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Buy a postcard and help Fukushima


A few days ago we launched The Tsunami Postcard Project with Toru Morimoto, and the Japanese photographer behind the Akashi Gallery in Barcelona and the Japan Photo Project, treat a beautiful initiative we talked about a few months back.

The idea behind the project is very simple: you make a donation to the Fukushima Donation for Orphans Foundation by buying a postcard or a photograph on the website. You can buy it for yourself or for a friend and receive it in the mail a few days later. That simple.

So why do we do this? We want to help and doing what we do best is the only way we know how.

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A beautiful video of Tokyo by Lukas Backland


It’s that time of the year…that Japan time of the year. We found this video through Yorokobu‘s Marcus Hurst. Lukas Backland is a film director and cinematographer based in Stockholm.

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Love Japan for their awesome Kit-Kat flavors


We’ve been doing a bit of reminiscing today with the Kit-Kat map of Japanese flavors divided by region and wanted to share it. This is at least two years old so there’s nothing new here but we still love it. Unfortunately, we can’t find an english version of this so, if you happen to stumble upon one, give us a shout.

Some of the cool ones:

Sweet: Berry wine, golden peach, custard pudding
Weird: Camembert cheese, soybean paste, lemon vinegar
Savory: Grilled corn, miso, sweet potato, jacket baked potato butter
Beverages: Ramune soda, Earl Grey, caramel macchiato McFlurry

If you’re like us and silly fun facts like these rock your boat you’ll enjoy this list of past and present Kit-Kat flavors (in Japan and elsewhere). Yum!

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A road trip through Japan taking great pictures


The first time I saw Robert Frank‘s photos for his project ‘The Americans‘ I got a glimpse of the connection between exhausting road trips and great photographs. Perhaps it has to do with the lack of sleep, the lack of good food, the monotony of endless roads that push your body –and your head– to the limit. After all, extreme fatigue does develop a sense of acute awareness and sensitivity that’s difficult to replicate with non-chemical (and may I say, legal) substances.

Unlike Frank’s compilation, Tina Bagué and Tori Morimoto‘s Japan Photo Project is less about Japanese society and more about the culture and beautiful landscapes of the country, less about capturing instants and more about knowing the right towns. But the veil of fatigueness-channeled perception is there. No question about it.

Plus, the JPP blog is the perfect traveller’s guide. In 365 days they visit all sorts of towns and meet all sorts of people. Next time I’m in the country, I’ll be sure to throw away my Lonely Planet and instead, read their blog carefully and save every single stop in a map.

A compilation of the photographs has recently been published. The book is called, ‘Japan’. Published in collaboration with the Catalan publisher, The Private Space, Japan’s first edition is officially sold out but, after December 8th you’ll be able to order the book here.

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The pursuit of honest design


Honest design is what we try to pursue by logical thinking. An ideal form is derived naturally through the process of attempting to maximize the potential of client’s demand, doctor material and its function. I realized that it was important to make ‘honest’ design by going back and forth and to be surrounded by different materials to be used in the experimental process. In architecture or interior, here product and furniture design the attitude does not change. I try to maintain a similar philosophy.

Keiji Ashizawa

We stand by every single word.

Ashizawa Design Co. is based in Tokyo. For an overview of some of his work in interior design, architecture and furniture take a look at this image search.

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Breathtaking Tokyo time lapse by Samuel Cockedey


In Cockedey‘s own words: stick it on full screen, watch in HD, turn the sound up, sit back and just take it all in.

Camera: Canon 5dmk2
Music: “Main Titles” and “Blush Response” from Vangelis.

More information on the process here.

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Hirasaki Knife box by Keiji Ashizawa


We have a thing for Japanese knives at Vostok. Javier brought with him from Japan three beauties with engraved blades and wooden handles for Ricardo and myself. It’s not that we’re great cooks (though we’d like to think we are), it’s just that there’s something about the craft behind the surgical precision of a sharp metal blade and the raw familiar smoothness of wood that’s timeless and beautiful.

Today I came across this knife box made by Keiji Ashizawa Design via Tokyo Art Beat:

In Ashizawa’s own words:

Hirosaki Knives have been around for approximately 1000 years. The cases for the knives are made from paulowina wood and apple tree wood. These woods are used not only for the unique look of the design, but also the efficiency of the protection of the knives. Paulownia is unique to the history and culture of Japan. Finally, the apple tree that is used as the rail and connection comes from the apple tree in Hirosaki which is the most famous producer of apples in Japan.

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Following the steps of Murakami in Tokyo


I fell in love with Haruki Murakami four years ago. The most un-Japanese of Japanese writers had me at hello. Our affair lasted 18 months and when it ended I promised myself never to go down that path again. I felt irritated by every new pot of pasta he boiled, by every new jazz song he hummed, by every new shirt he ironed. No more moons, no more dreams, no more unknown female voices stalking you on the other side of the phone. It’s my fault really. I have a tendency to binge on things I like and then feel nauseated by the slightest reminder of them.

But, as with all artificial restraints, temptation always ends up looming in. And following the trace of Murakami through Tokyo in this NYT article is what did it for me. (Side note: it’s great to see what the NYT design team can do when they don’t have to juggle with enormous amounts of content and ads):

Perhaps I will read 1Q84 after all. Just, you know, one more for old times sake.

I suggest reading the entire NYT piece, The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami, and if you’re interested in buying the paper edition of the book, watching this video of Alfred A. Knopf’s cover designer for 1Q84 for a sneak peek of what your money will be worth. Fun fact: “The title of “1Q84” is a joke: an Orwell reference that hinges on a multilingual pun. (In Japanese, the number 9 is pronounced like the English letter Q)”.

UPDATE 31/09/2011:
A beautiful signed and numbered (only 111 copies) limited edition of 1Q84 is now available. This project is a collaboration between Simon Rhodes, Kristen Harrison at The Curved House and designer Stefanie Posavec. Covers printed by Justin Knopp at Typoretum. Photos available here.

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Kawaguchi on Japanese product design in Madrid


Remember that psychedelic TV show Bill Murray’s invited to in Lost in Translation? Well, that to me is modern Japan in a nutshell. Wild, maniac, riotous, and completely out of this world. Japanese pay enormous attention to things we’d be oblivious to and find satisfaction in places that are an absolute mystery to us. I admire them for that.

It seems as though they find –or at least prior to the earthquake they did– great pleasure in portraying themselves that way to the world. “We’re weird, we’re geeky but we’re awesome”. And few people have done as much to get that message accross than Morinosuke Kawaguchi. His first book, Geeky-Girly Innovation: A Japanese Subculturalist’s Guide to Technology and Design is an ode to that.

Happens to be that Mr. Kawaguchi will be in Madrid next week in the third edition of Asia Geek, an event organized by Casa Asia and Fundación Japón. We’ll be there so if you happen to drop by, come on over and say hi.

‘Til then, here’s his conference on TEDx Tokyo on…above all things, Japanese toilets, to keep you entertained.

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In Japanese style


1980 photograph by Italian photojournalist Mario de Biasi part of the “Changing Japan 1950-1980” exhibition at the JCII Photo Salon in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward. Open until October 30.

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