Tag Archives: Tokyo

Journey through the World’s Most Exciting Flavours

If there is one universal cliché concept for travel, it’ll be a bucket list. While nothing beats the satisfaction of ticking the boxes off your list, it can get tough trying to keep up with the long lists of restaurants, hotels, attractions and events.

Take your tastebuds on a journey around the world and pamper yourself with the most diverse and luxurious travel experience with Bvlgari.

What if you merge the former into one whole incredible experience together? Here we have list of Bvlgari’s stunning boutique hotels located around the globe, and the equally amazing gastronomy stops it offers.

DUBAI, India

Hōseki Restaurant

Hōseki, meaning gemstone, brings Japan’s most rarefied culinary traditions to Dubai. The restaurant seats just nine, making for an intimate Omakase experience, a memorable gastronomic treat served by Chef Masahiro Sugiyama. The courses are based on the preferences of those seated, as well as on the freshest and best ingredients of the day, making every single visit an exceptional journey into the heart of Japan’s culinary tradition.

The dining room overlooks the Dubai skyline, so that each intimate dinner is accompanied by a glittering view. Do remember to reserve in advance, as the restaurant capacity has been kept small to allow greater care and attention to be given to each diner. For groups, there is a private dining room that seats up to twelve.

BEIJING, China

Il Bar

While the sun is what makes Summer enjoyable, the blazing weather can get undeniably sweaty and unbearable sometimes. Dedicated to be summer’s most enduring refresher, the the Gin & Tonic bar at La Terraza opened just in time for the sunny season.

Served on the shaded veranda overlooking the riverside, guests are invited to choose from four distinctive gin & tonics and six new summer cocktails – a recipe for sunny day bliss. Offering a sophisticated and intimate atmosphere for gatherings or simply some private time, the signature oval bar is open daily from 2pm.

BALI, Indonesia

Sangkar Restaurant

The new Balinese Dining Experience at Sangkar Restaurant invites guests to immerse themselves in the flavours and aromas of Indonesian cuisine. Featuring traditional spices and recipes executed with modern savoir faire, there will be two different selections available for each course for lunch and dinner.

The restaurant entices beyond its menu. Set at the dramatic oceanfront featuring a laid-back interior curated with locally influenced décor, the Sangkar Restaurant expresses the tradition of Balinese culture.

MILAN, France

Il Gazebo

The Il Giardino, designed by landscape architect Sophie Agata Ambroise, is an open-air garden surrounded by lush flora and fauna. The space is casual and intimate, yet impeccably appointed.

As the warmer weather approaches in summer, guests may dine in Il Gazebo, a beautiful outdoor setting located in a discreet corner of the hotel garden. Hidden behind a tall hedge of red beech trees, the cozy private dining area will serve a dedicated menu that embodies the season. No meal is complete at Bvlgari without a accompanying feast for eyes, as the dishes are served on elegant Richard Ginori china.

LONDON, United KIngdom

Rivea London

Inspired by the many years Alain Ducasse spent visiting the vibrant food markets in Italy and Provence, Rivea London offers French and Italian cuisine in a chic, convivial and relaxed setting with informal yet impeccable service.

Adjacent to the dining room, Rivea London’s private dining rooms are suave and intimate spaces seating up to 24 guests, a perfect setting for an intimate party. Custom designed private dining menus are also available, so you can easily go an extra mile to make your summer celebration extra memorable.

Counting down to more luxe, gastronomical hospitality

Get ready for the anticipated new openings of Bvlgari Hotels & Resorts, as you travel around the world to fulfil your endless wanderlust. Bvlgari’s next ventures are set in Shanghai and Moscow, and most recently, the opening of The Bvlgari Hotel Tokyo has been confirmed. The state-of-the-art property will occupy the 39th through 45th floors of an ultra-skyscraper in the heart of Tokyo, an elegant and memorable destination among the bustle of the city’s most brilliant lights.

Learn more about destinations in Bvlgari’s hotels here.

Bvlgari is bringing their luxe hospitality to Tokyo

Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd., a leading global real-estate company headquartered in Tokyo, signed an agreement with Bvlgari Hotels & Resorts to open Japan’s first Bvlgari Hotel. Scheduled to open at the end of 2022, the hotel will be part of a large-scale, mixed-use development planned for the Tokyo Station area, along with offices and retails.

