Tag Archives: Japan

Queen in Versailles: Marie-Antoinette Tokyo Exhibit

Versailles will be visiting Tokyo this winter. The exhibition “Marie-Antoinette, a Queen in Versailles” will be running from October 25, 2016, to February 26, 2017 at the Mori Arts Center Gallery in Tokyo, Japan. It will be the first exhibition dedicated to the last queen of France in Japan, where the historical icon is made a household name through a thoroughly Japanese medium, but wholly unexpected anywhere else in the world, the bestselling manga The Rose of Versailles.

The exhibition will provide a look at the life of Marie-Antoinette, who is famous (some say unjustly infamous) for her refined taste in luxury and fashion (which means made-to-order spectacles since this is 18th century France). The works of the queen’s preferred artisans are shown in the exhibition, such as tableware from the Sèvres Royal Porcelain Works.

One of the main highlights will be a reconstruction of the queen’s private apartment in the Palace of Versailles – complete with the bedroom, bathroom, and a majority of the furnishings. Meanwhile, the stucco library is to be reproduced in 3D. That bathroom is particularly notable as the French queen had a proper in-door lavatory, which was unique in Versailles. Thinking on that makes us realize that everyone reading this has access to more luxury than even the richest of the rich in the pre-Industrial era.

191016-antoinettetokyo2

“Marie-Antoinette” by the Sèvres Royal Porcelain Works by Louis-Simon Boizot. © Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN/ Christophe Fouin

Visitors will also be able to view a retrospective of Marie-Antoinette’s life: from her wedding to Louis XVI (who was dauphin at the time) to the day she became queen and the birth of her children. Marie-Antoinette’s entourage and fellow members of the French royal family, are featured as well. The showcase also explores the queen’s darker days, such as the infamous Affair of the Necklace, and of course the deadly consequences of the French Revolution for her and her family.

A total of 200 pieces will be showcased at the exhibition, most of them hailing from the Palace of Versailles collections. You can also view similar treasures at the grand museum in Canberra, Australia this season.

Tom Dixon Brew coffee set photo

How Japan is Perking Up to Coffee Culture

Need a pick-me-up? Try a lychee-flavored coffee infused with jasmine, or a ‘Chardonnay’ espresso served in a wine glass – whatever your taste, Japan’s swashbuckling baristas are bringing some serious sex appeal to the drink.

In a country famous for its elaborate tea traditions, the Japanese are increasingly turning to coffee as a quick-fix to help ease the daily grind. Hipster cafés are popping up everywhere, offering exquisitely curated beverages to satisfy even the fussiest of caffeine addicts.

Japan imports over 430,000 tones of coffee a year – behind only the United States and Germany – and boasts some of the world’s top baristas.

“The fact that tea culture already existed in Japan has helped cultivate an appreciation for coffee as a luxury item,” Miki Suzuki told AFP after recently being crowned Japan’s champion barista.

“Japanese people have an extremely sensitive palate so they can appreciate subtle differences in flavor,” said the 32-year-old.

Suzuki impressed judges with a nitrogen-charged beverage – a technique often used by craft beer breweries to get a rich froth – which also had delicate citrus tones. For added serving style she decanted it into champagne flutes.

“Actually I didn’t even like coffee at first. Now my goal is to become the first female barista to win the world title,” she admitted.

Japan has a fine pedigree at the World Barista Championship and Suzuki will look to emulate 2014 winner Hidenori Izaki at the competition in Seoul next year, and go one better than Yoshikazu Iwase, the 2016 runner-up.

Creativity and Panache

Along with the likes of Suzuki and three-time national runner-up Takayuki Ishitani, their creativity and panache have made coffee-making cool.

“With a flick of the wrist here and a little bit of flair, baristas are making coffee sexy,” said Ishitani, adding: “It’s part of a barista’s job to enchant the customer and be a bit of a smooth operator, like a bartender. The performance is part of creating an atmosphere to please the customer.”

How Japan is Perking Up to Coffee Culture

In this photo taken on October 12, 2016, a Japanese woman drinks her beverage at a coffee shop in Tokyo. Hipster cafés are offering exquisitely curated beverages to satisfy even the fussiest of caffeine addicts. © BEHROUZ MEHRI / AFP

Ishitani whipped up a bubbling potion mixed with dry ice, fragrant herbs and orange honey at the Japan Barista Championship but insists he is on a “never-ending quest” for the perfect cup of coffee.

“It’s all about perseverance,” he added between pouring frothy cappuccinos at a trendy surf shop in Tokyo’s Daikanyama district.

“Japanese people pay meticulous attention to detail. You’re not competing against other baristas, the battle is against yourself.”

Tea Ceremony

The first documented evidence of tea in Japan dates back to the ninth century, when Buddhist monks brought it back from China.

However, coffee only became popular in Japan after World War II, when the country resumed imports.

Starbucks now peddles its wares in more than one thousand stores in Japan, while bottled and canned coffee sold in vending machines or convenience stores have long been a cheap favorite of the busy salaryman.

Despite the fact serious roasters turn their noses up at Starbucks, Japan has come a long way since the smoke-filled dives of the 1980s bubble era, which served coffee with antiquated percolators – though many still survive.

Coffee sales have long outstripped those of green tea and hip new hangouts with latte artists sprouting up in Tokyo and across Japan could easily be mistaken for New York or London.

“Definitely there is an intense interest in the minutia of coffee-making in Japan,” said American Scott Conary, one of the judges at the Japan Barista Championship.

“You’re seeing more cafés with better skills and better coffee.”

While Japan’s highly ritualized tea ceremony is increasingly seen as a remnant of a bygone age, Ishitani doesn’t take his art too seriously.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to drink coffee as reverently as we do tea,” he said. “Just knock it back – it’s really something that’s there to help the conversation flow.”

Dawn of Youth: Preview; NAKAZATO Aoi

Dawn of Youth: Kato Art Duo Gallery

From 6 October to 3 November 2016, Kato Art Duo gallery in Singapore will present their latest group exhibition ‘Dawn of Youth’, which will introduce young Japanese print artists, Nakazato Aoi,Tomone Sano, Miyuki Takashima and Singapore ceramic artist, Zestro Leow.

Dawn of Youth: Preview; NAKAZATO Aoi

Nakazato Aoi

Nakazato Aoi (b. 1993, Saitama, Japan) draws inspiration from daily modern landscapes which remind her of her home town such as family restaurants, convenient stores and apartments. The Saitama Prefecture is as typically suburban as it gets, not famous for any specialty. These concrete, characterless structures have become motifs for her collection of print works. She transforms these suburban buildings into her oddly beautiful yet comforting prints with her subtle use of colour and constant composition.

