Tag Archives: Japan

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 [email protected]

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. 

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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.

Yen for Champagne: Japan Set to Lead Asia-Pac

Forget Sake and Shochu. According to the latest Vinexpo study, it seems the Japanese are developing quite the taste for bubbly. In fact, the study forecasts that Japan is on track to become the leading market for champagne and other sparkling wines by 2019.

Thanks in part to the growing popularity of lower-priced Cavas and Proseccos from Spain and Italy, the consumption of sparkling wine has been forecasted to grow 23 percent between 2015 and 2019. To put things into perspective, this equates to roughly equates to 4.84 million cases, overshadowing Australia as the largest market for bubbly in Asia-Pacific. To put this into even greater, though perhaps more confusing, perspective, Japan has a population of 127 million while Australia has roughly 24 million. We have to wonder what in the world is happening down under but we digress…

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The surprising result (the Japan news, not our belated Australia observation) was revealed at Vinexpo Hong Kong, a three-day trade-only show for international wine and spirits professionals. Japan is one of the six countries, besides Singapore, to be profiled.

Here are some of the other trends emerging from the event.

France losing market share to Chile

Chile has the signing of a cost-advantage free trade agreement with Japan to thank for its whopping 144 percent rise in wine exports. French wines might still have the largest market share but Italian and Spanish wines have also seen an increase of 46 percent and 79 percent respectively over the same period.

Wine consumption set to continue growing

The Japanese wine consumption is set to reach a whopping 46.7 million cases between 2015 and 2019. That’s 14 percent of the market share, which will rank the country behind China and Australia in the Asia-Pacific region. Yes, Australia is punching way above its weight class again.

Overall spirit consumption set to decline

Spirits such as gin and vodka are expected to decline in popularity, in stark contrast with the rising fortunes of wine. The projected decline between 2015 and 2019 is a significant but manageable 7 percent. Whisky, however, continues to keep its market share, with consumption reaching 12.38 million cases and projected growth of 12 percent over the next five years.

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

Mikimoto Celebrates One Year at Ion Orchard

Mikimoto, the Japanese jeweler specializing in the finest pearls, has called Ion Orchard its home for a year. To mark the occasion, the jeweler flew in several of its exclusive high jewelry pieces and even enlisted the help of dessert queen Janice Wong to create an edible art installation. To help us learn more about the collection, installation and history of the brand, was an interactive pearl bar. Here is what we learnt that evening from the jewels of the sea.

Established in 1893, the brand has been using cultured pearls to craft its elegant designs and selects only the finest of those that are harvested. From the start, the “King of Pearls” has blended traditional Japanese craftsmanship with European manufacturing techniques. Now, the jeweler has boutiques around the world, allowing lovers of the cultured South China Sea pearls to purchase the latest collections and designs by the brand that is known to be one of the world’s leading fine jewelers.Mikimoto-pearl-strand-necklace

For those willing to spend a little bit more, you will be happy to know that there may still be some time to get your hands on those beautiful creations before they are sent back. One of the stars featured was the necklace with Golden South Sea Pearls and diamonds. With each of the 17 pearls encapsulated within diamonds and set in infinity loops, this is set to be a show-stopper. The ribbon centerpiece detail along with the matching golden south sea pearl and diamond earrings, would be a nice addition to your collection — Just be willing to part with S$700,000.

The golden south sea pearl necklace with matching golden south sea pearl earrings.

The golden south sea pearl necklace with matching golden south sea pearl earrings.

In what seems to be an ode to the art deco period, another highlight of the high jewelry collection is the Akoya pearl and jade tassel necklace. Using 297 pearls to create a lariat and two delicate waterfall tassels, it is joined by a matching pair of earrings. The jade centerpieces, feature handcrafted designs that add to the allure of the design. A versatile creation, adjust the length of the tassels or create a choker by simply moving the centerpiece. Priced at S$150,000, it seem like a modest investment.

Akoya white south sea pearl necklace with tassels and matching white south sea pearl earrings.

Akoya white south sea pearl necklace with tassels and matching white south sea pearl earrings.

For those who are unable to decide between a white or gold south sea pearl, Mikimoto has another option with the multi-colored pearl necklace. The statement necklace features 57 pearls that have been carefully selected and stringed to form a beautiful gradient. Matching it, is a stunning golden south sea pearl ring with 1.02 carats. The pearl stands out in the ring, that can also create a statement on its own, due to its size — an impressive 12.49mm.

Multi-colored south sea pearl necklace with golden south sea pearl ring with diamonds.

Multi-colored south sea pearl necklace with golden south sea pearl ring with diamonds.

To learn more about Mikimoto and the brand’s high-jewelry collection, head down to its flagship boutique in ION Orchard or visit Mikimoto’s website.

