We left Japan over a month ago, but I’ve been pretty caught up with The Country that Shook and the Kickstarter campaign so I’ve only just got around to writing this now that we’re in China! Better late than never.
I guess I had fairly high expectations of Japanese design, having seen a lot of interesting examples on the internet over the last few years. Plus as soon as we arrived we could feel just how ‘cool’ it was; everyone immaculately dressed, everything running precisely on time, very clean and very organised. It sort of felt like the Scandinavia of Asia.
But the reality was much more of a mishmash than I had imagined; Some things were stunning while others were pretty awful. Supermarkets, shops and street signs were incredibly shouty and some saturated aisles, such as noodles, felt so unruly and out of character for the country.
Of course there was a lot of cute stuff. The Japanese seem to be able to make EVERYTHING cute. That’s pretty skillful! And nothing is forgotten.
Everything from road blockers,
to warning posters,
even Coca Cola is more cute!
The traditional Japanese style, using rough textures and calligraphy is beautiful and classic, and super successful when it’s done simply. We saw it on a lot of traditional products, such a sake.
One contemporary blend of sake used an innovative format. It had a label that wrapped around the bottle several times that had a Japanese illustration on the back, ready to be framed or something; perfect for a gift product. (Hate the plastic bag around it though).
Some of my favourite illustrations I saw were on screen doors, hundreds of years old but looking like they could have been drawn yesterday in their simple, one-colour style.
And then these little guys who were given the cute and quirky effect!
There were lovely little details on the street, things that would usually be forgotten or ignored are given injections of colour or form to give them relevance.
Even drain covers get the treatment.
Panda head portholes near the Panda Bears at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo.
Railings become a piece of interactive art.
There was some cool street art too: big block letters in Tokyo that would be at home in Shoreditch.
And funky traditional characters in Osaka.
Even some of the warning signs on garage doors were just simple and striking.
There was the occasional beautiful shop sign; gems hidden in between the madness.
And I’ll leave you with a few Japan-isms:
Perfectly wrapped packaging.
And even the bin men get an interesting logo and co-ordinating uniforms.
No detail is forgotten!