Nakazato Aoi

Nakazato Aoi

In contrast to Nakazato works, Tomone Sano (b. 1993, Fukui, Japan) is inspired by nature and the softness of organisms such as the human body and round shapes. “When I watch the jellyfish in the aquarium, I would feel the softness as if I were touching it and I would feel like I’ve become a jellyfish swimming in the water,” says Tomone. “When I lie on the grassland and close my eyes, feeling the gentle touch of wind on my face and the sweet scent of grass, I can feel my soul merging with the ground. When I perceive the human form in the same category as microbes, insects and plants, I feel connections with the universe.”

Dawn of Youth: Preview; TOMONE Sano

Tomone Sano

Tomone’s artworks seem to have a gentle, life-like notion to them. Her body of work consists mainly of copper plate prints and colour pencil drawings. For her copper print works, she utilises techniques such as etching and sanding to pursue the beauty in the black ink stippled line drawings. As for her colour pencil drawings, she tends to create with the awareness of the transparency of the paper and the overlapping of the colourful lines.

Miyuki Takashima (b. 1991, Chiba, Japan) graduated in 2015 from Joshibi University of Art Design, printmaking course and specialised in copperplate printing. Miyuki’s copperplate prints are often of Japanese school environments and high school girls in their uniform. Her subject matter may look innocent at one glance, but at closer look however, her creation give viewers a sense of darkness and mysterious morbidity.

Miyuki Takashima

Miyuki Takashima

“In my teenage years, I did not see the necessity that everyone wears the same uniform. I dreamt to break out of these rules,” says Miyuki. “When I realised that it is the same world in and outside the classroom, I then understood that this world has no exit.”

Last but not least, Zestro Leow (b. 1994, Singapore) graduated from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore in 2015. Zestro is a devoted Buddhist and often bases his ceramic creations on Buddhism. For ‘Dawn of Youth’, he will present a series of works, which are inspired by Shinto-Shrines (God’s House) created by stacking up individual wheel-thrown vessels.

Zestro Leow Wen Jin

Zestro Leow Wen Jin

He alters the traditional outlook of the shrines, and hope to express that even when every physical feature of functionality has been made obsolete, pure emotional beliefs still stand within his sculptures. Zestro explains further: “The function of an object which aesthetically enhances a space would be to beautify, however beauty is fickle and subjective.” So even when every physical feature of functionality has been made nil, its purpose and longevity is then found in the sentiments and meanings that we choose to instill.

French ski lodge La Bouitte in the French Alps © La Bouitte, Relais & Chateaux

Relais & Chateaux Welcomes 21 Newcomers

Relais & Chateaux touts itself as the standard-bearer for the hotel and restaurant industry, much like the Michelin label. Another 21 properties and restaurants will be able to hang the coveted fleur de lys symbol, designating membership to the group.

The shortlisted properties are all independent and must adhere to distinct criterias characterized as “the soul of the innkeeper,” “celebration of the senses”, and “the art of living”.

The newcomers to the Relais & Chateaux club hail from the US, Colombia, France, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, China, Japan and New Zealand.

Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York City at his restaurant in New York May 16, 2016. © TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York City at his restaurant in New York May 16, 2016.
© TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

 

The latest New York addition, Chef Eric Ripert’s restaurant Le Bernardin, extended its acclaim beyond the three Michelin star it holds. The upscale restaurant regularly tops New York’s best eats lists for its seafood and is one of the hottest tables in town for both locals and tourists alike.

Bread Crusted Red Snapper Saffron “Fideos” Chorizo in Smoked Sweet Paprika Sauce at Le Bernardin © Shimon & Tammar

Bread Crusted Red Snapper Saffron “Fideos” Chorizo in Smoked Sweet Paprika Sauce at Le Bernardin
© Shimon & Tammar

 

Over in France, an alpine ski lodge located in the heart of the Trois Vallees, is the latest chalet to gain admittance into the group. Boasting three Michelin stars, the Hotel Restaurant La Bouitte in the French Alps is a luxury ski lodge designed to reflect its surroundings, with luxurious furnishings set off against rustic wood beams and flooring.

Father and son duo Rene and Maxime Meilleur have also made the country inn one of France’s premier dining destinations for dishes like “veal à la Savoyarde” with cheese polenta and creamy sauce.

Wharekauhau Lodge and Country Estate, New Zealand © Courtesy of Wharekauhau

Wharekauhau Lodge and Country Estate, New Zealand
© Courtesy of Wharekauhau

 

In New Zealand, The Wharekauhau Lodge & Country Estate, a property set on a sheep farm, was given its membership card for offering guests an indulgent stay in a bucolic setting with forests, lakes and rivers.

And over in Japan, travelers looking to stay at an authentic ‘ryokan’ or traditional Japanese inn may want to consider Nishimuraya Honkan in Hyogo which also received Relais & Chateaux’s stamp of approval. With a heritage that stretches back 150 years and seven generations, the inn offers a peaceful retreat amongst bamboo forests and hot springs.

The ryokan also serves traditional kaiseki, a Japanese tasting menu made up of several small plates.

For more Relais & Chateaux properties visit https://www.relaischateaux.com.

Tsukiji Market

Tokyo Puts Tsukiji Fish Market Move on Ice

Plans to move Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market – the world’s largest – were put on ice Wednesday over fears about toxic contamination at the new facility, as the cost of the move soars. The market is regularly the site of record-breaking bids for fresh fish and we have revisited it often over the years for that reason.

The megacity’s new governor, Yuriko Koike, said she would postpone the move set for November until at least early next year, as she awaits final groundwater testing results at the new site, a former gas plant. Anyone planning a trip or intending to bid on any bluefin tuna should take note.

Plans to uproot the more than 80-year-old market, a popular tourist attraction, have been in the works for years, with advocates citing the need for upgraded technology.

But Koike, a former TV anchorwoman elected last month as the Japanese capital’s first female governor, had pledged to reconsider the plan.

“Needless to say, it is a market that handles fresh food,” Koike told a press conference as she announced the delay. “The Tokyo metropolitan government, which chiefly runs the market, is responsible for telling the world: ‘It’s safe.’”

Critics of the move cite contaminated soil found at the former gas production site.

The local government paid a whopping 86 billion yen ($833 million) in cleanup costs but Koike said she wants to wait for the results of water testing in January.

Koike would not say if she would consider scrapping the relocation altogether if the test results are bad.

“I want to wait for the examinations being done by the project team,” she said.

Koike also questioned the 588 billion yen in relocation costs, 36 percent higher than earlier estimates.

These costs include relocating the market to a less-central location several kilometers away and building a modern facility about 40 percent larger with state-of-the-art refrigeration.

Japanese media have reported that postponing Tsukiji’s move would cost about seven million yen a day, and could delay construction of a highway connecting the current site with an athletes’ village being built for the city’s 2020 Olympics.