A night rendering of the Bulgari Hotel Tokyo.

 

The Bvlgari Hotel Tokyo will occupy the top seven floors – 39th-45th– of a ultra-skyscraper planned for construction in the Yaesu 2-Chome North District Category-I Urban Redevelopment Project in the heart of Tokyo. It’s close proximity to the famous attractions, vibrant shopping streets and financial districts makes it an ideal destination for both business and travel.

The hotel will offer 98 guest rooms, including luxury suites and an extraordinary Bvlgari Suite. Guests can also expect Bvlgari Hotels iconic features such as Il Bar, Il Ristorante, the fireplace Lounge, all with outdoor terrace, as well a chocolate store and a dramatic Ballroom with a large outdoor space. Other amenities include a 1,500 sqm BVLGARI Spa, offering luxurious treatments, therapies and grooming, a state-of-the-art fitness centre and 25-metre indoor pool.

Aligned with other Bvlgari Hotels and Resorts, the Tokyo edition will also be designed by Italian architectural firm Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel. It will be the ninth property of Bvlgari and the first in Japan.

Bvlgari Hotels and Resorts currently operates luxury properties in Milan, London, Bali, Beijing and Dubai.  New openings are planned in 2018 in Shanghai and in 2020 in Moscow and Paris. However, it is worth noting is that the architect for the the Shanghai edition is a London-based architectural firm, Foster+Partners.

The night city skyline at Tokyo Station.

“Japan is such a strategic market where Bulgari as a brand has been present for 30 years,” said Bvlgari chief executive officer Jean-Christophe Babin. “Jewelry and hospitality combine perfectly to meet Bulgari’s clients’ expectations of a high level of service not only in our brand stores, but also when staying in our extraordinary properties offering luxury services in an environment which reflects the Bulgari spirit.”

Real estate investment in Tokyo, Japan from Chiyoda to Roppongi

Tokyo Tower with skyline in Japan

Although Tokyo’s attractiveness as a destination for residential real estate investors is sometimes divisive, its main strengths of having a highly liquid markets and a wide yield spread mean that the city often allows for good returns.

When naysayers express concern, this is usually premised on growing scepticism over the ability of Abenomics to cure Japan’s economic ills, together with a lack of willing sellers in the current negative-interest-rate environment. Such sentiments are understandable, because it is probably likely that most owners are in no rush currently to sell away their assets, whilst at the same time there is limited buying pressure amongst entrants.

Nonetheless, Tokyo homes continue to provide healthy returns and liquidity, see high occupancy rates, and generate reliable rental income streams. All of these bolster their position as safe bets in a market where long-term fundamentals are being questioned.

Key to these thoughts about fundamentals is the question regarding the country’s economic prospects. On the other hand however, fund managers active in the real estate sector seem sanguine that there will be large amounts of new capital injected into the market in the coming years, which will be a net positive to prices and give the market some tailwind.

One commonly cited example is the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) of Japan. While the GPIF has a global mandate, it is likely that managers cannot be putting the bulk of the money into overseas assets like in the US. Most observers expect that the bulk should still stay within the country, so Japan will still be the recipient of most of the funds, providing floor support to the price levels in the country.

Shibuya Crossing

Nonetheless, Tokyo’s housing market is likely to moderate after investment grew at its fastest in five years in April-June last year, but the benefits to consumer spending and employment could continue into this year due to the Bank of Japan (BOJ)’s negative interest rates. While the BOJ courted controversy by pushing rates below zero, putting banks offside in particular, the policy has proven a hit with first-time homebuyers and homeowners looking to refinance mortgages. Moreover, a rise in long-depressed property prices is causing some people to buy sooner, rather than later, which should lift demand for durable goods such as appliances and furniture—just the recipe to break Japan’s deflationary mentality.

This has been confirmed by retailer Ryohin Keikaku Co, which includes the Muji chain of stores. Furniture sales in particular, have been said to be doing well, and the company cites a healthy housing market, especially in Tokyo, to be one of the reasons why. The company has also expected such trends, having spent many years improving training for its furniture sales staff.