 

Degustation: 3 Chefs Talk Creativity, Cuisine

Imagine sitting in a restaurant and savouring five to 10 exquisitely prepared dishes over a period of three or more hours. You get to taste the food on your palate, relish the visual spectacle on the plate, and indulge in the freshness of the produce and surprising combinations of flavour. These, combined with immaculate table service, are all part of the degustation experience. But what is degustation, really? Originating from the French word “dégustation”, the culinary term refers to a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods that focus on the gustatory (taste) system, the senses, high culinary art, and, of course, good company.

A degustation often involves the sampling of small portions of a chef’s signature dishes in one sitting. It usually begins with the lightest dishes that segue into heavier ones. In between, slightly acidic dishes such as sorbet act as palate cleansers. Cocktails and wines are also an important component of a degustation menu and are suggested as accompaniments to certain dishes.

This is a form of art and science that requires a chef to have an innate sense of gastronomical aesthetics and a knowledge of sophisticated culinary techniques, reflecting the chef’s creativity and innovation, and his or her propensity to induce a sense of curiosity and surprise in the diner.

Yoshiyuki Kashiwabara, Kaiseki YoshiyukiYoshiyuki Kashiwabara

Japan has its own version of degustation in the form of kaiseki. One of the highest degrees of culinary art in Japan, this traditional Japanese multi-course haute cuisine was derived from 16th century tea ceremony rituals in Kyoto. And no one knows it better than award-winning chef Yoshiyuki Kashiwabara, who spent seven years as the personal chef to Japanese ambassadors based in San Francisco and Singapore. According to Yoshiyuki – whose résumé includes a stint at the esteemed Kyoryori Hosoi in Tokyo, where he joined as a trainee and eventually headed the kitchen – the essence of kaiseki is an emphasis on natural flavours, a balance of taste and texture, and delicate presentation. 

What inspires your kaiseki menu?

Japan’s four seasons and the finest ingredients each season has to offer. For example, I will only use the chestnut in autumn – when it is at its freshest – and not in spring. When it comes to presentation, I will plate the dish with flowers and birds symbolic of a particular season.

Kaiseki Yoshiyuki Interior

Kaiseki Yoshiyuki Interior

What does your kaiseki menu include?

We have a seven-, eight- or nine-course kaiseki menu. For the latter, I create it on the day itself with the freshest and most refined ingredients available that day. It is done in the style of Omakase, which refers to a meal consisting of dishes that are selected by the chef – so it’s up to me. For the other menus, I start with Hassun which features the best vegetables of that season in the form of small appetisers. This is followed by Suimono, a soup with light broth. After this comes Tsukuri, which features sashimi such as akami (tuna) – also known as maguro – and chutoro, a fattier version of akami. Chutoro, or tuna belly, is a premium part of the tuna. When it’s fresh, its taste is unbeatable. I usually served it as small, sliced cubes so that it is not too rich for the palate.

How do you get your fresh produce?

Every morning at 1am, I call the suppliers from Tsukiji market, the largest fish market in Japan, to check what’s available that day. Sometimes, I fly to Japan to select the freshest ingredients in season and deal with suppliers directly, and have the ingredients flown in to the restaurant at least twice a week. If there’s an unforeseen circumstance (such as when a typhoon in Japan affects the produce), I will have to improvise and think of something different for the menu.

Hassun (seasonal vegetables appetiser) that features Japan’s spring

Taste, texture and presentation – how important are
these factors?

Creating subtle, fresh tastes, light textures and intricate food presentation is key. Whether it’s the thought process, the act of cooking or the presentation, it is of utmost importance to pay great attention to detail. Also, all the flavours have to be balanced and reflect the seasonal theme of the dish.

To what extent is kaiseki a form of art and showcase of technique?

Kaiseki cuisine requires a lot of patience, cooking and skilful knife techniques, especially when it comes to carving birds and flowers out of real food and plating them. I have a personal set of knives – they are my tools. A knife is very important to a chef, just like a brush is to a painter. In fact, the way you slice a fish can change its taste and texture.

Daikon (mild flavored winter radish) with crab

In three words, describe your brand of kaiseki.

Poetic, beautiful and pure.

What kind of kaiseki experience do you want diners to have at your restaurant?

I want them to feel good and healthy while tasting the freshest seasonal ingredients, all of which have high nutritional value.  And I want to bring them on a journey of Japan’s four seasons through the ingredients and the beauty of the dishes; I want to transport them from Singapore to Kyoto.

Ryan Clift, Tippling ClubRyan-Clift

Over the course of his 23-year career, Wiltshire-born Ryan Clift has worked with some of the world’s finest chefs, including Marco-Pierre White, Peter Gordon, Emmanuel Renaut, Shannon Bennett and Raymond Capaldi. In 1999, Clift was ran the show in the kitchen at Vue de Monde, one of Australia’s most acclaimed restaurants. 

What is your concept of degustation?

I believe that customers need a level of trust in the chef in order to select the degustation option for a meal. For me, it allows us to be truly creative – with the flexibility to select the freshest produce that may only be available on a particular day, or to create something special for a customer.