Comme des Garçons

Aesthetic Debt: What High Fashion Owes Asia

Who says fashion exists in its own bubble? Designers and houses today are, more than ever, drawing inspiration and references from all over the world. Nowhere is this more apparent than in high fashion’s relationship with the East. The seductive Orient has long been a goldmine for decorative touches. Christian Dior’s love of the East led him to create a dress – in the beautiful New Look silhouette with its nipped waist and elaborate volume – covered in Japanese scribble lifted from an old print. The words? Something about bowel movements and a tummy ache. A funny yet telling example, if there were one, about the results of good intentions and unwitting execution.

Gladly, designers today have the luxury of research and the availability of a global world view (thank you, Google) that’s resulted in a more intelligent way of mining the East for inspiration – and it’s one that should be celebrated. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2015 key exhibition, China: Through the Looking Glass, was a significant showcase of the East’s influences on fashion. What it achieved was a plain demonstration that China has had an aesthetic influence on virtually every high fashion designer. The “looking glass” element to the exhibition, however, should be a strong reminder that China and indeed the rest of Asia aren’t far-away oriental mysteries. Its relevance and influence almost demand that designers picking references do so with intelligent sensitivity rather than with reductive pastiche.

Japan in Paris

Maison Margiela

Maison Margiela

Two of the most important Japanese designers – Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto – have been in the business for upwards of 40 years, with starts in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s intriguing to assess their aesthetics and impact on the industry. We must remember that the two were so influential and notable in Paris fashion because of the contrariness of what they were showing. When Western – that is, Euro-centric – fashion built dresses around the glamorous, sexualised female body, Kawakubo and Yamamoto stormed in and offered inventive forms, silhouettes, cuts, and an insistent use of the colour black. Indeed, the Yamamoto brand has been revered for its masterful craftsmanship, protective embrace of the body, and an intelligence that builds a sense of safety for the wearer – clothes as the proverbial armour.

Kawakubo, too, gained fame for being unrelentingly herself. Comme des Garçons has become a model brand (pictured top) with its numerous offshoot lines – Junya Watanabe, Noir Kei Ninomiya and Ganryu are all by Kawakubo’s protégés – and the opinion-leading Dover Street Market stores. The underpinning artistic strength remains the Comme des Garçons mainline designed by Kawakubo herself, which has been unfailingly unique, daring and avant-garde.

Kenzo today represents upbeat accessibility thanks to creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. The Opening Ceremony founders bring a commercial New York line of thought to the brand that keeps it in line with the founder’s original spirit. The man himself, Kenzo Takada, opened his boutique in Paris, named Jungle Jap, selling his bright and fun multicultural prints. One of the key pillars of Kenzo fashion is a sense of fun and youth. Soon, Kenzo will launch a collaborative collection with H&M, one in a series of special edition releases with the likes of brands like Lanvin, Maison Martin Margiela, Balmain, Isabel Marant and Karl Lagerfeld. Onward to the future, indeed.

Speaking of the future, one must never forget the Japanese brand that pushed technical and creative boundaries. Issey Miyake is important to fashion because of his loving embrace of technology and the brand’s explorations of the form and function of dress. Miyake’s earliest works were built around the Japanese kimono, deconstructing the traditional garment to get to the core of what makes foldable garments work. Toying with dimensionality, he developed a line of clothes that were softly sculptural. His famous heat-pressed pleating technique birthed the Pleats Please line, and the shaped yet draped silhouette has been unique since. In the FW16 collection, current creative director Yoshiyuki Miyamae pays respectful homage with garments constructed with pleating techniques that the brand calls “baked stretched” and “3D steam-stretched”. The brand remains, in its spirit, venturous in exploring the effect of technology on fabric and garment construction.

Cultural Influences

Valentino

Valentino

The highest echelons of fashion owe an aesthetic debt to Asia. The original greats from Paris such as Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Paul Poiret, Madeleine Vionnet and Coco Chanel took inspirations from various facets of chinoiserie and japonism. There’s an element of pastiche that can’t be disregarded, though one can chalk it down to the times. Yves Saint Laurent paid tribute, in the 1970s, to cheongsam and qipao silhouettes, topped with hats and jackets inspired by imperial Chinese dress. In Tom Ford’s final collection for the house in the fall of 2004, such looks were amplified to highlight sensuality and sexual boldness. The figure-hugging and high-slit clothes demonstrated Ford’s high-octane sex-sells mentality and his ability to subvert traditional dress forms to suit the times.

Coco Chanel was a famously enamored collector of lacquered coromandel screens from China, and decorated her home and offices in Rue Cambon with more than 30 of them. Karl Lagerfeld’s collections have built on the obsession, most notably with a 2009 Métiers d’Art show in Shanghai that played to his strength of combining the heritage of Chanel with the needs of modern women. The result: a modern Chinese attitude worn with the insouciant bouclé skirt suits of the house. Lagerfeld then took a journey to India in the Paris-Bombay Métiers d’Art 2012 show: traditional Indian dress styles such as salwar trousers (voluminous pants which taper sharply near the ankles) and kurti (long, tunic-length blouses) got paired with Chanel’s iconic pearls and tweeds. When it comes to making references, Lagerfeld is a master; there’s an ease to the mix that belies deep research and finesse in construction.

John Galliano furthered Dior’s love of the Orient when he was designing for the house with the famously splendid SS07 and SS09 haute couture shows. Spring of 2007 saw modern geishas in chartreuse-, lavender- and rose-hued Bar silhouettes cut in silk-taffeta with an origami-style twist. In 2009, the ubiquitous willow pattern on Chinese ceramics sneaked under the linings, on the insides, and around the outsides of the dresses – a delicacy to the clothes lent by invoking a key product of trade that China has shared with the West for centuries.

Today’s Take

Valentino

Valentino

Modern couturiers play a more nuanced game of reference-picking. Consider Valentino’s Spring 2016 haute couture showing. The silhouettes and thrust of the look was the otherworldly and ultra-feminine signature that Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have become acclaimed for. Kimono-style coats and robes with hand-painted carps and dragons draw from the mythological wellspring of the East. This followed the visual story in the brand’s Pre-Fall 2016 collection which featured hand-painted and intarsia-ed dragons and swallows, pyjamas with brocaded swans, and shift dresses with genteel 10th-century bird-and-flower paintings.

In Gucci’s FW16 collection, Alessandro Michele sent a dizzying number of 70 looks down his runway. The Michele method is to create for a variety of women – different characters daring to partake of and play in dress-up characterisation. Two Asian-informed looks strolled down the runway: the first, a minidress with an Italian sun motif and a Mao collar; the second, a floor-length qipao with pink fur trim on the sleeves and an embroidered phoenix pattern.

