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Now’s the time to celebrate design

by Jean Snow

Don’t miss Design Week

This year, Tokyo Designers Week conveniently kicks off on a Friday — previous years have always seen a Wednesday start — ensuring visitors can make the most of the weekend and the national holiday on Tuesday.

Leading the pack is DesignTide, which, like last year, is being held at Tokyo Midtown, Roppongi — in the same location of the shopping center’s own Design Touch branded events. Once again, the space is designed by Hiroshima-based architect Makoto Tanijiri, whose use of white fabric and light create the booths of the main exhibition showcasing works by 50 participating designers and studios. Creations to look out for include Kyouei Design’s stunning Wire Chair, and a layered lamp by Yumi Terauchi and Seiji Inoue, inspired by traditional Japanese materials.

For shopping, Tide Market and the off-site Tide Extension exhibitions, held in shops and galleries throughout the city, offer everything from acrylic jewelry to stylish household goods.

This year, the 100% Design Tokyo trade show , held at Jingu Gaien grounds in Aoyama, launches with the eco-inspired theme of “Love Green.” It joins the other Tokyo Designers Week mainstays, including the popular shipping-container Container Ground of installations, the student exhibition, as well as a new Cube Exhibition showcasing 45 emerging designers based in Japan.

Last, but not least, after last year’s hiatus, Swedish Style is back to celebrate its 10th anniversary with a host of Sweden-related events happening all over the city. One worth checking out is the UNG: Young Swedish Design show at the Swedish embassy.

Be sure to check the various official event Web sites for complete details and pick up the various guides found at the events themselves.

Daring to tread on new ground

Idea International, which has been providing design fodder for this column since its inception, is seeking to “question existing product typologies” by collaborating with an international lineup of designers. The first product theme for Untrod, launched last month during the London Design Festival is the watch. The collection brings together new concepts from Shin Azumi, Fumie Shibata, Industrial Facility and Tokyo-based Ross McBride. Our pick is McBride’s Madokadoke, a timepiece that camouflages its buttons within the wristband and only displays digits when required.

www.idea-in.com/untrod/

Good Design Award: www.g-mark.org/english/

Repeated showers, same umbrella

The Mottainai (Waste Not) Campaign, an eco-conscious movement that encourages people to recycle and reuse products by offering them eco-friendly alternatives to disposable goods, has a new initiative targeting something Tokyo dwellers will be familiar with: the disposable — but not easily recycled — plastic umbrella. Mottainai Umbrellas invited a host of creatives to contribute designs for nondisposable umbrellas — including comedy duo Audrey whose quirky offering is inspired by one of the member’s trademark sleeveless pink sweater. Each umbrella retails for ¥12,600, and can be purchased through the Mottainai online shop.

mottainai-3r.jp/kasa

Sit back and let the chair do the work

The winners of this year’s Good Design Award — as brought to you by the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization (JIDPO) — were announced earlier this month, with products as eclectic as ever ranging from the Toyota Prius to the hugely popular Green Tokyo Gundam Project (the giant statue that watched over Odaiba during the summer). One of our favorites this year has to be the Panasonic Massage Chair. This is not something that passes off light rumbles and tremors as a relaxing “massage.” No, Panasonic’s entry offers an amazing full-body workout that pummels and kneads, and is surely as close to the real thing as a mechanical device can get. Your back, arms, and legs will thank you for it.

panasonic-denko.co.jp

Listening to the Tube-1

Tokyo-based design unit Supercent — made up of the duo of Atsushi Koike and Tadahito Ishibashi — has just upped the ante of iPod accessories with its new Tube-1 speaker. First showcased at last year’s 100% Design Tokyo show, the Tube-1 packs the punch of a high-fidelity vacuum-tube amp. Your iPod — or any audio player, for that matter — will never have sounded better. The amp also includes an FM antenna, and a separate floor stand is available to buy. The independently produced Tube-1 is set to launch in the spring of next year and will be available in oak, walnut or rosewood at most of the city’s major department stores and interior shops.

www.supercent.jp