Snow Crab

Snow Crab

How important are taste, texture and presentation?

For me, taste and texture take precedence over presentation. Taste is always the most crucial factor, while textures make the dish that much more exciting and memorable for the diner. Presentation, for us, is based on coming up with the best way to showcase the ingredients and it’s quite fluid – we’re not sticklers for that.

What inspires your degustation menu?

Our latest menu reflects the kitchen team’s travels around the world, particularly Tokyo. The ingredients that we discover on our trips abroad constantly inspire us and we want to share that with our customers and introduce them to unique flavour profiles.

Mangalica Pork Collar

Mangalica Pork Collar

What are some of the highlights of this new menu?

We’ve got a number of really interesting dishes such as the Mangalica Pork Collar, where we brine the meat, then slow cook it for 19 hours at 72 degrees for fork-tender texture. It’s served with cinnamon-infused dashi broth, vegetables pickled in nuka (Japanese rice bran) and nori crackers – all made in-house.

The lobster menu is a really delicate dish of lobster from Brittany served with horseradish, chive gel and, for contrast, a puree of sea buckthorn for some acidity. We then pair it with the Daruma-Mazuma cocktail, which contains lime and lemon that reflect the acidity of the dish.

Our Snow Crab features a refreshing delicate crab salad made from Western Australian crab topped with sliced Kyoho grapes from the Yamanashi prefecture in Japan. It’s all about showcasing the best produce we can find and create matches that really excite the customers’ taste buds.

What kind of experience do you want guests to have with your degustation menu?

I believe everyone has his or her own unique experience. For me, I do not want my guests to feel like they’re in a stiff, formal restaurant, but rather, in a place that’s fun – with damn good food!

Kirk Westaway, Jaan

Kirk Westaway

Kirk Westaway

Growing up in Devon, England surrounded by farm-fresh produce, Westaway’s passion for only the most excellent ingredients is evident in his gastronomic creations. Recently promoted to Chef de Cuisine of Jaan, the 29-year-old spent a term at two-Michelin-starred The Greenhouse in London’s Mayfair. Last February, he was crowned the South East Asian regional winner in the semi-finals of the inaugural S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 competition.   

What inspires your degustation menu?

Ingredients are what inspire me, they change all the time depending on what produce is at peak. We have five to seven courses that are set and printed daily, depending on the availability I get that day from each fish, meat and vegetable.

The 10-course, being the inspirational menu, is not printed – I create the dishes on the spot before they come in and as they go along during the dining experience, depending on availability. For example, I might have live lobster from Scotland, but that could change to a different fish or meat according to how many dishes are served that night.

I am open to ideas. I talk to diners and listen to their feedback. I value their opinions; sometimes, they inspire me.Jaan at Swissotel The Stamford

What is your most intricate dish?

The Tomato Collection – it’s fresh, clean, sweet and savoury, and has a smooth texture. It is a tomato within a tomato. Firstly, we hollow out the centre of the vine-ripened tomato, semi-dry the part that is taken out overnight, chop it up and add some fresh shallots, parmesan, capers, smoked olive oil and other good ingredients, and stuff them back inside the vine tomatoes. It takes 16 hours for them to dry. We also make some tomato water, add basil sorbet and croutons for crunch. People think they are just looking at a tomato, but when they slice it open, they see all work that goes into it. 

In what sequence are the dishes presented?

Step by step, from warm to dense and complex. The menu usually starts off with a Langoustine Cannelloni dish served ice cold. The next dish is served at room temperature – one example is the Tomato Collection. This is followed by an egg that’s served at 55 degrees, then fish with a hot sauce right off the stove. I always finish off with meat and then a palate cleanser before dessert.

Langoustine Cannelloni

Langoustine Cannelloni

How much emphasis do you place on presentation?

My main focus is on taste but I try to make every plate pretty as well; my style of presenting is clean, tidy and elegant. I like to put interesting items on each plate. Colour is important – I generally finish plating dishes with fresh and unique green herbs, and flowers, such as fennel blossom, garlic flowers or carrot flowers – all of which you might not see locally.

How do you come up with all the combinations of flavours and textures in your degustation menu?

We have many ingredients, all of which become different components in each dish. Each flavour serves a purpose, and complements another. For example, when I cook a meat with a sauce, and it works, I’ll leave it. But if I think it needs something interesting, a bit of richness, a bit of crunch, a bit of acidity or sweetness, then I’ll add ingredients accordingly. But if I taste the dish and I feel that one of the elements is not needed, I’ll take it out straight away.

Tomato Collection

Tomato Collection

What sort of experience do you want diners to have?

I want to create memories and evoke emotions. The menu might look simple, but when the food comes, diners are impressed by how intricate the dishes are. They get to taste fresh organic vegetables, fine cheese and flavoursome quality products from around the world. It’s not just a meal to fill your stomach, but also a multi-sensory experience put together by the culinary team.

Story Credits

Text by Abigail Chia

This story was first published in L’Officiel Singapore. 

