Category Archives: CULTURE

How Far Will You Go? An Exhibition of Grand Projects at 21_21 Design Sight

They did what? That’s right: they made a walkable floating pier from 100,000 sq meters of fabric; they’re building a church that’s 1.35 meters wide and 45 meters high; they made a cave entirely out of tape; they made an inflatable concert hall; he spent 96 hours creating a mural from mud. These are just some of the dynamic projects by Japanese and international artists that have been assembled for an ambitious exhibition at Tokyo’s 21_21 Design Sight.

Grand Projects: How Far Will You Go” opens tomorrow (June 23) at Tokyo’s 21_21 Design Sight. Directed by writer and editor Naoko Aono, the exhibition will honor the daring and the ambitious: “creators who give shape to their bold and innovative ideas that transcend existing modes of expressions.”

One reason that we are so fascinated by grand and over-the-top creativity is because of the many challenges they present: unending regulatory challenges, financial challenges, technical challenges and variable social circumstances. Then there is the meticulous planning and vast cooperation from others.

Obviously not all projects will be represented by the actual work. The Architect Junya Ishigami is not going to relocate his in-progress church that’s being built inside the ravine of a mountain. Christo and Jeanne-Claude are not bringing their floating pier, along with Lake Iseo, to Tokyo. These projects will be represented by photo-documentation, sketches and video. But Yusuke Asai did spend 96 hours creating a mud mural, Tatzu Nishino did install a series of capsule hotels within the gallery that will be functional, and art collective Numen/For Use did create a cavernous installation made from vinyl tape.

If you’re in Tokyo it’s worth checking out. “Grand Projects: How Far Will You Go” will run from June 23 – October 1, …continue reading


World’s First Tatami-Style Starbucks to Open in Kyoto

a noren curtain hangs outside the new Kyoto Starbucks location

Starbucks first international market outside of North America began in Tokyo in 1996 and now with 1,100 stores across the country, Japan is Starbucks 4th largest market globally. Now, after 21 years, they’re opening the world’s first tatami-style Starbucks in Kyoto on June 30, 2017.

the first floor bar counter

The new location will be located along the historic Ninenzaka street, which leads directly to Kiyomizu-dera, one of Kyoto’s most popular shrines. And the coffee shop will be located inside a 100-year old traditional Japanese townhouse. Beginning with the noren at the entrance and extending into the 1st and 2nd floors, every effort has been taken to retain much of the charm of the historic structure. In fact, among the many historic townhouses that are situated along this path, this is the only one that retains its original daibei walled-fence.

The ground level will have a bar counter and 3 courtyards, each with gardens and unique stone water basins, known as tsukubai. On the 2nd floor will be 3 rooms where visitors will remove their shoes and sit on tatami mats with zabuton coushins while enjoying their beverage.

Starbucks Coffee Kyoto Ninenzaka Yasaka Tea Parlor (Map)
Hours: 8:00am – 8:00pm
Grand opening on 6/30/2017 at 1:00pm

a narrow path leads back to one of the three courtyards

one of the three tatami-style rooms on the 2nd floor

the historic Ninenzaka road

the historic townhouse, …continue reading


Acknowledging the BLAME! Game

Blame! Master Edition covers

Coming from an area that touts itself as the city that never sleeps, New York is full of life at all times. Crowds get heavy not only during the day, but at night as well. The lights of high-rise buildings illuminate New York and its residents in all its hectic glory. Yet there is beauty found when it’s just lights only and no one in sight. I wish New York was more like that after watching the movie adaptation of Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame!

Blame! is about a human named Killy and his quest to save humanity from being crushed by cybernetic forces wishing to take over a world filled with emptiness. The movie and original manga covers his journey through vast areas of isolated buildings and landscapes. The dialogue can be a bit sparse in the original manga, but the reader will be in awe of how isolated yet beautiful Blame!’s universe is due to the many double-page panels of the architecture. The movie covers the beginning portion of Killy’s adventure as he helps out a colony of humanoids find food and shelter from cybernetic beings known as the Safeguards. The end of the movie has him continuing his long road in a world full of dangers in every corner.

My interest in Blame! piqued after reading this look at its environments. It reminded me of how much I felt when I decide to go to NY at night and marvel at some of its empty corners. During times of depression, I would take the time to walk around at night by myself in NYC. I felt so alive taking in the view. While the city get packed, I always imagined “What if no one was around? What if there were …continue reading


Book Review: The Thief

Nakamura Fuminori 中村 文則 born in 1977 in Tôkai is an author of several novels. His book The Thief (掏摸), published in 2009, won the famous Ôe Kenzaburô Prize in 2010 and was highly praised by the International press.

The Thief is a psychological thriller of a pickpocket in modern Tokyo. Nishimura is a loner living in the big city with no family or social ties whatsoever. On his trips through crowded streets and the underground, he skillfully reaches out into the pockets of his fellow men. He has a strict moral compass: his victims are mainly wealthy gentlemen and using violence is not an option.

One gets to know his tricks in detail and soon learns about his criminal past, which unfolds to the reader in the ongoing story.

Written from the perspective of the thief Nishimura, we learn about his thoughts and actions. As the story evolves he is getting deeper and deeper into trouble. Mainly because of his entanglement with a violent mobster boss. It was taking my breath away, when I read how Nishmura was threatened into his actions by mobsters and it seems there is no exit for him.

But being under pressure from the mob is not his only problem. His life changes in unforeseen ways. One day on his daily pickpocket tours in Tôkyô he watches a poorly performance of a cranky woman and her little son, both shoplifting for groceries. Showing empathy for the boy Nishimura rescues them from being caught by the clerks, which is the beginning of a bittersweet friendship. On a closer look one can consider the boy as a younger version of Nishimura. The book is exciting and philosophical. I enjoyed reading it.

中村 文則: 掏摸, 2009. Nakamura Fuminori: The Thief, 2012.

Filed under: Book Review, Japan, Japanese Literature Tagged: …continue reading


A 160-Year Old Sake Brewery Gets a New Addition

Located in the middle of rice fields and situated at the foot of Mt. Sefuri in the Itoshima area of Fukuoka is the Shiraito Sake Brewery. Founded in 1855, the company is known for their ancient technique of haneki-shibori, which applies much less pressure than machine-pressed sake and crates a more pure and mellow flavor.

To celebrate 160 years of sake making using local Itoshima rice, the company decided to design a new addition to their complex of old buildings to create a visually diverse structure that functionally connects to the rest of the factory.

Most of the existing buildings in the site were very old and traditional with the main building being over 100 years old. “The purpose,” explains architect Taketo Tashiro, “was to obtain more space and to add new facilities to enhance the quality of their product.”

The new addition is a modern, concrete structure that heavily emphasizes the texture of concrete throughout. The lack of windows in the space, other than the staff room and washing room, is intentional as exposure to sunlight can harm the product. Its triangular form was also designed to be consistent with the silhouette of the traditional building.

Shiraito Sake Brewery does allow for tours but only from mid-February to mid-April and reservations are required at least a week in advance. In the meantime, you can also order their sake online via their webshop.

<img src="" alt="" width="1000" height="667" srcset=" 1000w, …continue reading