by Judith Prescott
Article published on the 2009-01-13 Latest update 2009-01-16 11:16 TU
"Wa, the Spirit of Harmony and Japanese Design Today" brings together some 160 objects from everyday life created by some of Japan's best known designers like Naoto Fukasawa, Makoto Koizumi and Tokujin Yoshioka. These objects range from watches, bicycles, musical instruments to office furniture - you name it and the Japanese have a design for it.
Japan is arguably better known for producing innovative cars and electrical goods, but others aspects of Japanese culture are gaining in popularity and the country is gradually becoming known for its more progressive and unconventional products. This exhibition shows that while industrial production is still mostly concerned with function and efficiency, today's products are also drawing on the country's rich cultural past.
Jun Takeshita is one of the organisers of the exhibition. He explains that new technology is making rural parts of the country accessible to designers in the cities and they are learning from the techniques of the forefathers. He points to a small set of speakers.
"This is an example of how designers are combining the old and the new," he says. "The speakers are very modern, very hi-tech, but they are covered in lacquer which is a traditional method used in producing furniture."
Central to modern design in Japan today is Wa. This is the Japanese world for harmony and it has a profound influence on every aspect of Japanese design, including arts and crafts. In Japan, a huge amount of time and effort is spent in making sure material, shape, surface and ornamentation are in complete harmony with each other.
Takeshita says this reflects the Japanese character. "We are a very non-confrontational people," he says. "We all try to get on with each other and this is reflected in today's design."
Takeshita believes it is Wa or the spirit of harmony that gives Japanese designers an edge. French design is seen as elegant and Italian design is labelled chic. But some say Japan has "Japanese Cool - an aesthetic sensibility that is undeniably 'Made in Japan'.
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