Traditional craftsmanship is in the bag

When it comes to finding an elegant way to employ traditional crafts for contemporary products, Yosuke Inui has got it in the bag.

A combination of attractive textiles with centuries-old woodcrafting techniques, Inui’s Wappa Bag retains just enough traditional aesthetic to look “Japanese” without appearing cliched. Made in Odate in Akita Prefecture — the home of the magewappa craft of bending strips of cedar wood softened by hot water — these bucket-shaped bags have handles hand-bound in locally sourced natural vine and come with a choice of colorful fabric inner pouches.

If the boxes look familiar, it’s probably because magewappa is traditionally used to create bento lunch boxes, since cedar wood has natural antibacterial qualities that helps prevent foods from spoiling. Of course, you won’t be filling these bags with rice and pickles, but the inner pouches can be switched whenever you feel you need a fresh look.

The Wappa Bag is big enough to hold a long wallet and few other small items and is available in three inner-pouch styles: Pop for ¥30,240, Color for ¥34,560 and Traditional for ¥51,840. You’ll find them on sale from April 10-15 at the New Densa Project show at Japan Traditional Crafts Aoyama Square.


Blue Moomins

It’s clear that Japan loves the Moomins. Tove Jansson’s family of bohemian forest trolls are nostalgic for those who enjoyed the 1960s animated TV series, and they are part of the nation’s more recent fascination with all things Nordic. They’ve been welcomed in all manner of collaborations and appeared on T-shirts, stationery, toys, baked goods, sweets — the list goes on.

Early last year, design company Amabro fully embraced these unofficial ambassadors of Finland with a series of sometsuke (traditional-style blue-and-white glaze) porcelain cups and dishes. A collaboration with artisans in Akita Prefecture, the designs not only featured the various Moomins, but also placed them against backdrops of Japanese motifs.

Now, Amabro is introducing Moomin fans to another age-old Japanese craft — aizome indigo resist dyeing. The Aizome Pendant Light is a large ceiling lamp, 45 cm in diameter and 25 cm tall. Its indigo-dyed cotton-and-hemp shade is available in two designs — one with the Moomins inside a cave and the other featuring them frolicking in a bed of flowers. The indigo dye means these are dark shades, so expect a relaxing dim light — perhaps a bit like that of a magical troll-filled forest.

The Aizome Pendant Light is priced ¥30,240 and can be bought directly from Amabro.


Concrete end to hanami

Cement Produce Design has created its own hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) season for its range of See Oh! Ribbon bookmarks.

See Oh! Ribbon is one of those simple but visually very effective designs. Delicate silhouettes are seared into a sheet of polyester ribbon and kept in place by tiny connecting tabs, which you simply snip with a pair of scissors when you want to remove one. Once cut out, the flap end marks the page in a book, while the strands of shapes cascade over the spine into a decorative showpiece.

There’s a range of designs, including leaves, jewelry and typography, but for spring, naturally it’s cherry blossom. This special edition has been made using ribbon that has a different shade of pink on each side, so with a little twist of the strands, the blossoms will fall in two tones.

A sheet of three See Oh! Ribbon Spring Limited bookmarks is ¥1,296, and just like cherry blossoms, it is fleetingly available. Just 200 sheets were made and you can only find them at Cement Produce Design’s Coto mono michi store.


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