Japan

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Art

A Monumental Book Printed on Uncut Paper Celebrates Hokusai's Iconic 'Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji'

May 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Taschen, shared with permission

A forthcoming volume from Taschen is an homage to renowned Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and his iconic woodblock print series, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. Compiling Hokusai’s original 36 artworks and the ten pieces he created following the success of the initial collection, the XXL edition celebrates the lauded artist and his fascination with Japan’s highest mountain.

Encased in a cloth box with wooden closures, the 224-page book is layered with Japanese history and tradition in both content and form and features uncut paper and customary binding. The vivid, art historical works are paired with 114 color variations and writing by Andreas Marks—the director of the Clark Center for Japanese Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art is also behind Taschen’s volume chronicling more than two centuries of woodblock prints—who offers background on the exquisite body of work Hokusai produced throughout the Edo period when a local tourism boom positioned Mount Fuji as an enduring cultural landmark.

Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji will be released in June and is available for pre-order from Bookshop.

 

South Wind, Clear Weather (“Red Fuji”). Image © TASCHEN/Philadelphia Museum of Art

Sekiya Village on the Sumida River. Image © TASCHEN/The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 



Photography

Expansive Photographs by RK Frame the Unexpected Beauty of Everyday Life Throughout Asia

March 10, 2021

Grace Ebert

Guizhou, China. All images © RK, shared with permission

Traveling from his home in Tokyo to cities and small villages across Asia, Ryosuke Kosuge is adept at spotting the textures and patterns that occupy local life, whether through the rocky formations surrounding Heaven’s Gate Mountain in Zhangjiajie, an array of birdcages created by a woman in Guizhou, or the wires crisscrossing a market in Nanning. His arresting images approach everyday moments from a place of curiosity and display the beauty and wonder inherent in both natural and urban environments. The photographer, who works as RK, tells Colossal that he chooses destinations based on the specific mood he hopes to convey, although sometimes those decisions are spurred by a personal desire to experience local customs and cuisine.

RK is also behind this book-filled series shot inside Tokyo’s Kadokawa Culture Museum. You can follow his travels on Instagram.

 

Vietnam

Vietnam

Hong Kong

Nanning, China

Keelung, Taiwan

Japan

Heaven’s Gate Mountain, Zhangjiajie, China

Vietnam

 

 



Photography

A Dazzling Series of Photos Captures the Soft Glow of Firefly Mating Season in Japan

March 2, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Daniel Kordan, shared with permission

An enchanting series by Russian photographer Daniel Kordan (previously) frames a sea of flickering fireflies as they populate a dense bamboo forest. Captured in pockets and trails of light, the insects radiate across the thick vegetation on Japan’s Kyushu Island, which Kordan visited back in 2019 during their mating season.

The beetles search for partners from about May to July, with the males first producing the flashes of light and the females generating responses. Generally swarmed together, the exchanges have a twinkling effect that emits a continuous soft glow across the area. “Fireflies are very sensitive. They need clean water nearby, warm humid air (but not rain), and no lights,” Kordan says. “Not a single photo can show how beautiful it is—shimmering and blinking forest full of little stars.”

Kordan shares technical details about his equipment and timing for the magical shoot on Instagram, and if you’re interested in adding the radiant images to your collection, pick up a print in his shop. (via designboom)

 

 

 



Craft Design

Dive Into the Incredibly Satisfying Art of Japanese Wood Joinery

December 14, 2020

Grace Ebert

Since the 12th Century, Japanese artisans have been employing a construction technique that uses just one simple material: wood. Rather than utilize glue, nails, and other fasteners, the traditional art of Japanese wood joinery notches slabs of timber so that the grooves lock together and form a sturdy structure. Yamanashi-based carpenter Dylan Iwakuni demonstrates this process in the endlessly satisfying video above, which depicts multiple styles of the angular joints and how they’re slotted together with the tap of a mallet.

As Iwakuni notes at the end, new joineries often are used in traditional architecture to replace a damaged portion, maintaining the integrity of the original edifice. “Structures built from natural materials and the knowledge and skills passed down generations,” he says. “Through the fine skills and knowledge, Japanese Wooden Architecture has been standing for (thousands of) years.”

If you’re interested in trying your hand at the centuries-old artform, Iwakuni recommends reading The Complete Japanese Joinery and Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit and Use. He also offers a collection of tutorials and videos on his Instagram and YouTube. You might enjoy watching the creation of this kokeshi doll and the fine art of Japanese marquetry, which uses razor-thin slices of mosaics, as well. (via The Kids Should See This)

 

 

 



Design History

Fire Sprinklers Erupt from Ingeniously Camouflaged Huts to Protect a Historic Japanese Village

October 29, 2020

Grace Ebert


Situated in a mountainous region of the Gifu Prefecture is a small village of Gassho-style homes, uniquely Japanese structures with thatched roofs that are built to withstand heavy snowfall. Dating back to the 11th century, the historic community of Shirakawa-go was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. While the designation draws tourists each year who are keen on studying the architecture and local history as they pass through the village, an unusual attraction draws inordinate crowds to the region.

Simply called the Water Hose Festival, the biannual event involves testing the site’s ability to respond to fire. The flammable and historic nature of the structures spurred caretakers to install massive sprinklers and hoses to prevent extensive damage. Each year in December and May, they test the lines and douse the homes, according to the video above that shows a similar process occurring at a site in Miyama. The systems are concealed inside structures that mimic the original architecture, and the new buildings open from the center allowing water to erupt into the air, a spectacular and almost comical process. (via Spoon & Tamago)

 

Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go

 

 

 

 



Design

A Japanese Forestry Technique Prunes Upper Branches to Create a Tree Platform for More Sustainable Harvests

October 27, 2020

Grace Ebert

Image via Wrath of Gnon

Literally translating to platform cedar, daisugi is a 14th- or 15th-century technique that offers an efficient, sustainable, and visually stunning approach to forestry. The method originated in Kyoto and involves pruning the branches of Kitayama cedar so that the remaining shoots grow straight upward from a platform. Rather than harvesting the entire tree for lumber, loggers can fell just the upper portions, leaving the base and root structure intact.

Although daisugi mostly is used in gardens or bonsai today, it originally was developed to combat a seedling shortage when the demand for taruki, a type of impeccably straight and knot-free lumber, was high. Because the upper shoots of Kitayama cedar can be felled every 20 years, which is far sooner than with other methods, the technique grew in popularity.

To see daisugi up close, watch this video chronicling pruning, felling, and transplanting processes. (via Kottke)

 

Image via Komori Zouen

A scroll depicting daisugi by Housen Higashihara, courtesy of the auction house

 

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