Japan

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Design

Recycled Building Materials Construct a Multi-Purpose Zero Waste Center in Japan

November 9, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of Hiroshi Nakamura

Back in 2003, Kamikatsu, a town in Tokushima Prefecture, became Japan’s first municipality to go zero waste, establishing a whopping 45 categories for recycling. Today, the village reuses about 80 percent of the garbage it generates, and the Kamikatsu Zero Waste Center is at the forefront of the community’s charge to become entirely trash-free in the coming years.

Designed by the architect Hiroshi Nakamura (previously), the recycling facility is comprised mostly of upcycled materials, including a mishmash of 700 donated windows cloaking its facade. Unprocessed timber and trimmings—cedar logging once was one of Kamikatsu’s main industries—structures the building and forms tresses designed to be disassembled and reused. A terrazzo flooring made of glass and ceramic shards runs through the center, and a bookshelf made of bright blue storage containers from a nearby shitake farm covers an entire wall.

 

The curved facility features a central drive-through area for dropping off unwanted materials and houses offices, a community hall, and a shop where residents can bring items they no longer use and others can take them home for free. On the other end of the building is a four-room hotel that’s decorated with wallpaper made of old newsprint, and Nakamura stamped “Why?” on the pages to prompt questions about consumerism. He elaborates:

Not bringing things in from outside the region is the first step in reducing wasteful packaging, transportation costs and fuel. When designing, I often go to not only the old garbage station but also the abandoned house in the town, the old government building before dismantling, the abandoned junior high school, etc… Materials used for the building are those that consider garbage as a resource and utilize it.

For more architectural projects from Nakamura and his Tokyo-based studio, check out his site. (via Dezeen)

 

 

 



Art Food

Mammoth Straw Creatures Populate Japanese Farmland in the Annual Wara Art Festival

September 13, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of Wara Art Festival

If you visit Japan’s Niigata Prefecture during the region’s annual rice harvest, you’re likely to find enormous tarantulas, eagles, and dinosaur-like creatures stalking the bucolic landscape. The towering sculptures are part of the Wara Art Festival, a summertime event that displays massive animals and mythical creations fashioned from the crop’s leftover straw.

Traditionally, the byproduct is used as livestock feed, for compost that revitalizes the soil, and to craft household goods like zori sandals, although farmers increasingly have found themselves with a surplus as agricultural technology and culture changes. This shift prompted a partnership between the people of the former Iwamuro Village, which is now Nishikan Ward, and Tokyo’s Musashino Art University (known colloquially as Musabi) in 2006. At the time, Department of Science of Design professor Shingo Miyajima suggested that the unused straw be used in a collaborative art project between the university and local farmers, resulting in the first Wara Art Festival in 2008.

Today, students design the oversized characters—you can see previous year’s creations in this gallery—and artisans from Nishikan Ward construct the wooden armature and thatched bodies. The monumental figures stand as high as 30 feet, looming over the green landscape in a playful celebration of local culture.

Although the festival paused in 2020 because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s back for its 13th edition at Uwasekigata Park. This year’s motley cast includes insects, animals, and even legendary monsters like the Amabie, all on view through October 31. (via Hyperallergic)

 

 

 



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)