Rakuten “Sora Raku” Drone Delivery Service

Starting 9th May, hungry golfers in Japan will no longer have to leave the greens for a snack, thanks to Rakuten’s latest initiative, the “Sora Raku” delivery service.

Its first client, the Camel Golf Resort in Chiba Prefecture, Japan will see “Tenku” drones delivering snacks, beverages, golf equipment and other items to players at various pick up points on the golf course.

With a touch on the Android app, golfers can conveniently place orders, track delivery and make payment for their order. All that’s left to do after is to wait for one of the company’s bright pink drones to appear with the order.

Rakuten’s decision to expand this service to other golf courses and even sparsely populated areas and mountainous regions depends on the success of this pilot.

Watch this video to learn more about the “Sora Raku” delivery service:

Focus: Art of Toko Shinoda

Toko Shinoda is a woman and an artist ahead of her time. In an era when most women were confined to domesticity, Shinoda successfully married traditional calligraphy and abstract expressionism, rising above her culture to become one of Japan’s foremost modern abstract artists and modern practitioners of the ancient art of calligraphy. Her works are defined by strong yet elegant marks or brush strokes, skilfully balanced by ‘yohaku’ (empty space) – perhaps a clear indication of the woman Shinoda is: bold, feminine and fiercely independent.

Born in 1913 in Dairen, Manchuria, and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Shinoda was heavily influence by her father, the one and only mentor she ever had. Her father’s granduncle was an official seal-carver for the Meiji Emperor, and hence a master in sculpting and calligraphy, inculcating his skills and love for Chinese poetry in Shinoda’s father. At the tender age of six, Shinoda started practicing calligraphy, marking the beginning of the artist’s fascination with sumi ink. However the artist did not willingly abide by the rules of the masters of the ancient writing system, one she felt was rigid and ‘boring’, and started experimenting with the abstraction of the form in her 20s. Then, she also presented the first one-woman exhibit of calligraphy at Kyukyodo Gallery, Tokyo.

Before Shinoda made her way to the United States in 1956 – a time when it was rare for a Japanese to travel out of the country – she had already made a name for herself in art circles. Shinoda had works exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and was commissioned to create murals for the Japanese Pavilion at international trade and culture expositions in the United States, Brazil and Sweden in the early 1950s. Represented by the gallery of Betty Parsons, the doyenne of Abstract Expressionist gallerists, Shinoda was largely inspired by her contemporaries, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns, and started focusing on abstract expressionism in her works.

Silver Spring

Silver Spring

The beauty of Shinoda’s works transcends cultures, languages and social classes. Her artworks are traditional Japanese paper (mostly Japanese washi), Chinese paper, Western paper as well as sheets of gold, silver and platinum. These have been conscientiously used since the start of her artistic life, exuding a sense of Oriental appeal beyond the Western artistic touches. An expert in classical Chinese and Japanese literature, Shinoda depicts elements of the literary art form in her works. Yet, it is not essential for viewers to be able to read or understand the meaning of those characters; they can feel the power of the work from the strength of the lines and strokes. In her works, the calligraphic characters are merely abstract forms that eradicate the need for comprehension.

Reminiscence

Reminiscence

Print works are also part of the Shinoda’s oeuvre. Using lithography, the artist created fluid print editions of not more than 50. In 2007, Shinoda ceased her successful career as a printmaker to devote her time to painting. At present, at the ripe old age of 102, the artist who used paint on a daily basis now only paints when the mood strikes.

Today, Shinoda’s works can be found in many permanent collections all over the world, including the Guggenheim Museum, MoMA, British Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum, Hague Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art, Singapore National Museum, Museum fur Ostasiatische Kunst and the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. She counts the Japanese imperial family as fans and collectors of her works, with the latter showcasing Shinoda’s works in the public rooms of the new Imperial Palace in Kyoto and Her Majesty, The Empress of Japan attending two of Shinoda’s exhibitions.

Esteem

Esteem

Demonstrating simplicity and poise in her creations, Shinoda has a flair that is unique and inimitable. An exceptional woman and artist, Shinoda’s spirit definitely shines through in her exquisite art pieces.

*For more information, please visit www.katoartduo.com

Story Credits

Text by Melody Boh

This article was originally published in Art Republik

Orchards Niseko, Hokkaido Japan

The Orchards Niseko is located on the northern most Japanese island of Hokkaido and on the eastern side of Hirafu. The resort boasts double mountain views of Mount Yotei—which is also known as the Mount Fuji of Hokkaido—and the ski hill, Mount Annupuri. The area is popular during the winter months but tourists are also attracted to the temperate climate, fresh air, quality food and wide array of outdoor activities which include hiking, cycling and golf offered during the green season, making it a year-round destination. Property demand has climbed alongside tourism figures and developers are taking advantage of the opportunities.

Unique features in houses at The Orchards Niseko include high ceilings, exposed beams, open plan living, and traditional Japanese entrances and hallways.