Lower rates have also sparked a more optimistic buying spree in residential real estate. Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, a unit of Japan’s largest lender, has cut its prime lending rate for a 10-year fixed-rate mortgage to a record low of 0.5%. Mizuho Bank, its main rival, is charging 0.65%, and Sumitomo Mitsui Bank has 0.7%. A strong interest has been reported and residential property prices have been rising for the past three years in Tokyo.

ON THE MARKET

Majes Tower Roppongi

Situated in the highly sought-after area of Roppongi, the Majes Tower development from one of Japan’s biggest contractors, Tokyu Land looks set to be a coveted address. Known as a centre for culture, retail and business with reputed names such The Ritz-Carlton, Goldman Sachs and Apple in the neighbourhood, residences can enjoy a lifestyle like no other when buying in Roppongi. Alongside Michelin-starred restaurants, high-end shopping and city-life entertainment, the transport network is very practical, with the nearest station being a short four-minute walk away and thus an easy connection to all of the city’s major hubs.

The 27-storey residential tower has undergone a complete refurbishment since its construction in 2006 and now offers the luxurious living expected by the city’s most notable expats, CEOs and HNWIs. Boasting 83 units from studio to 2-bedroom abodes, it will attract investors both for its beautiful design and exceptional facilities such as the state-of-the-art gym. The stand-out façade sits well amongst Tokyo’s other skyscrapers, but the real wonders lay inside.

Light and contemporary, each condominium features up-to-date design that is mirrored in the communal areas of the building. An added bonus for the middle and higher floor levels are the stunning views of Roppongi, Shinjuku and Shibuya, as well as Tokyo Tower and Mt. Fuji. For a 459 sq. ft. studio, prices begin at JPY 82.5 million (approx. USD 756,881) whilst a larger two-bedroom premium unit of 1,202 sq. ft. requires a JPY 296.2 million (approx. USD 2.72 million) investment.

With high-end rental in high demand, and the market being the most expensive in Japan, the property is a worthy investment as well as those looking to live in one of the most desirable locations of Tokyo.

For more information:
www.jllresidential.com/sg/ips / Tel: +65 6494 3556

The Chiyoda Kojimachi Tower

The Chiyoda Kojimachi Tower is located in the historic Kojimachi neighbourhood of Chiyoda ward. The area encompasses the Imperial Palace, diplomatic quarters and was previously the birth place of numerous key political figures in Japanese history. With prices ranging between USD 880,000 to USD 2.2 million and spaces of 53.37 sqm to 90.12 sqm (approx. 574 sq. ft. to 970 sq. ft.) per apartment, this elegant development boasts interiors by Studio Sawada Design, known for their work on the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the Four Seasons in Shanghai and the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo. All units are fitted with private balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows, whilst those from the 17th floor and above will offer expansive views of the Tokyo skyline. A dedicated concierge will also see to daily wants, including room service, hair care, pet grooming, dry cleaning, housekeeping, baby-sitting and more. Situated on a quiet, leafy street just steps away from sought after schools as well as various lifestyle amenities, the 23-storey tower even features its own exclusive exit from the Kojimachi station, allowing for discreet and convenient travel. With 83 units due for completion in December 2018, apartments will be ready for delivery to buyers from February 2019.

For more information:
www.hjrealestate.com.sg / Tel: +65 6235 6866

This article was first published under Special Features in Palace 19.

Complex 665

Art clusters in Tokyo, Japan from Tennozu Isle to Roppongi, Jingumae and Kiyosumi-Shirakawa

Interior view of an art gallery in Tokyo

Interior view of an art gallery in Tokyo

With a recent spurt of development driven by the prospect of the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games, the sprawling chaos of the Japanese capital has never seemed so urgent, enticing — and unnavigable. With an antiquated address system that relies on ambiguously demarcated block numbers (that seldom run in a linear sequence), and streets that mostly lack names, except for the biggest thoroughfares, Tokyo continues to befuddle even the most determined and well-prepared urban explorers.