At Louis Vuitton and Kenzo, the brands looked towards a cartoon idealisation of women. Nicolas Ghesquière has one of the best knacks in the industry for tapping into youthful energy and giving it a sophisticated turn. Recall Spring 2016’s advertising campaign: the virtual avatar of Lightning (one of the lead characters in the Final Fantasy games) swings around a bag, strikes poses and looks airbrushed to perfection. It is worth noting that the Lightning character in the games is a combatant – the strongest playable character, even. This is reflected in the clothes, too: the urban-heroine sensibility is carried into FW16’s exaggerated silhouettes, emphasis on heavy boots, panelled bodysuits and armour-like leather bustiers. At Kenzo, the train of thought was Sailor Moon, beloved ’90s shōjo icon of female liberation and strength. It took the spirit of confidence and quintessential femininity, and translated it into an abundance of empire waistlines and deconstructed duffel coats with a smattering of reworked archival iris, dandelion and tiger prints (Kenzo is known for its print work).

Dior

Dior

On a more technical front, we look back to Raf Simons’ debut haute couture collection for Dior in the Fall 2012 season. The collection saw Simons impose abstract Sterling Ruby prints onto coats and dresses using an Indonesian technique seen through a French eye. The original technique ikat is an early form of warp printing. Warp printing involves dyeing the fabric on the yarn before it is woven, as opposed to traditional methods in which a print is stamped onto a finished yard of fabric. The resulting print is warbly and far from sharp, and – to quote Mr Simons – “has the quality of a brush stroke”. In the 18th century, this was the same quality that led to the French creation of Chiné a la Branche, a variation on the ikat print technique that produced small, watercolor-esque floral prints on silk taffeta fabrics that found favour and fashion on the backs of Marie Antoinette and her contemporaries.

Today, what Asia represents for luxury and high fashion is fertile ground for growth and exploration. The massive Chinese economy offers opportunities for growth with a huge consumer base longing for the prestige and sheen of luxury. What fashion designers have to remember, then, is to pay their audiences back with the beauty they’ve borrowed.

This article was first published in L’Officiel Singapore.

Vinexpo Japan Returns With Second Edition

The last we left Vinexpo, it was in Hong Kong, where the wine trade event revealed Singapore’s favorite wine and made some interesting observations about Japan. Later this year, Vinexpo returns to Japan, the first return visit since its debut in 2014.

It is no surprise that Japan was chosen as the destination, with the nation being the number one Asian market for spirit imports, as well as the second largest for imported wines. In fact, wine imports last year climbed to a value of 1.41 billion euros, which is a nearly four percent increase relative to 2014. With wine consumption on the rise in Japan, it is forecasted in a previously published Vinexpo market study (linked above) that by 2017, Japanese consumers will drink 37 million cases (or a total of almost 445 million bottles!), another four percent increase from 2013 to 2017.

With the Japanese audience’s strong appetite for wine, Vinexpo Tokyo is expected to attract 4,500 trade visitors. Should you wish to contribute to that number, Vinexpo Japan will take place November 15 to 16 at Prince Park Tower Hotel.

This story is also available in Bahasa Indonesia. Read it here: Vinexpo Jepang Kembali Digelar

BMW Unveils Concept Center in Tokyo Bay

BMW is taking its “the next 100 years” concept very seriously, so what better place to open its latest state-of-the-art experience complex than Japan, a country well-known for its obsession with technology – more specifically the future of technology.

Located in Tokyo Bay, the 27,000 m² space will allow visitors to view the iconic Mini and luxurious BMW models in showrooms, grab a bite at the cafes, view exclusive features at exhibition spaces and even an opportunity to experience Virtual Reality. However, fans of BMW and Mini will revel in the test-driving facility, built to BMW’s own ‘M’ standards. And because we’re talking about Japanese service, you can reserve your car of choice online and even receive full driving training before taking it for a spin.

“Not only can they see a range of our cars in a spectacular static environment, they can also get behind the wheel and experience both brands’ exceptional dynamic capabilities. This is far more than just a new showroom — it’s somewhere for customers and fans to enjoy BMW and Mini in an exciting and engaging way,” said Dr Ian Robertson, BMW AG Management Board Member for Sales and Marketing BMW.

The facility comes after BMW unveiled a series of concept cars from each of its brands – Mini, BMW and Rolls-Royce – where the German automobile firm imagines the revolution of its vehicles by 2116.

Takashi Murakami, NEXT5 Limited Edition Sake

The Japanese artist Takashi Murakami has collaborated with Akita-based brewers NEXT5 to create a new sake with limited-edition packaging by the artist: “Takashi Murakami×NEXT5”. Murakami did not only work on the packaging, as such collaboration usually go, but also had a hand in the recipe for the sake.

Murakami, one of the world’s top-selling contemporary artistshas produced an original pure Junmai Daiginjo sake with the help of five long-established brewers from the Akita region of Japan. The NEXT5 brewing unit is comprised of Tadahiko Kobayashi (Akita brewery), Yusuke Sato, (Aramasa Brewery), Koei Watanabe (Fukurokuju Brewery), Tomofumi Yamamoto (Yamamoto Brewery) and Naoaki Kuribayashi (Kuribayashi Brewery).

Back to the roots of sake

The new recipe by the artist and brewers is created using the traditional kimoto-zukuri brewing method, where kimoto yeast is used to make the sake by placing it in a bag with rice and water, massaging a few times a day and letting the yeast enzymes slowly dissolve the rice to produce the alcohol. This technique dates back to the earliest years of the Edo period (between 1603 and 1868) before the Meiji Restoration. Murakami explains that the idea was to go back to the roots of the drink: “If we go far back enough into the history of sake, we find culture coming from China. We want to grasp this thread and weave it into a fresh form.”

Exclusive bottle designs

As well as helping with the creation of the sake, the artist Murakami has designed four unique bottles: one glass and three ceramic. The designs feature typical Murakami patterns of his signature smiling flower motif. Two of the ceramic bottles, the gold and white editions, are embossed, with the gold bottle signed by the artist himself.

Glass bottles retail for 5,000-3,500 yen, while the ceramic formats vary from 35,000 yen (blue on white motifs) to 170,000 yen (gold relief). The signed edition is noteworthy for the difference in price between it and all the other versions. At close to $1,000, this is one demanding bottle of sake!

“Takashi Murakami×NEXT5” sake can be purchased at Marakami’s bar, Zingaro (Nakano) and at select stores.

Bentley Delivers Bespoke Irons For Golf

While the luxury car marque Bentley has stepped into worlds other than motoring before, most notably fashion and luggage, but this time it is aiming for something out of its comfort zone but that will certainly speak to its core audience. The top brass at Bentley decided to come up with a new bespoke collection of golf clubs, bags, and accessories in partnership with Professional Golf Europe. These products still keep the levels of exclusivity and customizability that Bentley’s well known for – maintaining the peak of exquisite metalcraft and aesthetic flair. The collection will go on sale in September, meaning Bentley Bentayga owners will have new toys to play with.

