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Upgrading the ordinary

by Jean Snow

Ice-cool statements

Here’s a fun example of the power of design: Turning something as simple as ice cubes into a political/environmental statement.

Monos’ Polar Ice are two cups that act like ice-trays to produce blocks of ice in the shape of a polar bear or a pair of penguins standing on a glacier. Once floating in your drink, the mini glacier gradually melts away, which, according to Atsuhiro Hayashi, the designer, reflects an awareness of the world’s growing global-warming concerns. The pair of tubs is priced at ¥1,575 and can be purchased online directly from Monos or at Tokyu Hands, as well as other Tokyo select shops.

Mono: www.monos.co.jp.

A cornerstone in shelving

This column has long admired the work of Torafu Architects — not just their products, but pretty much everything they work on — so we’re always quick to take notice of the team’s latest projects. This time it’s the Catch Bowl.

Home storage space can often be sparse in Tokyo apartments, and the Catch Bowl makes use of the areas of a room that are often overlooked: the corners. As a set of two containers with lids that can be used as small shelves, it makes an otherwise redundant corner into something useful. The larger section can fit around a convex corner, while the smaller “cut out” section can be used to fill a concave corner.

It’s a lovely product but still in the prototype stage. Here’s hoping that it will get produced very soon — we know our home needs at least one.

Torafu Architects: www.torafu.com.

No need to stick to old design

Why do tape dispensers have to leave those ugly teeth marks? Up until now, the serrated cutter seemed the only easy way to break off a piece of tape. Notchless, however, manages to avoid that.

Designed by Mamoru Yasukuni of Kikuchi-Yasukuni Architects, the Notchless gives you clean and smooth cut. It’s also even easier to use, since the cleverly designed blade makes sure the tape doesn’t tear apart when cutting. The minimalist curvy aesthetic, too, makes it an stylish addition to the desktop.

We’re not the only ones to love the Notchless, as it is also a recipient of the prestigious Red Dot Design Award. For now, it’s only available in silver (although promotional images suggest that other colors are coming), and it costs ¥1,890 at H Concept’s design-friendly Koncent store.

Kikuchi-Yasukuni Architects: www.kikuchi-yasukuni.co.jp. Koncent: www.koncent.jp/?pid=33882295.

MH Way’s handy flat pack

No, the MT1 is not a pageant banner; it’s a flat shoulder bag that is so convenient, it puts most messenger bags to shame (although admittedly it can’t compete in terms of space).

Based in Milan, MH Way was founded by the Japanese designer Makio Hasuike, and the MT1 is part of the brand’s “urban” concept series, which includes a tote bag, two briefcases, and a backpack.

The MT1 straps around your body like a sash and features reflective bands on both sides. It fits around the body in a way that makes it easily adjusted for comfort and it can be secured in place with velcro straps. It’s slim, so there is a limited number of things you can put in it, but it does have four handy pockets. Available in blue, black, and green, the MT1 costs ¥7,350 and can be ordered online directly from MH Way’s website.

MH Way: www.mhway.jp.

Bottoms up to a mountain view

Now that Mount Fuji’s hiking season is over for the year, you’ll be glad to know that you don’t have to climb the volcano to appreciate it. Thanks to the Fuji Choco, which has been produced for Public Design’s Floyd brand, you can enjoy a mountain view while sipping sake from the comfort of your own home.

Unlike Keita Suzuki’s Fujiyama Glass — which was featured in this column last summer — the Fuji Choco sake cup needs to be flipped over to resemble the icon. But it’s still a beautiful sight. Each cup is unique — different in tone and depth of glaze — and if you buy a pair set, it comes in a Paulownia wood box, stamped with a gold Mount Fuji logo. This isn’t the first nod to the famous Japanese icon from Floyd, who have also released a Fuji Wan rice bowl should you want to create a mini mountain range on your dining table.

The Fuji Choco comes in “his” and “her” sizes and cost ¥1,260 each. The pair set, which comes with the box, is ¥3,150, and all the Fuji items are available to buy from Floyd.

Floyd: www.floydonline.jp