The city’s art scene is no different. It’s known for playing a constant game of musical chairs every few years, no thanks in part to fickle landlords, difficult spaces, and a constant hack-and-rebuild ethos that forces art galleries to scuttle and regroup in new locations.

So where are these art clusters now? Here’s a short list of some of the main areas where art lovers might be able to spend a profitable afternoon in Tokyo.

Interior view of PIGMENT

Interior view of PIGMENT

Tennozu Isle

This bayside quarter, located just one monorail stop away from JR Hamamatsucho station, has become something of a rejuvenated post-industrial art district in recent years thanks to Warehouse TERRADA, a leading storage company that has been spearheading and supporting a number of art and design-related initiatives. Newly opened in the fall of last year is the TERRADA Art Complex, a high-ceilinged warehouse building housing four of the capital’s top contemporary art galleries: URANO, Yuka Tsuruno Gallery, Kodama Gallery, and Yamamoto Gendai.

Closer to Warehouse TERRADA’s corporate headquarters is PIGMENT, a sleek boutique, showroom, and lab dedicated to art materials and supplies. A series of streamlined bamboo screens and louvred patterns designed by Kengo Kuma forms the perfect backdrop to the stunning walls of Japanese mineral pigments, animal glue supplies, inkstones, and brushes. Just a short hop away is Archi-Depot, a mini-museum of architectural models by some of the country’s leading architects and architectural firms, like Shigeru Ban, Sou Fujimoto, and Kengo Kuma.

Complex 665

Complex 665

Roppongi

Home to several of the capital’s top art institutions, including the Mori Art Museum, the National Art Centre Tokyo, 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, and the Suntory Museum of Art, Roppongi is also where art lovers can spend a full afternoon exploring contemporary art galleries. In the Piramide Building, you’ll find Ota Fine Arts, whose founder Hidenori Ota has worked with superstar artist Yayoi Kusama since the late 1980s and also shows younger artists like Tomoko Kashiki and Singapore’s Zai Kuning; Wako Works of Art, which shows primarily European artists like Gerhard Richter, Joan Jonas, and Fiona Tan; Zen Foto Gallery, where you’ll find mostly Japanese and Chinese photography; and YKG/Yutaka Kikutake Gallery, run by a former director of Taka Ishii Gallery, which shows upcoming Japanese artists like Nerhol and Reina Mikame. And slated to join them this spring is French dealer Emmanuel Perrotin, whose ground-floor space will be the latest addition to a gallery empire with existing outposts in Paris, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

A new addition to the Roppongi district that opened last October is Complex 665, a modest three-storey building nestling in the shadow of Roppongi Hills that houses Taka Ishii Gallery, ShugoArts, and Tomio Koyama Gallery. Taka Ishii showcases both Japanese and international artists like Sterling Ruby, Risaku Suzuki, and Elmgreen & Dragset, ShugoArts represents the likes of Ritsue Mishima, Lee Kit, and Shigeo Toya, while Tomio Koyama shows work by Shooshie Sulaiman, Mika Ninagawa, and Yoko Ono.

Yurie Nagashima at Maho Kubota Gallery

Yurie Nagashima at Maho Kubota Gallery

Jingumae

Primarily a residential neighbourhood on the fringe of teen fashion mecca Harajuku, Jingumae is slowly coalescing into a creative neighbourhood, not just for art, but also for gourmet dining. Its northern edge, Jingumae 2-chome, is home to Jimbocho Den, a two-Michelin-starred establishment helmed by maverick chef Zaiyu Hasegawa, which moved into spanking new premises at the beginning of this year, while down the street is the Japanese-French restaurant Florilège. Led by Hiroyasu Kawate, the intimate 22-seater was named Asia’s One to Watch by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants last year. Meanwhile, Maho Kubota Gallery, one of Tokyo’s newest contemporary art galleries opened in March last year down a quiet street in the same neighbourhood. A former director at SCAI The Bathhouse, Kubota also serves as a committee member for Art Basel Hong Kong, and her modest but immaculate white cube space shows everything from Julian Opie to Japanese ‘girly’ photographer Yurie Nagashima.

