by architecture studio Klein Dytham, is behind the latest addition to Culture Convenience Club’s money-spinners.

Mark Dytham told The Japan Times: “The goal of the space is, as Tsutaya puts it, ‘cultural navigation.’ In an era when you can get everything online, what’s the point of shopping? I have 13 million Spotify tracks on my phone but don’t know what to play. Virtually everything is available on Amazon. The T-Site projects give you something you cannot get online: curation and concierges who know intimately about which section they oversee, whether it’s cars, food, travel, design, photography, fashion.”

shonan t-site tsutaya

So the white cubes from the Daikanyama complex are still here, along with the range of curated retail options. What is different is the location, of course, since Shonan is a beach area full of surfing and sun. That said, the money is still there, since Shonan is a plush area home to the well-to-do who can afford the long commute to Tokyo (think the elite families who gave us the taiyo-zoku in the 1950’s), and Tokyoites with second homes in the peninsula.

Shonan T-Site is actually part of something bigger and quite exciting — Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (FSST), a model town for the future being developed by Panasonic.

As Panasonic puts it: “[Shonan T-Site is] not a site just for selling products. It’s a base for inspiring residents and visitors to the Shonan area, nurturing new lifestyles, and making this lifestyle known to people outside the town. Lifestyles born in the town called Fujisawa SST have great potential to affect lifestyles in Japan, and furthermore, in the world.”

You can grab a coffee at the customized designer Starbucks or indulge in some designing of yourself since, following in the craze arguably started by the likes of Fab Cafe in Shibuya, you can use 3D printers and laser cutters in the upstairs lounge area, or even try out Panasonic home appliances in a special tryvertising space called Square Lab Ferment.

The Daikanyama complex was touted as an attempt to meet the retail needs for middle-aged or older moneyed urbanites in search of experiences worthy of Daikanyama — quiet, curated, expensive. That said, its demographic is always mixed, full of younger couples on dates in Daikanyama, though they may not necessarily make a purchase.

Shonan has some of this too, since the population is older and life is slower, but there are also plenty of young visitors in the summer, who may want to combine a trip to Enoshima beach with some browsing at T-Site. Look for it to get busier as the weather get warmer.

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Font-inspired eyewear brand Type launches new Din and Futura models

Written by: William on December 9, 2014 at 9:37 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

When Wieden + Kennedy Tokyo released Type at the start of the year it got a lot of buzz from both eyewear lovers and typeface fans. Japanese typology design is respected around the world and its eyewear brands are very innovative, as we frequently report on this blog.

What Type did that was so awesome was take the Garamond and Helvetica fonts and actually use them as the design motif.

The resulting eyewear range integrated the look of the actual fonts into the design of the spectacles themselves.

There were three weights — light, regular or bold — and three colors (clear, black or tortoise).

Now they have launched two more lines based on a pair of new fonts — Din and Futura.

type font design eyewear japan din futura

The name, Type, is a play on its meaning as “font” but also as in “character”, that is, you are the kind of glasses you wear.

The concept says:

You are a character. You have a voice and a style. You’re straight or you’re odd. You’re classic or complicated or light or clunky or simple. And you are what you are and that’s good. Because that makes your type the type we like.

type font design eyewear japan din futura

Din is a German font from the 1930’s (the name stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung) and can be found on manhole covers in Germany. It is a polished, neutral design that lends itself to a variety of utilities. Futura, on the other hand, featured on German Deutschmark bank notes. The modern-looking font is rounder and is a common sight in brand logos.

din type eyewear glasses japan

futura bold type eyewear glasses japan

Like the previous line-up, the new Type font eyewear is available from Oh My Glasses and also Shibuya Loft.

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Sushi Socks turn feet into raw fish

Written by: Japan Trends on December 8, 2014 at 9:24 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Here’s a great Christmas gift idea and it likely doesn’t get more Japanese than this.

Turn your feet into raw fish now with the Sushi Socks.

sushi socks raw fish food footwear

While the tattoo tights street fashion is sadly on the wane and the tattoo armbands never really exploded like we hoped, perhaps it’s time to go back the basics.

And you can’t find a more iconic Japanese food than sushi.

sushi socks raw fish food footwear

sushi socks raw fish food footwear

This colorful leg wear fit almost all sizes and are based on actual popular sushi dishes.

JapanTrendShop is offering a set of six, kind of like when you get a mori-awase platter in a sushi restaurant. They can be folded up to look like pairs of sushi on a plate, the white part of the sock looking like the rice, while the “fish” being the colored patterns.

There’s salmon, tuna, octopus, shrimp, and red caviar in this set, each with the name of the sushi dish written in Japanese on the sock.

sushi socks raw fish food footwear

sushi socks raw fish food footwear

sushi socks raw fish food footwear

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Citizen “Light is Time” at Spiral transforms watch parts into glittering art installation

Written by: William on December 1, 2014 at 8:01 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

No, those are not stars in a planetarium. They are watch parts.

Spiral’s trademark atrium space was transformed by Citizen into “Light is Time”, a special installation that saw countless watch parts suspended by wires and shimmering in the shifting light.

citizen light is time spiral garden installation watch parts installation milan

citizen light is time spiral garden installation watch parts installation milan

The Aoyama space was packed with Tokyoites understandably desperate to see the mechanical parts become art. There were 80,000 main gold plates, the basic component of a watch, glittering in the atrium (and making it hard for those smartphones to focus).

citizen light is time spiral garden installation watch parts installation milan

citizen light is time spiral garden installation watch parts installation milan

The epicenter of the installation was an old silver 1920’s pocket watch, the origin of Citizen’s monozuri.

The installation also featured a central projection on the floor of the inner workings of a timepiece, plus videos showing close-ups of the intricate work Citizen does to create its watches.

citizen light is time spiral garden installation watch parts installation milan

Created by architect Tsuyoshi Tane (DGT) and technical director Yutaka Endo (Luftzug), “Light is Time” ran at Spiral Garden from November 14th to November 28th, after having first wowed crowds at the Milan Design Weeek 2014.

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