Unique features in houses at The Orchards Niseko include high ceilings, exposed beams, open plan living, and traditional Japanese entrances and hallways.

The Orchards Niseko is a master planned estate development with 40 residential land plots of pre-designed and custom homes; buildings will have complementary designs and finishes. They will all have similar styles which fit within the design parameters of the community and incorporate extensive use of timber, stone and glass. Buyers of custom homes are shown a design board and product samples to help in the process of choosing the type and color of external timber cladding, stonework, and the overall interior design of the 300m2 (3,229sf) space.

'Washi no Su' is a custom designed home which has 350sqm of living area.

‘Washi no Su’ is a custom designed home which has 350sqm of living area.

Alternatively, the process can be delegated by an architect and project manager, if buyers prefer. Construction process span approximately six months and may differ depending on the complexity of design requirements.

Each house will be strategically positioned in consideration of view channels and privacy. Externally, The Orchards houses are required to use selected colors from a master color palette; yet, no two house will be identical. Internally, the houses feature high ceilings of up to 6.5 meter above floor level on the upper level, exposed beams, large Japanese-style baths, open plan living, kitchen and dining areas as well as traditional Japanese entrances and hallways.

gcp_131224_washinosu

For example, ‘Washi no Su’ is a custom designed four-bedroom, six-bathroom home which has 350m2 (3,767sf) of living area with a garage, living space upstairs and downstairs, vaulted ceiling in the two master bedrooms. Other custom designed homes include the four-bedroom ‘Goyomatsu’ and ‘Kashi’, and the six-bedroom ‘Keyaki’ and ‘Winterhaven’. Pre-designed homes are such as the ‘Akagashi’ and ‘Kuromatsu’ which are three-bedroom and three-bathroom homes boasting 200m2 (2,152sf) and 202m2 (2,174sf) of living area respectively.

'Keyaki' is a six-bedroom custom designed home.

‘Keyaki’ is a six-bedroom custom designed home.

‘Akagashi’ has a traditional alpine roof design while ‘Kuromatsu’ has a gable roof design. Both open up to views of Hirafu’s ski hills, a farm and Mount Yotei.

'Winterhaven' is a custom designed six-bedroom home located on plot 40 with approximately 9,000sf of land.

‘Winterhaven’ is a custom designed six-bedroom home located on plot 40 with approximately 9,000sf of land.

Facilities in the Orchards include a clubhouse which features an owner’s lounge, open fireplace, reception area, multi-purpose space which can accommodate up to 80 people, gym and kitchen. There is also a pond, walking track, mature cherry, walnut, and pine trees, and a vegetable garden for guests and owners—especially nature lovers—to enjoy.

'Goyomatsu' is a custom designed four-bedroom home

‘Goyomatsu’ is a custom designed four-bedroom home

Rental returns fluctuate considering demand and running costs but investors can expect one to three per cent return per annum subject to the frequency and time of owner’s usage. Occupancy is expected to be above 50 per cent during the peak winter ski season and close to full occupancy during the winter holiday periods which usually run from Christmas to Chinese New Year. Midori no Ki (MnK)—Japanese property management company which manages the Orchards Niseko—encourages owners to provide feedback on nightly rental rates, however, the rates and inventory of rooms are managed dynamically (changes occur daily in some cases) to maximize revenue for each owner. Financing for home purchases can be obtained via Niseko Resorts Group on a case-by-case basis. Owners may choose to rent their homes or keep them for personal use.

Clubhouse facilities and other amenities at The Orchards Niseko allow guests to enjoy both indoor and outdoor activities

Clubhouse facilities and other amenities at The Orchards Niseko allow guests to enjoy both indoor and outdoor activities

Buyer Information
Property: The Orchards Niseko
Location: Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
Developer: Niseko Resorts Group
Highlights:
Double mountain views of Mount Yotei and the ski hill, Mount Annupuri
Selection of pre-designed and custom homes
Extensive use of timber, stone and glass
Each house strategically positioned in consideration of view channels and privacy
High ceilings of up to 6.5 metre, large Japanese-style baths, open plan living, kitchen and dining areas, Japanese entrances and hallways
Open fireplace, bar, multi-purpose space, gym, pond and walking track
Occupancy is expected to be above 50 per cent during the peak winter ski season and close to full occupancy during the winter holiday periods
Price: Price on application
Contact: + 81 (0)136 555 122 or [email protected]

Story Credits
Text by Domenica Tan

This article was originally published in PALACE Magazine

Bally Opens Flagship Store in Ginza

Swiss luxury brand Bally has opened a flagship store in the upmarket shopping district of Ginza. This marks a new chapter for the brand in Japan, and, to celebrate this, they’ll be unveiling an exhibition of pieces (titled Bally Untold) from their archives running till May 8, taking viewers through 100 years of its history.