Closer to JR Harajuku station just a few steps from Takeshita Dori, you’ll find the Japan outpost of LA-based gallery Blum & Poe, which moved into a light-filled space overlooking the verdant grounds of the Meiji Shrine in 2014. Recent shows have focused on reappraisals of key Japanese Mono-ha (“school of things”) artists like Kishio Suga and Susumu Koshimizu, as well as Western masters like Robert Morris, Richard Prince, or Juergen Teller.

Interior view of Sakoto Oe Contemporary

Interior view of Sakoto Oe Contemporary

Kiyosumi-Shirakawa

Another semi-cluster of galleries has congregated in the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa neighbourhood of east Tokyo, within walking distance of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT, currently closed for major renovations). Satoko Oe Contemporary, run by a former director of ShugoArts, opened in February 2016 on a quiet street of this shitamachi (old down town) neighbourhood, mixing with other new arrivals like cafes and design ateliers (nearby, you’ll find cult coffee roaster Blue Bottle Coffee’s workshop). Oe shows younger Japanese artists working in an eclectic, freestyle fashion such as Chihiro Mori and Teppei Kaneuji. Also in the area is MUJIN-TO Production, headed by Rika Fujiki, which shows some of Japan’s hottest emerging artists like Chim↑Pom, Lyota Yagi, and Meiro Koizumi.

Soon to join the Kiyosumi gallery district this spring in a new location close to the MOT is Kana Kawanishi Gallery, which focuses on experimental work by younger emerging Japanese photographers. Kawanishi, who studied fashion history in Tokyo and New York and previously served as the Tokyo coordinator for Rizzoli before opening her eponymous gallery in 2015, is careful to “not look too much at trends,” choosing rather to just focus on “introducing good artists with strong philosophies,” such as Ryoichi Fujisaki and Hideo Anze.

For more information, please visit tokyotomo.org.

This article was written by Darryl Wee and originally published in Art Republik.

New gallery space in Japan: Gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin opening “Perrotin Tokyo” in June 2017

French gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin furthers his international reach and connection to the Asian art scene with an upcoming new space in Tokyo. Perrotin Tokyo will be located on the ground floor of the Piramide building, which was built in the 1990s. Architect André Fu and his design studio AFSO were the brains behind the gallery’s modernist space at Roppongi.

Following his long-standing original gallery space in Paris, Perrotin has since spread with hubs in Hong Kong (opened in 2012), Seoul (opened in 2016, in front of the Blue House/President’s residence and the Gyeongbok Palace), and New York (opened in 2013, having recently moved from an uptown address to a downtown one).

Perrotin’s roster of artists includes Maurizio Cattelan, Takashi Murakami, Sophie Calle, KAWS, Ryan McGinley, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Aya Takano, Tatiana Trouvé, Xavier Veilhan, and Xu Zhen, amongst others.

The opening exhibition is dedicated to 97-year-old Pierre Soulages’s recent abstract paintings, articulated in resin rather than oils, which were presented previously in New York. Soulages has a special relationship with Japan, where his work was exhibited and valorized very early in his career. In 1951, his paintings were exhibited at the May Salon at Takashimaya, and years later at the Tokyo International Biennial. In 1969, the Tokyo MOMAT exhibited an ensemble of his canvases, before his major retrospective at the Seibu Museum of Art in Tokyo, which traveled to Korea, China and Taiwan. More recently, Soulages’s oeuvre has been presented in several collective shows in Japan, including at the Suntory Museum of Art in 2017.

In the months leading up to the inauguration, Perrotin Tokyo’s facade currently features the work of French artist JR, notably the project he created by for the Louvre in 2016. He made the famous pyramid ‘disappear’ in plain sight, in an illusion that covered the entire I.M. Pei structure.

The dynamic Roppongi neighborhood has other neighboring art spaces; the Piramide building alone hosts London Gallery, Ota Fine Arts, Wako Works Of Art, YKG / Yutaka Kikutake Gallery and Zen Foto Gallery. In the area, the museums and galleries include the Mori Art Museum, the Suntory Museum of Art, the National Art Center, Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, Take Ninagawa, amongst others.

