Design showcase Any Tokyo aims to impress connoisseurs

by Daphne Mohajer-Va-Peseran

Special To The Japan Times

The organizers of Any Tokyo want you to know that objects should do more than just look good.

From Oct. 25 through Nov. 3, Any Tokyo will get the chance to make its case during an exhibition that will be held at Zojoji Temple in the capital’s Minato Ward. The 600-year-old temple is the final resting place for six members of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which ruled Japan from 1600 to 1867, and should make for a striking backdrop to showcase some of today’s design talents.

Any Tokyo debuted last year and drew over 9,000 visitors. The event has some ties to the now-defunct Design Tide, and takes place on the same weekend as the larger Tokyo Designers’ Week event, but whereas TDW caters to a broad audience, Any Tokyo is more for the design connoisseur. This year’s theme is “next field,” a nod to the unorthodox venue and the merging of practices in art and design.

Akio Aoki, head of Miru Design and a spokesperson for Any Tokyo, emphasizes that there is “little difference between art and design these days.” It’s why, he adds, the event sees no distinction between practitioners of the two.

“They look to one another for inspiration and it’s hard to say what is strictly a design or art object,” Aoki says. “Japan is known for its appreciation of technological design and is making great progress in this area.”

One example of this field is an interactive artwork by Akira Wakita, an engineer and Keio University professor. For Any Tokyo, Wakita has visualized fluid dynamics on a tatami-size surface. When you place objects on the surface, it disturbs the flow of an image on the face of the table, thus rendering an image of the air-flow around the objects, mimicking the kind of air flow that would move through a modern city.

Temples across Japan have hosted this kind of community-building activity and artistic creation for centuries.

“Priests made sculptures, paintings and calligraphy,” Aoki says. “They also supported artists by commissioning works” and Any Tokyo hopes to continue this tradition in the same way.

“We select things that are challenging and haven’t been seen before, things that are not just trendy and pretty,” Aoki says, echoing Any Tokyo’s goal of trying to push Japanese designers to enhance the life of the people who ultimately use the objects.

While there are no up-and-comers among the roughly 20 exhibitors at the event, Any Tokyo hopes to inspire the Japanese design industry by curating new ideas from around the world.

“We are hoping that people from all professions will attend this event and create some kind of chemical reaction,” Aoki says.

Any Tokyo takes place at Zozoji Temple in Minato-ku, Tokyo, from Oct. 25 till Nov. 3 (11 a.m. till 8 p.m.; free entry; 070-6971-6611). For more information, visit www.anytokyo.com.