The collection consists of irons from the 3 through to PW range, and woods including a driver with three loft options (Utility, Hybrid and fairway), plus three wedges and a putter. Other accessories like a tour bag, a cart bag, and a stand bag will also be a part of it. For those who’ve already got their hands on a full set of pro clubs but still want something Bentley and golf-related, they can take a look at specially branded Bentley goods including an umbrella, a sterling silver ball marker, and a leather scorecard holder.

Bentley umbrella 2016

In order to craft tools worthy of the best golfers out there, Bentley turned to the Japanese town of Ichikawa – a town with a rich tradition of metalworking skills and hand-forging samurai swords. This ensures that every single club isn’t just placed through the rote process of manufacture, and is actually tailored to suit the precise needs of a client. Yet, the traditional technique of crafting is also combined with up to date technologies and the CNC milling process is also used for each iron.

Customization options include a choice of performance steel or graphite for the shafts, as well as a host of custom leather grips. There are also quite a number of nods to Bentley’s automobile aesthetics and design ethos, such as the knurling done on the end caps of the clubs, and diamond quilting done on caddies, matching luggage and other accessories.

The price for all of that? Well it probably depends on how much customizability you want, but for those who intend to go all the way in spiffing up their irons it could probably lead to a very hefty sum. Forbes notes that some upgrades include “custom-made $10,000 shafts or alligator skin grips”. Only aim for those (see what we did there?) if you really want to be the envy of the golf course.

Tokyo Keio Plaza Hotel Celebrates Porcelain Art

Among the wide range of Japanese porcelain types out there, the Arita/Imari style is notable for being one of the more flowery styles. It was first produced in the town of Arita in the 17th century and is best recognized by the white porcelain with colorful nature motifs on it. In celebration of the 400 years that the style has existed, the Keio Plaza Hotel located in Tokyo has decided to host a number of special treats lasting from July 1 to August 7.

Held in the lobby of the hotel, the annual Arita Porcelain Fair will enjoy its 36th iteration this year. For this year, a giant “Porcelain Tree” sculpture (9.5 meters long and 3 meters wide) will be installed there alongside the work of three prominent Arita artists. Among these three artists – Inoue Manji, Imaizumi Imaemon, and Sakaida Kakiemon – two hold the title of the special ‘National Living Treasure’ certification. Their work represents the best in the craft through their willingness to mix time-tested porcelain techniques with a contemporary sense of innovation.

At the same time, 10 of the restaurants at the hotel will be offering a selection of special menus served in Arita/Imari porcelain. From there they’ll be able to see how the beautifully arranged food plays off the designs on the porcelain. The menus range from a Japanese lunch set (priced at 4,200 yen) to a full Tempura course (priced at 18,000 yen).

If you’re interested in finding out more about the traditions of Arita/Imari porcelain, you can check out the full scope of events over at the Keio Plaza Hotel website.

Wearable Innovation: 132.5 Issey Miyake Tote

When the objects we use every day and the surroundings we live in have become in themselves a work of art, then we shall be able to say that we have achieved a balanced life. Bruno Munari, Design as Art (1971)

The Japanese craft of origami reimagines a single sheet of paper in countless ways as a plethora of different shapes. It exploits the primordial, uniquely human ability to imagine one thing as something else. If even a bird can see a twig being repurposed as a component of a nest, surely we can visualize it as a piece of furniture, fuel for fire, decoration and, of course, paper. But in a world that constantly churns out the new, what does it mean to be imaginative?

Over the past 45 years, Issey Miyake has become synonymous with innovation. Some inventions, we’re familiar with: revolutionary pleating techniques gave birth to Pleats Please, a line that supposedly compliments every body type. Their A-POC line similarly holds the philosophy that a single piece of cloth can be fully utilized and sensitive to the body, and decrease wastage as a result. Even their campaigns were one of the first to encourage race equality in fashion. In a nutshell, the design house is fueled by razor-sharp vision.

Thus it is only appropriate to select this star-shaped tote as this month’s object – a symbol of mankind’s quest to reinvent. Inspired by the work of computer engineer Jun Mitani, the developers of Issey Miyake’s Reality Lab designed special computer software for the creation of 132.5 Issey Miyake. The numbers are significant: one item, a three-dimensional form that is derived from two-dimensional shapes, which, the brand declares, propels the design into the fifth dimension when it is carried.

Without a doubt, Issey Miyake has plotted a thought-provoking map of shapes. The celestial 132.5 might not solve life’s existentialist conundrums, but it sure is a testament to how technology can lead to new, exciting possibilities.

This article was originally published in L’Officiel.

Now See These: 5 Design Exhibitions Summer 2016

With the Milan Furniture Fair wrapped up, the connoisseurs of the latest in interior design are eagerly awaiting the next Maison & Objet show a mere months away. Yet, for those who still need to get their design itch scratched – there are still quite a number of exhibits running through the summer all over the world. Here then is a list of the top 5 of those exhibits showcasing the best in design innovation:

Radical Design (until November 17, 2017) – Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany

Gaetano Pesce - La Mamma (from the Up series of furniture)

Gaetano Pesce – La Mamma (from the Up series of furniture)

With growing political turmoil and interest in social activism during the 20th century came the idea that design could be used for subversive purposes beyond just aesthetics and comfort. This was especially so with the “Radical Design” movement in Italy – formed in the 1960s to protest against popular design trends of the day. One of their notable designs, for example, is the “La Mamma” lounge chair by Gaetano Pesce which is shaped to invoke a woman’s torso with a ‘ball and chain’.

Nendo: The Space in Between (until October 30, 2016) – Design Museum Holon, Israel

"Thin Black Lines Chair" by Nendo

“Thin Black Lines Chair” by Nendo

This extensive retrospective on one of the most innovative and world-renowned studios out there cuts across a variety of Nendo’s designs to show a thorough scope of their capabilities. Stretching across 74 works, the exhibition is split into six categories, each of which depicts a different way the studio has gone ‘in-between the cracks’ of what is possible with design. An example is the “Thin Black Lines” chair, which steps in-between the boundaries of bare outline and proper form.

S.O.S. Sottsass Olivetti Synthesis (until August 21, 2016) – Olivetti Showroom in Venice, Italy

Ettore Sottsass Office Concept for Olivetti

Ettore Sottsass Office Concept for Olivetti

This exhibit delves into the extravagant works of designer Ettore Sottsass from the revolutionary Memphis Group in Italy. It specially focuses on the vibrant office designs that Sottsass created for the typewriter maker Olivetti.