Perrotin Tokyo will be at the Piramide Building, 1F, 6-6-9 Roppongi, Minato-ku, 106-0032 Tokyo

Tokyo Gets $2 million Christmas Tree

Tokyo Gets $2 million Christmas Tree

Want to impress the kids this Christmas? A Tokyo retailer has just the thing – if you’ve got about $2.0 million to spare.

Jeweler Ginza Tanaka is going all out this season with a two-meter (6.6-foot) Christmas tree made with pure gold wire that’s as fine as angel hair pasta. If this sounds familiar, that’s possibly because the same jeweler made a splash with something similar some years ago.

The shop in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district says the 19 kilogram (42 pound) tree is made up of more than 1,200 meters (3,950 feet) of gold wire.

“The wire is made of the finest gold which has a 99.999 percent purity level,” Ginza Tanaka store manager Takahiro Ito told AFP on Tuesday.

Ito said the tree was made by the jeweler’s in-house artisans. The price tag? A cool 200 million yen ($1.8 million).

While it may be a stretch finding a buyer, Ito said he hoped the opulent display would show off Japan’s world-famous craftmanship.

“We want them to see our great technique and craftsmanship, and the glittering beauty of gold,” he said.

Tokyo Over Paris: Why Japanese Fashion Should Choose

Tokyo Over Paris: Why Japanese Fashion Should Choose

Tokyo may be the style capital of Asia, but with South Korea and China snapping at its heels and Japan’s most iconic brands rooted in Europe, the city is being urged to haul its fashion week into the big leagues. Given that the fashionably messianic (and thoroughly Japanese) Rei Kawakubo is the focus of the Met Gala in 2017, it is perhaps time to look seriously once more at Tokyo and its somewhat lackluster Fashion Week.

Tokyo Fashion Week kicked off its spring/summer 2017 season showcase last week with six days of events intended to promote 50 brands, a mixture of the established and the new.

Yet Japanese labels that are household names in the West – led by Kenzo, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Kawakubo’s Comme des Garcons – eschew home shores for the bright lights, prestige and visibility of Paris.

Tokyo Fashion Week attracts only 50,000 visitors – just a quarter of the total number that attend New York’s two annual fashion weeks, and also lagging behind London, Paris and Milan.

Held after the fashion merry ground exhausts the “big four”, few make the extra trip to Tokyo, and not many in Japan believe they are missing out.

According to a poll from local website (in Japanese obviously) Fashionsnap.com, only 20 percent of the Japanese fashion industry, including designers, stylists and editors, consider Tokyo’s events to be of interest.

The calendar, the no-show by the biggest brands, reluctance to open their doors to the wider public and sluggishness to embrace see-now, buy-now were all listed as shortcomings by the 221 people surveyed.

Focus on Your Own

The award-winning, Milan-based Turkish designer Umit Benan, wants to change all that.

“Everyone needs to get together to make the Japanese fashion week much better,” the menswear designer told reporters after making his Tokyo debut, having announced he would ditch Paris fashion week.

He called Japan’s menswear the “most sophisticated you’ll see in the streets” and said Tokyo was packed with the world’s most creative buyers and designers, along with some of the most sophisticated consumers around.

“I think you really need to focus on your own fashion week, trying to create new waves in Japan fashion,” he said, joking that he loves Japan so much, he visited 40 times in the last five years.

He called Japanese fabric second only to Italy’s. But unlike in Italy, where high fashion is governed by precision, he said the Japanese were willing to take risks, such as mix nylon with cashmere.

“The Italians don’t have the balls to mix nylon into a 200 euro fabric,” he said. “In Japan they’re very flexible and very creative, spontaneous… when you touch it you’re like my God what is this?”

While Tokyo has long been a springboard for up-and-coming designers, neighboring Seoul, with its vibrant street style, and Shanghai, as the commercial capital of China, are attracting increased interest.

“To me, Tokyo is the Asian fashion center with long fashion-forward history,” said Hong Kong designer Vickie Au who brought her “Urban Chill” collection to Tokyo after showing in New York.

The street look, minimal style and clean lines of her House of V label, this season inspired by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry is well suited to Japanese taste.

Beauty of the Craft

While she has boutiques in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, and online, she is looking to break into the Japanese and US markets.

