"Functionality and aesthetics can co-exist."

That's the idea Shunji Yamanaka is trying to express through his design of next-generation prosthetic limbs. Yamanaka, a product designer and professor of media studies at Keio University's Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC), became interested in prosthetics after seeing South African double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius perform at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. Pistorius' masterful use of carbon-fiber feet, he felt, "symbolized a very special relationship between human beings and man-made products."

Yamanaka's research led him to Tokyo-based prosthetist Fumio Usui [see main article], who founded a track club for athletes with amputated limbs. Usui introduced him to the members and invited him to their competitions.