Two Exhibits on Designer Harry Bertoia (until September 25, 2016) – Museum of Arts and Design, New York, USA

Harry Bertoia with one of his works

Harry Bertoia with one of his works

The influential designer Harry Bertoia is placed in the spotlight for two exhibitions at the Museum of Arts and Design. The first, entitled “Atmosphere for Enjoyment: Harry Bertoia’s Environment for Sound” delves into the special ‘tonal sculptures’ Bertoia created when he discovered that rods make lush and resonant sounds when they strike one another. These works incorporated noise into their design while maintaining the outer veneer of a sculpted form.

The second exhibit is entitled “Bent, Cast & Forged: The Jewelry of Harry Bertoia” and goes into a variety of jewelry crafted by Bertoia from melted-down metal scraps.

Learning from Japan (until September 24, 2017) – Danish Museum of Art and Design, Copenhagen, Denmark

"Learning from Japan" at the Danish Museum of Art and Design.

“Learning from Japan” at the Danish Museum of Art and Design.

Japan has always been a big influence on the interior design landscape of the world, especially with its long history of Zen, Shinto and Buddhist inspired aesthetics. This was especially true, unlikely as it may seem, for Denmark, which incorporated Japanese applied art to Danish arts and crafts around the turn of the century. The Danish Museum of Art and Design’s long exhibition on Japanese design (started in 2015 for their 125th birthday) aims to delve into this relationship as thoroughly as possible, featuring a wide variety of Japanese designs.

flamingo inspired black vinyl heel

Japan Fashion Police Push for High Heels

Feminists, look away! Fashion police in Japan want to ’empower’ women by persuading them to wear high heels, insisting the country’s historic ‘kimono culture’ has led to many women having poor posture.

The Japan High Heel Association (JHA) is calling on women across the country to trade sensible shoes for a pair of stilettos, insisting that standing tall will give them ‘confidence’ — and improve their gait.

“Japanese women walk like ducks,” JHA managing director ‘Madame’ Yumiko told AFP in an interview at her plush Tokyo salon.

“They waddle along, pigeon-toed, with their bottoms sticking out as if they’re bursting to use the toilet. It looks ghastly,” she added.

In an apparent bid to improve this situation, the all-female organization charges thousands of dollars for etiquette lessons, including special classes where women are taught to walk correctly, and particularly in high heels.

Critics have branded the idea sexist and laughable, particularly as women are still battling against a deeply ingrained patriarchal culture that once expected them to pace three steps behind men.

Yet the “walking etiquette classes” are proving hugely popular: At JHA students pay 400,000 yen ($3,700) for a six-month course — and so far 4,000 have taken part, while similar lessons and schools are popping up nationwide.

The 48-year-old former ballerina blames the countries sartorial heritage for the posture problem.

“Chinese or Korean ladies don’t have these problems,” she said. “It’s a result of Japan’s kimono culture and shuffling about in straw sandals. It’s ingrained in the way Japanese walk.”

“But very few Japanese wear a kimono all day anymore. We should know about Western culture and how to wear heels correctly,” Yumiko added.

Japan High Heel Association managing director "Madame" Yumiko (R) giving a lesson on high heels in Tokyo. © AFP PHOTO/TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA

Japan High Heel Association managing director “Madame” Yumiko (R) giving a lesson on high heels in Tokyo. © AFP PHOTO/TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA

Barefoot protest

The shift away from traditional Japanese clothes happened gradually from around the late 19th century but it is only been since the 1980s that stilettos have become a fashion staple.

This ‘call to heels’ comes at a time when the West is experiencing a feminist fightback against diktats on how women should dress.

Hollywood star Julia Roberts went barefoot on the red carpet during the Cannes Film Festival in May — an act of rebellion after organizers caused uproar by ejecting women for wearing flat shoes at the previous year’s event.

Last month more than 100,000 British people petitioned parliament in the UK, calling for a change to an outdated dress code law that allowed employers to require women to wear high heels in the work place. The campaign, now backed by several politicians, was launched by a receptionist who was sent home by a firm for wearing flat shoes. But Yumiko argues wearing heels will help “Japanese women become more confident”.

She explains: “Many women are too shy to express themselves. In Japanese culture, women are not expected to stand out or put themselves first.”

Her solution is for women suffocated by such strict protocols to simply “throw on a pair of heels,” arguing the freedom it brings can unlock the mind. Prominent Japanese social commentator Mitsuko Shimomura dismissed the idea as “nonsense” that most would laugh at.

She said: “There’s no relationship between wearing high heels and women’s power. It sounds crazy.”

Men need heels too

Heels have been in and out of vogue — for men and women — for centuries, with murals on ancient Egyptian tombs dating them back to around 4,000 BC.

But they still have a key role to play in modern courtship, according to JHA director Tomoko Kubota. “If women look sexier, it will help Japanese men buck up their ideas,” the 45-year-old said.

A 2014 study by scientists from France’s Universite de Bretagne-Sud supports this view. The group conducted social experiments that showed men behave more positively toward high-heeled women.

In one test, they found if a woman dropped her glove on the street, men were 50 percent more likely to stop and return it to her if she was wearing heels rather than flats, while female behavior remained unchanged regardless of shoe worn, according to results published in the journal, Archives of Sexual Behaviour.

Students from across Japan sitting JHA exams for a certificate that allows them to become high heel instructors sing from the same hymn sheet.

“We learn how to move in a kimono and how to bow correctly, but not how to walk (in heels),” said hypnotherapist Takako Watanabe, 46 after a walking lesson. “It might help us catch a hunky guy,” she adds.

Fellow JHA alumni Ayako Miyata agrees it is an important skill that few Japanese women have mastered.

“It makes you look more lady-like,” said the 44-year-old, who has spent thousands amassing a stiletto collection. “They’re an essential item for a modern woman to feel pride and confidence in herself.”

Yumiko, whose parlor is a veritable shrine to France’s King Louis XIV, lined with frilly curtains embroidered with the image of the dandy, heel-wearing monarch, gives short shrift to accusations of sexism — she wants men to change their footwear too.

She explains: “As in the Renaissance period, men want to look taller and more stylish. Men should wear heels, so they can preen majestically like Louis XIV. I’m sure it will happen.”

Utamaro Woodblock Print Sets Auction Record

The Japanese art of woodblock printing has a very long history, with its fair share of masters whose work is in high demand from collectors . One of these masters was Kitagawa Utamaro, an artist nonpareil at the time for his beautiful depictions of women. At a Paris auction, held by the Beaussant Lefevre auction house in association with Christie’s, Utamaro’s sensual skill was brought to the forefront again with an auction of his ‘Deeply Hidden Love’ (Fukaku Shinobu Koi) print. It fetched around 745,000 euros, and went way beyond the initial estimate of 100,000 euros – setting a record for both prints of the Ukiyo-e genre, as well as prints by the artist of course.