Au cited Yamamoto, the famed Japanese designer based in Paris, as an inspiration, praising him as a master of “modern and avant-garde tailoring”.

Christelle Kocher, creative director of up-and-coming French label Koche, also said she had learnt from Yamamoto and that it had been special to be the only French brand participating in Tokyo this season.

“Japanese culture is really refined and I think may be more than other places, they understand the beauty of the craft and the beauty of the time to make beautiful things,” she said.

US retailing giant Amazon is sponsoring Tokyo Fashion Week for the first time, and among the fashion set in Japan there are hopes that it can help rebrand the event into something brighter and larger.

The company is already the largest clothing retailer in the United States and fashion vice president for Amazon Japan, James Peters, signalled that he is determined to replicate that success in Japan.

While Tokyo still follows a six-month delay between catwalk and store, he said Amazon would be happy to help Japanese designers facilitate see-now, buy-now collections increasingly at the fore in New York.

“I think if that’s what the designers want to do, we’re ready to do it,” he told AFP at the week’s launch party.

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.

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.

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

Valentino Opens Omotesando Flagship Boutique

Italian fashion label Valentino is forging ahead with expansion plans. In collaboration with British architect David Chipperfield and Creative Director Pierpaolo Piccioli, meet the label’s new Omotesando flagship boutique in Aoyama, Tokyo. In commemoration of the new opening, the windows of Valentino stores will come to life worldwide with a special window installation.

A 300-piece limited edition tote bag will also be available for sale. Priced at 112 euros, 100% of all sales will be donated to the Kumamoto Earthquake relief, in aid towards the victims of the April 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake.

Read more about the Flagship boutique at Men’s Folio Singapore.

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.

Hong Kong is World’s Priciest City for Expats

Hong Kong has beat the capital of Angola for the dubious honor of being the most expensive city for expats this year. Yes, for those who don’t recall, Luanda has topped a rather unflattering list that often left people wondering what the hell Luanda is…

Well after three years at the top of the list, Luanda was pipped to the post following the weakening of its currency, and a considerably stronger Hong Kong dollar, which is pegged to the US dollar. The annual list, compiled by consultancy firm Mercer, is designed for companies to gauge allowances for expat workers. More than 200 items are considered in each of the 209 cities across the world, including the cost of housing, food, transport and entertainment.

It is status quo for expats in Singapore and Zurich. Zurich and Singapore remain unchanged in third and fourth position on the list respectively. You may recall that Singapore topped another list like this one so do remember that who the list is meant for. With a stronger yen, Tokyo was jumped six places up the list to become the world’s fifth most expensive expat destination. Kinshasa of Congo made its debut on the top 10 list by ranking sixth this year, beating Shanghai, Geneva, N’Djamena (that’s in Chad in case you wondered) and Beijing.

Mercer said that rankings were affected by “volatile markets and stunted economic growth in many parts of the world”. True enough, the cost of living in several US cities rose proportionately with the backing of a strong currency. Conversely, cities in countries with a weakening dollar have become more economical. The weakening of the Russian Ruble has resulted in Moscow tumbling 50 spots down the list – from 17th costliest city to the 67th.

Expats living in the UK also have reasons to rejoice (sort of). London dropped five places to 17th, while Glasgow dropped 10 places to 119th and Birmingham fell 16 places to 96th position. Now that Brexit is here and the sterling is taking a beating, all these cities will become less painful on the bottom line…

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.

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. 

Louis Vuitton Exhibition to Open in Japan

From Paris and straight to Tokyo, Louis Vuitton brings its highly successful exhibition this spring. Titled Volez, Voguez, Voyagez the exhibit spent its three-month run in Paris this past winter drawing in 200,000 visitors. We covered that run right here.

The exhibition tracks the 160-year history of a brand that originated from one man’s goal of improving the travel trunk. From Nicolas Ghesquière to the founders themselves, it will showcase an in depth map of how the brand reached its success today. Now an international empire of luxury goods, Louis Vuitton has a strong connection to Japan.

Many have even compared the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram to the Japanese cherry blossom. The exhibit will have a special room dedicated to Japan. The exhibition will open in the Kioicho neighbourhood of Tokyo, home of Vuitton’s first store in Japan.

