“In Japan, craft is not limited to, or exclusively, handmade. It is as much a mindset as a physical act,” says American architect and writer Naomi Pollock in the introduction to “Japanese Design Since 1945,” a comprehensive overview of postwar Japanese designers and products.

Today, aspects of Japanese design — from the clean lines and muted palettes of products from “no name” brand Muji to the Sony Walkman and sharp folds in any Pleats Please Issey Miyake garment — are recognizable to even a layman, and so it comes as a surprise to learn that, while dedication to craft and monozukuri (“making things”) have always been part of the artisan’s mindset, the concept of contemporary design (as perceived in the West, at any rate) itself was virtually unknown in the country before World War II.

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