Auction of the Portier Collection

The auction held in Paris was focused on Asian art and objects from a collection held by the Portier family – mainly consisting of Japanese earthenware including chawan (tea bowls) and kogo incense boxes. All 90 lots put up were sold after intense bidding, which is an extraordinary result. Some of the other major lots sold included a portrait of actor Tanimura Torazo created by artist Toshusai Sharaku (101,000 euros), and a bust of comedian Iwai Hanshiro by Utagawa Kunimasa (78,680 euros).

“(The Portiers’) expertise has been a reference for the Asian art market for the past four generations,” said the auction house in a statement.

There was also a set of eight exceptional Edo stamps that mainly depicted portraits of actors done by leading artists at the time. Each stamp was acquired by Henri Portier and his son Andre, major figures in the Asian art market in France, in sales at the Drouot auction house over the past century.

Utamaro, Master of Japanese Woodblock Prints

Compared with more popular forms of art like painting, the techniques behind woodblock printing are less known. It was a complicated process that involved three people working in tandem with one another. The artist himself usually only made the initial sketch of the final product, before sending it over to a carver to carve out the block, and a printer to apply inks to the block. Especially troublesome was the fact that each block could only be used for a single color (although some used blocks repeatedly to get special effects). Multiple woodblocks had to be prepared for a single print.

When the whole process worked out, under the conception of a skilled artist, you get the masterful combinations of color and form that characterize the best works in the medium. The powerful contrasts of blues and whites, for example, that blends together, for example, in Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave Off Kamigawa’. Utamaro, on the other hand, was more focused on using those colors to create a light and idealized form of femininity – and captured subjects like courtesans and Geisha from the Yoshiwara district – or bustling scenes of human life.

The methodology of Japanese woodblock printing has fallen out of favor, especially in view of newer mediums like linocut and lithography (and not to mention digital printing today). Still, the effects and techniques achieved by the Ukiyo-e artists have inspired countless others in the East and West – including great painters such as Van Gogh, most famously. The prints are being perpetuated all over the globe and can gather up new fans over the years. Hopefully, that’ll continue.

Michelin-Star Restaurant Closed After Food Poisoning

Having Michelin stars not only attracts diners but also raises expectations of a restaurant’s standards and service. So when one such restaurant in Japan was shuttered temporarily after diners are down with food poisoning, naturally it got our attention.

Fourteen diners at Kita Kamakura Saryo Gentoan southwest of Tokyo were reported to have suffered from food poisoning after a meal of sea urchin, squid and other seafoods. The restaurant is famous for serving kaiseki, a form of Japanese haute cuisine and has a single Michelin star to its name. In kaiseki tradition, each delicate dish is prepared with the utmost attention to detail.

When asked about the incident, an official in charge of food safety at the Kanagawa prefectural government said “ None of them were hospitalized and were already recovering when food poisoning was reported.” Authorities are currently trying to determine if the seafood or other factors contributed to the situation.

An investigation into the cause of the food poisoning is being carried out and the restaurant will remain closed during that period.

Focus: Yoshitomo Nara Singapore Exhibition

Yoshitomo Nara (b. 1959) is an artist whose paintings of big-eyed, enigmatic young girls and little dolls have become iconic imagery in Japanese contemporary visual culture. Highly sought-after and appreciated, his paintings have not only attained blue chip status in the global art market but also been transformed into different forms of merchandising, from notebooks to postcards to phone covers.15.-Bad-Meeting_2002_A.P-6-of-11

Nara is often associated with the generation of Japanese artists brought together under the ‘Superflat’ movement, which was a movement coined by Takashi Murakami at the end of the 1990s. This movement refers to the various flattened forms in Japanese graphic art, animation, pop culture and fine arts. While Nara’s works are often compared to other significant genres of Japanese pop culture like manga and animation, his narrative style is actually very different. In fact, he is more interested in creating single impactful images that contain an entire narrative, rather than constructing a series of images that tell a story (as seen in manga and animation).1.-I-dont-wanna-cry_2010_42-of-50

He is best known for his cartoon-like drawings, paintings, and sculptures of children and animals, often laced with provocative and suggestive messages. His work, which won him critical acclaim and international popularity, consist mostly of paintings of children with glaring, challenging expressions.

Born in the quiet countryside of Aomori, the artist was often left alone to dream and imagine. His fiercely independent subjects that recur in his artwork may be a reaction to Nara’s own largely independent childhood.1.-Guitar-Girl_2003_48-of-75

Nara was also notably born during post-World War II reconstruction, where he was not given access to Western popular culture, art and music. As there were hardly any museum or galleries in his quiet province, the artist’s only source of art was through weekly manga comics and Japanese TV animation. Nara’s response to these rigid social conventions during his childhood is reflected in the evil and sinister expressions juxtaposed with his innocent child figures.

Nara’s works are also largely inspired by music, specifically punk rock music. When he was a teenager, Nara recalled drawing inspiration from the cover art of punk music records, which he illegally purchased via mail. Because of his poor English, he would admire the album cover artworks to gain meaning of the music. Nara’s art embraces the punk ethos, capturing its rebellious and provocative nature.5.-Poindexter_2010_42-of-50

Nara completed his master’s program at Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music in 1987 but truly broadened his scope of artistic perspective when he moved to Germany in 1988. Here, he enrolled in the prestigious Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf and was also taught by Neo-Expressionist painter, A. R. Penck. Nara lived and worked in Cologne from 1994 to 2000, before returning to Japan. While overseas, he also served as a guest professor over a three-month stint at UCLA, together with Takashi Murakami, and has exhibited extensively around the world. He also currently has works in collections of prestigious institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Museum of contemporary Art in LA, to name a few.2.-Gypsy-Song-girl-is-passing-by_2010_42-of-50

From 16 June to 18 July 2016, Kato Art Duo in Singapore is holding an exhibition titled ‘Nara Yoshitomo – Picture Box’. This exhibition explores Nara’s challenge to communicate stories through his works in a single frame rather than a collection of pictures, and will feature a selection of the artist’s woodblock prints and lithograph work as well. He emphasizes the importance of having a personal narrative in his artwork, and delivering a story in a single captivating image.2.-Beah!_2003-18-of-72

His exhibition reflects his inner world in the midst of his ever-changing, external environment. Due to his isolation growing up, Nara is an artist with a wild imagination, and with multiple stories to tell from his experience. Despite the horrific and nihilistic qualities of some illustrations, his work actually seeks to inspire optimism and encourage the viewer to look for hope. He invites his viewer to look beyond the deceptive ‘kawaii-ness’ of little children and animals, and to embrace the freedom of imagination, and our ability to create a world of our own.

The Opening Reception of ‘Nara Yoshitomo – Picture Box’ will take place on 16 June 2016, 7pm at Kato Art Duo Gallery, Raffles Hotel Arcade #01-26. RSVP for free admission at info@katoartduo.com

Den Restaurant Singled Out by Asia’s 50 Best

Despite being hidden in a small alleyway next to a convenience store, Den may be one of the most interesting Japanese dining-spots out there. The Tokyo restaurant first made Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in February at 37th place. Now, the World’s 50 Best has marked it as this year’s ‘One To Watch’ – due to chef Zaiyu Hasegawa’s unique and playful vision of traditional kaiseki cuisine.