The Volez, Vogues, Voyagez exhibition will run from April 23 in Tokyo and will be open to the public.

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.

Singapore is World’s Most Expensive City

Singapore is the most expensive city in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual ranking; this is the third year in a row that the republic has topped the list. The ranking takes into account 400 individual prices across 160 products and services in 133 cities.

Being based in Singapore as we are, this report always gives us pause for thought. The EIU report is mainly useful to business travelers and for people looking to relocate for work, even though the report itself is called the Worldwide Cost of Living survey.

In the results of the survey this year, Singapore is tailed closely by fellow finance giatns Zurich and Hong Kong, which jumped up seven places in the ranking in the last 12 months. Geneva, Paris, London, New York, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, and Seoul round out the top ten. New York, it is worth noting, achieves its highest position on the list since 2002, coming in at seventh; it is one the fastest rising cities on the list, having moved up 42 rungs since 2011.

In making its assessment, the Worldwide Cost of Living survey, released twice a year by the EIU, compares prices on everything from food and drink to clothing, household supplies, and personal-care items, home rents, transportation, utility bills, private schools, domestic help, and recreational costs. In total, more than 50,000 individual prices are collected in each survey; New York is used as the benchmark and positions on the list depend strongly on how well the US dollar is doing. For example, Tokyo used to top the list before Singapore overtook it and this drop is attributed to the general weakness of the yen against the greenback and persistent deflationary pressure in the Japanese economy.

The report notes that part of Singapore’s run as the most expensive city is due to its high transport and utility costs, both of which can affect travelers as they can translate to higher hotel room fees and more expensive public transit. This is in large part due to Singapore’s complicated Certificate of Entitlement system, which results in transportation costs that are 2.7 times higher than in New York!

Singapore isn’t more expensive in every category, though. Travelling foodies eager to visit the city’s famed Epicurean Market will be pleased to note that basic groceries are cheaper in Singapore than in its Asian neighbors (Seoul is 33% more expensive at the grocery store). Fair warning though: fine dining in the city-state is exorbitant due to high taxes on alcohol, rent pressures and the aforementioned sky-high transportation costs.

While Asia has three of the most expensive cities in the world, India has four of the least expensive, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai. The least expensive city on the 133-city survey is Lusaka, Zambia, meaning it might be time to start planning that safari.

World’s 10 most expensive cities in which to live in 2016

  • 1. Singapore
  • 2. Zurich, Switzerland/ Hong Kong
  • 4. Geneva, Switzerland
  • 5. Paris
  • 6. London
  • 7. New York
  • 8. Copenhagen, Denmark, Seoul, South Korea, Los Angeles
  • World’s 10 least expensive cities in which to live in 2016

  • 124. Damascus, Syria/ Caracas, Venezuela
  • 126. New Delhi
  • 127. Almaty, Kazakhstan/ Algiers, Algeria/ Chennai, India/ Karachi, Pakistan
  • 131. Mumbai, India
  • 132. Bangalore, India
  • 133. Lusaka, Zambia

Versace makes its debut in Ginza, Tokyo

Focusing its Asian presence in Japan, Versace has opened a new boutique in one of Tokyo’s most prominent shopping districts – Ginza.

Conceived by Donatella Versace in collaboration with English architect Jamie Fobert, this new 430 square meter space features a juxtaposition of the old and new.

Inside, you will see beautiful mosaic floors, inspired by Byzantine churches of the Ninth Century, matched with perspex walls and shelving that seem to float in mid-air to create a clash between the past and the future.

Versace Ginza_interior_2nd floor_HR

Both menswear and womenswear are given their own dedicated floors on the second and third level respectively. The menswear space features fior di bosco marble floor, while women’s section on the third level features fior di pesco marble floor creating an exclusive and unique environment.

Donatella says, “For me, the boutique suggests an uninterrupted dialogue between our past and our future, between me and Jamie Fobert and obviously between Versace and our clients.”

 

The new Versace boutique is located at 6-7-12 Ginza Chuo-Ku Tokyo. For more information visit www.versace.com.