Celebrating the cult of Japanese design through influential architects and designers such as Arata Isozaki and Isamu Noguchi
Art and craft
From the serenity of organisational guru Marie Kondo to the celebration of natural materials in the works of architect Tadao Ando, great Japanese design has transcended its typical minimalist aesthetic to become a spiritually-rooted lifestyle that's beloved around the world. A recent trip to Tokyo with a group of like-minded friends allowed me to take a closer look at the origins of Japanese design and how it has permeated the West in everything from everyday objects and packaging to interior design and lighting elements.
What I discovered was, at the heart of it, Japanese designers — whether they're working in fashion or architecture — have a keen sense of materiality and respect for tradition, while at the same time, an inclination towards playful experimentation. This is most obviously personified by architect Kengo Kuma, whose design for the National Stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics unsually involves locally sourced cedar wood and Luchu pine.
Another theme that's highly prevalent in Japanese design is the idea of wabi-sabi, which broadly refers to the beauty in imperfection and impermanence. The belief that flaws might add to the authenticity of design is reflected most audaciously in the lived-in quality of Blackmeans' anarchic handmade leather biker jackets. This mysterious Japanese concept doesn't just relate to design; it's a philosphy as well, which counts Twitter's co-founder Jack Dorsey as one of its many famous adopters.
From 2019 Pritzker-winning architect Arata Isozaki to botanical sculptor Makoto Azuma, the Japanese creatives I've rounded up in the gallery above showcase the impressive diversity of Japanese design beyond its most ubitquitous export, Muji.