Japan showcases innovative designs and products

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EVERYDAY objects can be a reflection of a country’s culture and history.  From houseware to stationeries and disaster apparel, the Japan Design Today 100 exhibit showcased the best product designs that express Japanese sensibilities and stories during the post-war period to present time.

During the launch of the exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (MET), Tokyo-based design critic curator Hiroshi Kashiwagi explained how the composite or complex features of a product design reflect the culture of the people who create and use it.veryday objects can be a reflection of a country’s culture and history.  From houseware to stationeries and disaster apparel, the Japan Design Today 100 exhibit showcased the best product designs that express Japanese sensibilities and stories during the post-war period to present time.

“When we travel, we look at buildings, products displayed in stores and people’s clothing at our destination. Most of these things have been designed by someone, and they can teach us a great deal about the culture of the place,” Kashiwagi said.

The exhibit features 100 designs of everyday products, highlighting the uniqueness and practicality of Japanese design in furniture and houseware, cookware, apparel and accessories, children’s products, stationery, hobbies, health care, disaster relief and transportation.

According to Kashiwagi, the products in the exhibit are done in minimalist, compact and kawaii, or cute designs, that represent Japan culture and aesthetics.

Some of the pieces in the exhibit, which Kashiwagi explained, include the Step Step, which is a shoe horn stool in Japan homes that makes putting on and removing shoes easier. Kashiwagi explained that the shoe horn provides balance when taking off one’s shoes upon entering the house, which is a Japan custom.

Being a disaster-prone country, Japan apparel includes designs that double as protection from harsh weather and climate.

The Final Home jacket is a full-body coat that has large pockets useful for carrying personal items and can be stuffed with materials, such as newspapers, during cold weather.

Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake’s work, called the No. 1 Dress, meanwhile, features a dress made from recycled fibers that can be folded into a three-dimensional pattern, which is also perfect for easy storing.

Practicality and minimalism can also be seen in other products, like the 15-mm pipe LED desk lamp and the 13-cm-thick Hiroshima folding chair. The Wasara paper dishes are also done in simplistic design with concern for the environment. The throwaway paper dishes are made from sugarcane and bamboo renewable material.

To showcase the kawaii appeal, notebooks, masking tapes and pen cases with colorful flower designs and geometric prints were also displayed in the exhibit.

Known for their mastery in technology, mechanics and robotics, some post-war Nikon cameras and Sony devices were also featured, as well as 21st-century vehicles, like the first mass-produced electric car Nissan Leaf.

Kashiwagi said over the years Japan design had no drastic change but the people were “able to polish their craft and make it better.”

The Japan Design Today 100 exhibit will run until August 19 at the MET Tall Galleries. It is organized alongside the Japan Foundation Manila and the Japanese Embassy, with the support from JT International-Philippines Inc.

A parallel exhibit showcasing Philippine Design will also be shown at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gallery. The Discourses in Design: Philippine-Japanese Cultural Linkages exhibits fashion and interior and furniture designs from 12 of the country’s top artists.

According to Kashiwagi, Filipino and Japanese designs both have compact features but differ in terms of design.

“In terms of form, it’s very compact, so I see the similarities with Japanese. Also the color, there is no bright color, and it is very minimal and subdued. But in terms of the actual design, the Philippines’s is quite dynamic. That is the difference, but that for me is very appealing,” Kashiwagi said.

Image credits: Danielle Gabriel

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