Bally Ginza store - exterior 1

The Tokyu Plaza building stands at what is considered the ‘gate’ of Ginza, and the Bally store is located right there. Collaborating with David Chipperfield Architects, the flagship store stands out with a 50 meter brass aluminum façade running the width. The 845 square meters of space is set over two floors, with the ground floor dedicated to accessories and ready-to-wear collections, as well as the special Gentleman’s Corner. The second floor houses the VIP room and a space dedicated to events, which is also the space for the Bally Untold exhibition. Timber walling combined with a continuous white ceiling, spotted with light-tubes, creates and elegant modern atmosphere.

Bally Ginza store - interior 4

The Gentleman’s Corner is dedicated solely to Bally’s expertise in shoemaking and shoe care. With its Made to Order and Made to Color services, customers will be able to create personalized shoes and belts with multiple color and material combinations. The VIP room is a private room for a more intimate and exclusive shopping experience, with its own private fitting room and service area.

Bally Ginza store - interior 9

Exclusive for the Ginza opening, Bally will also reissue four shoe styles based on archive pieced dated to the 1930s. The limited edition shoes in D’Orsay style with a Louis XV heel come in red and blue silks punctuated with gold and silver leather.

Bally Ginza store - interior 7

This is only one of the steps in an ambitious 15 store global rollout planned for 2016. After this Japan venture, the next flagship Bally aims to set up will be in Beijing, later in the year. These steps will surely cement the company, which came into establishment in 1851, further on the industry’s map.

For more information, you can check out Bally’s website here.

Focus: Art Collective TeamLab

TeamLab is an artist collaborative that brings together creative professionals from disparate disciplines to realise visionary art projects. Founded in 2001 by Toshiyuki Inoko, the team has grown to more than 400 people, including architects, artists, composers, computer graphics animators, editors, engineers, graphic designers, mathematicians and programers.

A multi-tasking outfit, TeamLab operates out of its Tokyo-based office. It offers creative solutions and innovative ideas through products such as interactive software and mobile applications, and of course, its artworks. Calling themselves ultra-technologists, the members contribute their unique expertise to create signature cross-disciplinary artworks that blur and push the boundaries between art and technology.

TeamLab had its first exhibition in 2011 at Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami’s Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Taipei. Since then, interest in its artworks has grown steadily. TeamLab has exhibited in other parts of the world, such as at the Singapore Biennale 2013, at Pace Gallery in New York in 2014, and in Europe at events such as Expo Milan 2015 and Art Paris Art Fair 2015. Earlier his year, TeamLab was also shortlisted for the ‘Best Emerging Artist Using Digital and Video’ award at the Prudential Eye Awards, and exhibited new works at START Art Fair 2015, presented by Prudential and held at Saatchi Gallery in London.

Interactive Digital Art

Installation view of Harmony and Diversity for the Japan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015

Installation view of Harmony and Diversity for the Japan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015

TeamLab creates digital art. This is different from video art, which runs from beginning to end in a finite pre-choreographed sequence, and when exhibited, is played in loop that remains the same each time it is presented. Video art is also independent of the audience’s actions. In contrast, the digital art that TeamLab creates is neither pre-taped nor replayed. Rather, it is a computer program that is able to run endlessly, and what is seen is dependent on the audience’s interactions with the artwork.

In making its digital artworks, TeamLab is deeply influenced by what has come before in Japanese art. It has coined a special term, “ultrasubjective space”, which refers to “the logical structure of the spatial awareness of ancient Japanese”. Although Japanese paintings are often considered flat in contrast to Western paintings, TeamLab sees it as an equally logical perspective to view the world. This is an underlying principle in the making of its digital artworks.

Play! TeamLab Future Park at Miraikan

Play! TeamLab Future Park at Miraikan

 

Japanese Culture and Way of Life

In August 2014, Pace Gallery New York presented TeamLab’s first exhibition in America, aptly named ‘Ultra Subjective Space’. On display were six artworks including five large-scale digital monitor pieces, as well as the immersive digital installation ‘Crows are Chased and the Chasing crows are Destined to be Chased as Well, Division in Perspective – Light in Dark’. This was spread out across seven staggered screens, showing Yatagarasu, a three-legged crow in Japanese mythology, flying through the screens, leaving in its wake what TeamLab called “spatial calligraphy”, a digital trail of the crow’s movements.

Another work in the exhibition, ‘Cold Life’, was equally inspired by Japanese culture. Based on the Japanese and Chinese character 生, pronounced sheng, meaning life, the strokes that made up the character morphed into a tree – a fitting commentary on the magical power of nature. It was also a technological marvel in its Ultra High Definition (Ultra HD) display – four times the resolution of Full High Definition (FHD) – to show off the technical intricacies that made the work possible.

Dance!@ Art Exhibition at Miraikan

[email protected] Art Exhibition at Miraikan

There is inherent pride in Japanese culture that comes through in all of TeamLab’s works. For the Singapore Biennale in 2013, the work ‘Peace can be Realized Even without Order’, drew from the traditional Awa Dance Festival. The artwork, exhibited at the Singapore Art Museum, featured a group of male dancers in holograms wearing printed kimonos playing instruments. When a visitor came into proximity with a dancer, he would stop moving and making music, which in turn made his neighbouring dancers do the same. Soon however, the dancing and music resumed. Peace, represented by the convivial atmosphere of merry-making, would be restored.