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Hasegawa started off at a ryotei (a traditional high-end Japanese restaurant) where his mother was working. He grew dissatisfied with the traditional style of cooking – noting in an interview that formal Japanese cuisine “lacks range… It’s not like haute couture where everything fits each customer perfectly”. With this new vision of hospitality (or, in Japanese, omotenashi) to accommodate each diner, he opened Den in 2007.

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The small intricate dishes that can be found within the restaurant have a vision of inventiveness that goes beyond many chefs out there. One of the signature dishes includes a garden salad made up of 20 different vegetables. Another is a ‘moss rock’ desert actually served on a shovel. The eight-course menu changes with the seasons.

The ‘One to Watch’ award is presented to the restaurant thought to have the most potential to move up the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in the near future. Hasegawa will receive the distinction on June 13 during The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in Manhattan.

You can check out Den’s website over here.

Images courtesy of World’s 50 Best List. This story was written in-house, based on an AFP report.

4 Asia-Pacific Wine Trends Revealed at Vinexpo

We’ve previously covered wine trends in Singapore and Japan, now Vinexpo brings us the findings from Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong. Here, we bring you the four major trends of wine consumption in these Asia-Pacific countries.

1) Reds over whites

The consensus is clear: reds continue to be the wine of choice in Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong, accounting for 89 percent, 74 percent and 83 percent of market share respectively.

In Taiwan, this figure is forecasted to grow by another 13 percent by 2019. Taiwanese consumers tipped back 1.45 million 9-liter cases of red wine, compared with 180,000 cases of white and 2,500 cases of rose. Even so, the reception of white wine is expected to grow 14 percent by 2019.

While Koreans generally enjoy reds for its purported health benefits, white wines are also fast gaining favor for pairing well with Korean cuisine. It is also interesting to note that the per capita consumption of wine in South Korea has doubled over the last decade, to average 0.8 liters of wine a year. Between 2010 and 2014, the per capita consumption grew nearly 40 percent, and is expected to rise another 20 percent over the next five years. This marks the consumption in South Korea as one of the sharpest increases in the Asia Pacific region.

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2) French wines are still preferred, except…

French wines are reported to be the most popular import in Taiwan with 37 percent of market share and Hong Kong with 27 percent. After French wines, Australian, US and Chilean wines are most popular. Between 2010 and 2014, US wines saw major growth, increasing by 41 percent.

Taiwan’s share of French wines is expected to dip due to the increasing popularity of Chilean wines (currently second in popularity at 18 percent), which are perceived as better value for money. US and Australian wines follow closely behind.

South Koreans bucked the French wines trend, favoring Chilean wines, with 10.2 million bottles imported a year.

3) Getting tipsy over bubbly

Like the Japanese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong people have developed a taste for sparkling wines. Vinexpo reported that its popularity has increased by a remarkable 51 percent over the last five years in Hong Kong, driven largely by the growing popularity of Prosecco and Cava which grew a whopping 89 percent and 110 percent respectively. Meanwhile in Taiwan, a 15-percent increase by 2019 is projected.

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4) Spirits still high in demand

As the world’s third largest market for single malt Scotch after the US and France, Taiwan boasted a consumption of 1.813 million cases of whisky in 2014, a figure expected to swell up to 1.921 million cases by 2019. Cognac and Armagnac are the country’s second most popular spirits.

The focus in Hong Kong, however, is on tequila and rum as its consumption is expected to grow 36 percent and 21 percent between 2015 and 2019 respectively. The popularity of whisky remains stable with 186,000 9-liter cases consumed, topping cognac at 77,000 cases. People in Hong Kong are also increasingly exploring Japanese whisky and American bourbon.

South Korea – the third largest spirits consuming nation in Asia-Pacific after China and India – has reported a decline in consumption of local spirits such as soju and baijiu. However, tequila, vodka and gin have marked improvements of 17 percent, 12 percent and 14 percent respectively.

The Vinexpo 2016 runs 24 – 26 May 2016 in Hong Kong. 

Download the Epicurio app on iTunes or Google Play now, to learn more about wines and purchase your very own bottle, today.

Focus: Artist Leiko Ikemura

Japanese artist Leiko Ikemura was born in Tsu, Japan, and currently lives and works in both Cologne and Berlin. After getting her degree at the University of Osaka in language studies, she went on to study art in Spain, where she stayed for six years. Ikemura then moved to Switzerland and has stayed in various countries in Western Europe ever since.

In 2014, Ikemura was awarded the Cologne Fine Art Prize 2014 and her public collections are everywhere in Europe, from France to Switzerland, to Germany, Austria and also in her homeland, Japan. Her solo exhibitions span a history of 37 years, dating back to 1979 and she has had a strong presence on the world stage of visual art.

Ikemura uses a combination of paintings and sculptures as a creative tool. She uses a variety of media: bronze, terracotta, pastel on paper and oil on burlap for example. The playing around with different media mirrors the different landscapes and characters of mountains. Ikemura’s nature works are mostly an expression of the Japanese countryside. Typically, when Ikemura uses canvas, she offers contemplation, and when she uses sculptures, she offers intimacy and religion. Ikemura’s works are always poetic, iconographic, imaginary and impressionistic – we get the idea of what she is trying to say, and the lack of minute details shows how she avoids realistic representation of art so that the viewer is left with space for imagination.

In many of Ikemura’s nature works, the mountain is a recurring motif, a central subject. For her, mountains symbolise victory of life over death. Her latest exhibition, ‘Mountains in Exile’, which showed at Galerie Karsten Greve, France, have works that were created between 2013 and 2015. Two works in this collection are ‘Genesis I’ and ‘Tree’, in which she uses tempera on burlap; the main colors of these works are red, grey and ochre, showing how she brings colour contrast, as compared to her other works that tend to border on the meditative side.

In ‘Hawks’, however, she uses pastel on paper to portray mountains and water. The appeal of ‘Hawks’ lies in its simplicity, she uses only pastel on paper and the image is not one with elaborate sensory detail, in fact, it seems almost rudimentary. But Ikemura is more concerned with “the play of light and shadow… than to depict so called ‘reality’”.

Ikemura’s enigmatic style is expressed in her philosophy as an artist for, “In [her] mind, being an artist means a constant search for something that combines your own identity with something universal. This search requires time.” Mixing Eastern Asian and Western approaches to art, Ikemura exemplifies what it means to truly be an international artist in the globalised world.

*For more information, please visit www.galerie-karsten-greve.com

Story Credits

Text by Megan Chua

This story was first published in Art Republik.