This month we look at quintessentially Japanese objects re-invented as modern-retro designs.

Dolled up drinking vessels

The Kokeshi Sake Bottle brings together three traditional Japanese objects — the tokkuri (sake bottle), sakazuki (drinking cups) and the kokeshi doll. Designed by Kenichiro Oomori, whose experience includes finding new ways to manipulate metal and wood crafts, this unusual glassware set is produced by Hirota Glass, one of Tokyo’s oldest glass manufacturers.

Using Edo-glass techniques, these bottles are hand-blown into a mold to create 300-ml bottles in the shape of a kokeshi body. The sakazuki becomes the bottle’s cap and the doll’s head, and when it’s used as a glass, it sits tilted at an odd, but stable, angle.

It comes in two designs: a clear striated set (¥8,640); and a frosted one (¥12,960), which is decorated in a leafy pattern created by an unusual nikawa (gelatin paste) technique. The nikawa is painted onto the glass, which it distorts as it dries and cracks on the surface. Once washed off, a unique design is revealed etched into the bottle.

For more information, contact Hirota Glass via the website.

hirota-glass.co.jp www.kenichirooomori.com

Weaving in the old

For the past couple of years, the Kori-Show Project — a collection of traditional Japanese craftspeople, including dollmakers Matarodoll, paper manufacturer Takada Shiki and tatami producers Kunieda — has been working with contemporary designers to take craft industries in a new direction. With guest creators such as the progressive clothing designer Eatable of Many Order and jewelry maker Shinji Nakaba, the result is a growing collection of products that wed fresh designs with traditional aesthetics and manufacturing techniques.

The Kori Tote by Kunieda is still being fine-tuned, but the sample pictured here reveals that it takes its inspiration from kōri, large woven willow or bamboo storage boxes that hark back to the Edo Period (1603-1868). Kōri were commonly used to store clothing or household goods, but some had leather handles and detachable straps to secure them so that they could be used as carry cases.

According to the Kori-Show Project, turning tatami into a tote bag, a more practical version of a kōri case, was a process of trial and error, shaped by the difficulties of manipulating the inflexible woven textile to work with durable leather. But the end result is impressive. The straps are reminiscent of those on kōri cases and the tatami appears as a finer version of woven willow. Like the kōri originals, it’s also designed to last as its textiles look better with age.

Kunieda plans to release the tote bag for ¥75,600 by the end of August, along with a semi-circle tatami clutch bag at ¥23,760. For more information contact the Kori-Show Project via the website.


New wave bento boxes

The wavy design of Tonono’s wooden furniture and lifestyle goods is not just an attractive pattern. According to designer Moriro Naiki, bonding the precision-cut wave pieces together also prevents warping of the wood.

Tonono’s latest addition to its lineup is a full range of tableware that includes a new look for jūbako, the tiered sets of lacquered boxes traditionally used to serve food. Like old-school jūbako, Tonono’s Oju are square, but the interlocking wavy edges allow you to safely stack them like steps to showcase the dishes inside. The exterior retains the natural tones of hinoki (Japanese cypress) and sugi (Japanese cedar) wood, while the traditionally lacquered interior has been replaced with an easy-to-clean urethane coating.

The Oju comes in various sizes with the medium priced at ¥10,735 and its lid at ¥7,052.


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