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Folding Tokyo’s icons

Graphic design unit Cochae (Miki Takeda and Yosuke Jikuhara) have been rethinking how to enjoy origami since 2003, creating books of pre-printed sheets with easy-to-follow instructions to fold them into brightly colored animals, anime characters, kokeshi dolls and even finger puppets.

Tokyo Origami is the sixth in its popular series, and this time it offers all the icons of the metropolis.

There are 24 new designs — some predictable (sushi and pandas) others charmingly odd (a sento bath and the Easter Island-like Moyai statue in Shinjuku), and as if to prove it’s up to date, there’s even the Tokyo Tower usurper, the Sky Tree.

Tokyo Origami can be bought online for ¥1,200 at the Seigensha Art Publishing website.

Cochae: www.cochae.com Seigensha: bit.ly/sgscochae

Lacquer looks even better on paper

Siwa — a collection of minimalist accessories designed by Naoto Fukasawa and made from durable paper produced by washi paper maker Onao — is one of those projects that has successfully modernized a traditional craft in an elegant and extremely marketable way.

In the past, the brand has occasionally collaborated with other designers to print patterns on products, but last month, it went one step further by launching a lineup that introduces another centuries-old traditional Japanese craft — urushi lacquer.

Originally used to embellish accessories of 16th-century samurai armor, koshu inden is a process of stenciling lacquer designs on deerskin. For Siwa x Urushi, urushi artisans have developed a new process to apply lacquer to the brand’s signature crumpled-look paper.

Siwa has also enlisted three designers, all with a Finnish flair, to create the urushi patterns: Klaus Haapaniemi, known for his folklore-influenced organic designs (pictured); Harri Koskinen, whose more abstract prints are bold and bright; and Akira Minagawa of mina perhonen, whose love of Nordic nature is often reflected in his textile prints.

The result is a wide range of slippers, bags, book covers and more, all delicately detailed with patterns of tiny droplets of shiny lacquer.

Siwa x Urushi can be found at Souvenir From Tokyo in The National Art Center, Tokyo, until Aug. 10, and in the Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Department store until July 14. Prices range from ¥4,800 for a card case to ¥30,000 for a shoulder bag.

Siwa: siwa.jp Souvenir From Tokyo: bit.ly/svftsiwa Mitsukoshi: bit.ly/mitksiwa

Pushing the paper envelope

Letter writing may be a thing of the past these days, but there’s always plenty of uses for envelopes, so why not have some fun with them?

The Kami-Men by Kami Play are three amusing envelopes that look like faces wearing wrestling masks. Each mask’s design draws on a traditional Japanese concept: the red one looks like the decorative mizuhiki paper-cords found on Japanese gift envelopes, while the blue and yellow ones bear motifs based on gourds and arrows, which are lucky symbols in Japan.

As the designs suggest, Kami Men are for the custom of giving money as good luck and congratulatory gifts. “Kami,” after all, can mean “paper” or “deity.” Don’t let that stop you from unmasking them for something else, though. Because when you do, you’ll find that the mask cover unfolds into one that you can actually wear on your head.

Each Kami-Men costs ¥1,200 at the AssistOn webstore.

Kami Play: www.kamiplay.jp Assist On: www.assiston.co.jp/2511

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