Material emoticons

Here’s a bit of fun. Chances are, if you frequent Tokyo’s select shops that you’ve come across Makiko Yoshida’s CAO Maru squeezable rubber faces, which you can push and squish to create a variety of expressions. Design Office A4’s Faces Stamp is based on the same idea, turning a simplified, iconic face pattern into a stamp. It’s just the thing if you want to add emoticonlike expressions to your handwritten missives. Faces Stamp has garnered prizes in design competitions (it was originally released in 2007) and was recently included in a celebration of Japanese design in Paris, the “WA: L’harmonie au quotidien — Design japonais d’aujourd’hui” exhibition. The stamp comes in blue, pink, and black, and sells for ¥525.


Fuzzy sounds

First there was the Music Mug, a popular accessory that acted as both a holder and speaker for your MP3 player, and now design label Yuento follows up with another accessory for portable devices. The Music Balloon is another simple and smart idea: Make a super-light and portable speaker that can be plugged into any MP3 player or mobile phone (with the use of an adapter). The soft and bulbous foam “speaker” is fun and Pop-y, and comes in an array of bright colors: yellow, pink, red, blue and black. The Music Balloon (priced at ¥3,990) provides just over four hours of use at full volume and can be recharged with a USB cable (included).


Rap and roll

Shunsuke Umiyama’s MicroWorks label has one goal in mind: Offer products that turn the ordinary into the unexpected. Take the brand’s Paper Pack document folder for instance. Describing it as just a folder does it a great disservice. Designed to hold A4 documents and pens, the Paper Pack is made from one polypropylene sheet that envelops whatever you like. When closed, you get an instant briefcase that anyone would be happy to bring to work. The Paper Pack is available in black, silver, wine red, green, pink and white (each priced at ¥1,365).


Postalco goes bookish

Run by Tokyo-based couple Mike and Yuri Abelson, Postalco has given the world of stationery and accessories a serious style boost. Since launching the label in Brooklyn a few years ago, the Abelsons have released a stream of impressive, carefully crafted goods. Combining their respective expertise in graphics and product design, the collection runs the gamut from bags and writing accessories done in lovely combinations of fabric and leather to beautifully designed pressed-cotton envelopes, a personal favorite. Postalco now presents something for the “Library” with the publication of beautifully designed booklets that have appeared at Tokyo’s famous Cow Books stores in Naka-Meguro and Minami-Aoyama. Although Postalco items are available countrywide, make a point of visiting the design duo’s home shop in Kyobashi.


An eco-box

“Crafted with pride in Japan” — such is the claim from Fukuoka-based firm Hightide when describing its ecofriendly Molded Pulp Box containers. Stackable and suited for the storage of almost anything you may have lying around in your home, such as gardening supplies, these large durable boxes are just the kind of thing to please the ever-growing number of adherents of the “slow life” and sustainable lifestyle movements. The Molded Pulp Box is made of recycled paper (80 percent newspaper, with the remaining 20 percent made up of other paper waste), and looks like it. This may have been a turnoff a few years ago, but ecochic is so popular these days that the boxes could easily blend into the most modern of interiors. The Molded Pulp Box sells for ¥1,995.


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