minna-sama, youkoso.

you've seen all the beautiful and perfect temples, gardens, architecture and technology in many books.

forget that for a moment. japan's highly visual and sensual culture has a wriggling, bustling and chirping underground of 126 million designers, all wanting to get creative. for better or for worse? with the best intentions!

here is modern street stuff from japan. material from my presentation at the visionplus7 conference, tokyo october 99: www.visionplus7.com

some of it official, but most of it less so. and mostly handmade, an old tradition in a modern dress. which works better? which is more fun???

design is word and image! within these two parameters, we'll cover several stations on our sanpo: word is lettering. space is maps. time is schedules. life is interfaces. and for dessert, cartoons.

"look for the details," said my seat neighbor on my first flight: the best japan-advice ever! and may i add: discover new flavors and textures.

saa, ikou yo --


tegaki: hand-written/ hand-drawn

hand-lettering, amateur or pro, has a tradition certain to continue beyond today. japan uses kanji and kana.

the chinese kanji characters were imported since the 4th century AD (some 50'000 characters, boiled down to 4000 under US post-war occupation). since 700 AD, phonetic simplification created hiragana (used first by women) and katakana (a shorthand for buddhist students).

today, in general, kanji convey essential meaning, hiragana inflect word endings.
katakana denote emphasis, sounds in comics, and foreign words. fyu-u-u-n = whooosh! supeisu mikkusu = "space mix".
romaji (latin) letters and numbers indicate modern attitude and hip look, like katakana in western rave-flyers.



without street names, and houses numbered not by sequence but age, you need maps! and elsewhere too, i assure you...

above: official, mechanically/ digitally produced. transportation / area orientation / boat ride to ohshima.
below: private initiative, handpainted. temple maps by professionals / neighborhood maps by, well, neighbors...



vending machines? just the tip of the iceberg.

here is where the people communicates beyond speaking and writing: instructions to make community go smoothly in a dense country.

no matter what media high or low, there's desire to make something work. individuality comes through at every corner, from hi-tech braille ticket machines to makeshift ashtrays at suburban basu-noriba...


kawaii: cute

humans: girls/ boys/ moms/ couples...
animals: birds/ marine life/ furry/ pachyderms...
things with faces on them...

maybe a tradition from the edo period (16th century), predecessor of pop culture? for success with your business, you MUST have a cute character. there's a spirit in every little thing, so just make sure! people will know.

unlike disney's explicit facial expressions, most kawaii is very simple and to the point, to leave room for your own feelings.



more japan pictures:
see visionplus7 conference,
tokyo october 1999:

> presentation announcement
> presentation script and pix
> conference pictures
> japan travel report

< back to thinking
< back to kame in october
< back to home