It is not only from cultural forms that TeamLab takes inspiration for its works, but also the Japanese way of life. For the Japan Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015, which opened in May this year and will close at the end of October, two works are shown: ‘Harmony’ and ‘Diversity’. In ‘Harmony’, screens are placed horizontally at knee and waist levels for visitors to walk past, transporting them to the rice fields of Japan. This simulation allows the visitor to experience the change of seasons throughout the year. The artwork effectively communicates the delicate and harmonious relationship shared between people and nature.

Complementing the focus on Japanese food, in ‘Diversity’, images of food items from Japan are placed against a computer-generated waterfall. Visitors are able to transfer these enticing pictures, together with details about the delicacies onto their smartphones, taking away the experience of the artwork with them. It is an innovative way to share information about a distinctive part of the Japanese way of life.

Play! TeamLab Future Park at Miraikan

Play! TeamLab Future Park at Miraikan

Nature in Japanese Art

The imageries that TeamLab uses are for the most part derived from nature, including water, birds, flowers, insects and trees. TeamLab is particularly taken by the depiction of water in traditional Japanese paintings, which it remains faithful to in their digital artworks. Speaking to Art Republik, Takashi Kudo from TeamLab noted that the way water is traditionally depicted in Western art and Japanese art are vastly different. For example, while the former may hint at rain through the subjects’ use of umbrellas or the glistening of a wet rock, the latter uses curvilinear lines to represent rain itself.

In an exploration of the Japanese way of portraying water, TeamLab created ‘Universe of Water Particles’, a waterfall made of digitally created water particles and lines. It has been exhibited at different locations, including the Dojima River Biennale 2013 and Art Stage Singapore 2014. In March this year, the work was projected on the façade of the Grand Palais by invitation from Bogéna Galerie, as part of Art Paris Art Fair 2015 in March.

Installation view of What a Loving and Beautiful World at Shake Art Exhibition

Installation view of What a Loving and Beautiful World at Shake Art Exhibition

Flowers often take centre stage in TeamLab’s artworks. ‘Floating Flower Garden – Flowers and I are of the Same Root, the Garden and I are One’ is a work by TeamLab that is made up of an explosion of flowers. The colourful work features over 2300 flowers, each with an accompanying insect. As each visitor enters the space, flowers that are “disturbed” by the intrusion float up and hover in a dream-like flower halo. As the visitor moves away, the flowers float back down to occupy the space that he or she has left. If there are many visitors in the interactive kinetic installation at a time, then the flowers move to form one big dome that surrounds all of them. This will be shown at the 20th anniversary instalment of the Maison&Objet Paris fair in September.

Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders, interactive digital installation for START Projects at Saatchi Gallery, 2015

Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders, interactive digital installation for START Projects at Saatchi Gallery, 2015

TeamLab often makes variations of a work. For instance, there is ‘Flowers and People – Dark’ and ‘Flowers and People – Gold’, which show shifting fields of flowers in two colour schemes. As one walks through each installation, the flowers goes through their life cycles, budding, blooming and finally withering away. Similarly, the works ‘Ever Blossoming Life II – Dark’ and ‘Ever Blossoming Life II – Gold’ present the predictable life cycle of flowers, one with a dark background and the other with a gold background. Surrounded by responsive screens of animation, the viewer experiences a simulated Zen garden that responds to his or her movements.

Besides recreating nature in controlled environments, TeamLab has worked directly in the great outdoors where the digital worlds it creates co-exist with the natural world. In an upcoming project for 2016, ‘Resonating Trees – Forest of Tadasu at Shimogamo Shrine’, a light show will be installed among the trees that line the way to the World Heritage site of Shimogamo Shrine. With the approach of people or animals, the light that each tree is bathed in will change its colour, bringing attention to the presence of other living beings in a serene and poetic commentary on the ecosystem we all live in.

Sights and Sounds

To facilitate its immersive environment, TeamLab adds sounds to its visually captivating artworks, giving the audience a multi-sensory experience. In ‘Resonating Spheres and Night Fish’, currently on show until December at the Enoshima Aquarium in Kanagawa, Japan, spheres of light on the walls and ceilings change their colours upon touch, accompanied by a change in sound, which is unique to each colour. As this happens, the other spheres also react to the shifts, and momentarily emit the same colours and sounds as part of a chain reaction.

Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders, interactive digital installation for START Projects at Saatchi Gallery, 2015

Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders, interactive digital installation for START Projects at Saatchi Gallery, 2015

TeamLab has a long-time music collaborator, Hideaki Takahashi, who has produced soundtracks for many of its works, including ‘Resonating Spheres and Night Fish’, as well as ‘Floating Instrument’ back in 2010, ‘Flowers and People – Gold and Dark’ in 2014, and most recently ‘Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – Dark’, ‘Floating Flower Garden – Flowers and I are of the same root, the Garden and I are one’ in 2015, among others. The music serves to envelop the visitors and helps them to transition from real world to the alternate realities that TeamLab creates.

Inspiring the Next Generation

As innovators, TeamLab is far seeing not only in the works it realises, but also in the potential for their works to connect and inspire people. In particular, the artist collaborative has its sights set on grooming the younger generation through introducing them to new ways of learning, playing and eventually, in the future, working. A key idea is the importance of working in collaboration with others rather than in isolation.

Back in Japan, TeamLab’s first major solo exhibition at home opened at Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, also known as Miraikan, in November 2014. The exhibition had two sections that displayed 18 artworks from the artist collective’s oeuvre: ‘Dance! Art Exhibition’ and ‘Learn and Play! TeamLab Future Park’. The latter featured children-friendly artworks. The exhibition was a huge success, with nearly half a million visitors coming through the museum’s doors. ‘Learn and Play! TeamLab Future Park’ was a first step in the artist collaborative’s forward efforts to provide a platform for children to see the fun in being creative, an indispensable quality that TeamLab believes is not encouraged, let alone groomed in an education system they believe places emphasis on rote learning.

Nirvana at Shake Art Exhibition

Nirvana at Shake Art Exhibition

One artwork, ‘Sketch Town’, was a three-dimensional town built on the two-dimensional drawings of cars, buildings and the like from children, allowing them to see “in reality” the fruits of their imagination. Furthermore, the children’s drawings were also made into paper-craft patterns that they could then take home to turn into three-dimensional models. Another interactive installation, ‘Sketch Aquarium’, worked on the same idea, and to make it more interactive, the children could touch the sea creatures they drew to feed them or make them swim away.

Coming Up

The momentum that TeamLab has gained over the past few years shows no signs of slowing down. At START art fair from 10 to 13 September, TeamLab showcased as part of START Projects. This marked the first time the artist collaborative exhibited in London, and a book documenting its oeuvre launched at the same time.

Altogether, TeamLab showcased three works: ‘Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together – A Whole Year’, ‘Dark, Ever Blossoming Life II – Dark’ and ‘Flutter of Butterflies beyond Borders’. As with other TeamLab works, the visitors’ movements have an impact on what happens on screen.

Flower and Corpse Glitch at Shake Art Exhibition

Flower and Corpse Glitch at Shake Art Exhibition

In addition, the artworks will interact with each other as well. The butterflies are free to flit through the other two works that are on display, creating a single immersive experience. The butterflies’ flight paths are altered by the visitor’s direct interaction with it. Kudo explains that if one touches a butterfly, for examples, it dies, as it might in real life, where human interaction with nature has the potential to nurture and equally to harm. The butterflies’ movements are also influenced by what happens with the other movement-sensitive artworks in the same space.

TeamLab is daring and ahead of its time in the execution of their artworks through ground-breaking vision and advanced methods. While TeamLab’s artworks seem avant-garde, they are also accessible. Combining the traditional with the contemporary – and at times the futuristic – TeamLab has pioneered a new model of art-making that pays homage to and preserves its country’s artistic heritage by presenting it in a way that is entertaining and exciting. More importantly, it is encouraging a new way of thinking and working for the next generation – a legacy that any artist can be proud of.

Peace can be Realized Even Without Order at Singapore Biennale 2013

Peace can be Realized Even Without Order at Singapore Biennale 2013

Story Credits

Text by Nadya Wang

This story first appeared in Art Republik.

Tanaka Goes for Gold on Japan’s Children’s Day

Jewelry store Tanaka, located in Ginza, is celebrating Children’s Day in style this year with a sale of samurai helmets ornamented in gold and silver, worth tens of thousands of dollars each. The festival occurs May 5, and the sale went on ahead of time last week.

Children’s Day was originally a celebration exclusively for boys and fathers, and was called Boy’s Day in the past. This was in contrast to another festival called Girls’ Day, that occurs March 3. During this period of celebration (for Children’s Day), displaying items signifying vitality and strength is common, including carp-shaped flags and traditional samurai helmets. For Girls’ Day, also called Doll’s Day, ornately crafted dolls are displayed instead.

The Tanaka Kikinzoku Group, in charge of the Tanaka store, have celebrated the festival with such glitz before. In 2013 they designed gold samurai helmets with Disney Mickey Mouse logos. This year’s collection has designs modeled off helmets actually worn by famous warriors in the past (one example being the legendary shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu). They often had original helmet designs for self-identification, with traits like deer antlers or crescent moons.

According to the store, each helmet is made with up to 430 grams (15 ounces) of gold, worth as much as six million yen ($53,700), and are suited as an investment asset besides being beautifully crafted objects.

This story was written in-house, referencing wire stories. The image is courtesy of the AFP.