Hanazono shrine offers shade and escape


In Tokyo’s hot and humid summer, shade and trees are always welcome. I love how the entrance to Hanazono shrine faces busy Yasukuni Dori in Shinjuku, offering a physical and spiritual respite from traffic, commerce, neon, and host clubs.

Japanese design leaders & directions

Metropolis Magazine has a special issue devoted to Japanese design. Based on a show Japan by Design, organized by JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) at New York City’s Furniture Fair, the focus is on distinctive Japanese design called kansei (sensibility, or physical and emotional appeal). The three elements are hyogo (appearence), dosa (intent), and kokoro (heart).

My favorite of the dozens of products displayed is Nakamura Yugo‘s interactive design practice, including the website above. It is minimal, playful and truly engaging. He has worked for Dentsu, Uniqlo and other new media innovators. Most of the other works are industrial design, furniture, and technology. It is not surprising to see a focus on universal design, sustainability, crafts and the everyday. But I did not know that METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry) has a Design Policy Office, promoting Japanese design as central to the nation’s future economy.

I wish Japan’s urban gardening was also viewed as uniquely Japanese design that could be exported to Asian and global cities. Bonsai miniaturization, the blurring of public and private space, use of marginal land, and habitat creation offer functional and emotional improvements to urban life. Maybe, these urban garden trends need to be commercialized to become design trends. In the meantime, government promotion might encourage increased tourism to Japan and garden diplomacy abroad..