Guide Modern Japan: Origins of the Mind: Japanese Mentality and Tradition in Contemporary Life

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It is a good example how emptiness could be a powerful design element.


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Designing for the senses Japanese design emphasizes how an object is felt or accepted. He challenges the simplifications that inform much present day thought concerning what could be felt, experienced, and emotionally negotiated. It focuses on the interaction between an object and human senses, stimulating and using them to change our perception of our surrounding. The exhibition consisted of contemporary designs researching the theme of perceiving senses through material choices, shape, color and texture.

His motive was to design an object through which a person can sense and physically feel something. The logo of the exhibition was letters drawn with cultivated fungus. An example from the exhibition that demonstrates this kind of awakening is the limp remote control. The material used for the production was unusual and was responsive to the touch of a human.

New perspective on the so-called mundane objects is beneficial, because it enables us to see things in a new light. These objects may have become too common for us, so that they have become something trivial. It could awaken us from the numbness of being in our daily comfort zones and help us to regain perspectives of our surroundings and the objects around us.

Hara asked twenty architects to redesign macaroni that is 50 times bigger than a normal macaroni. Akio Okumura: i flute. Kenya Hara: Architect's Macaroni Exhibition It is not as creative to design things representing their original form; they grab more attention when they are out of the ordinary and present new possibilities and dimensions. Surely, these designs of the pasta are too crazy and complex to be sold commercially. He talks about how numerous artists, including Yasuhiro Ishimoto 47 , have tried to transform ordinary flowers into something unfamiliar.

Photographers often compete to take pictures of flowers for reasons that have nothing to do with their beauty. Rather, they desire to reach the point where they can capture the living flowers in a way that no one ever has before. Design and art can make us rediscover these objects, making them exciting again, and ultimately making daily lives more exciting. When we see an object we take for granted in an unfamiliar context or form, we suddenly start seeing it again. The ordinary objects around us may not have much aesthetic appeal at first glance, but they do play an important part on our lives and indicate things about our existence.

Exploring the online magazine, the links to the traditional concepts are evident in many of the poster designs. For instance, the images and typography are often wrapped around empty space. Wabi-sabi elements can be seen in the hand-made aspects and playful imperfections. The influence from Western graphic design is obviously evident, but the usage of empty space, simple shapes and hand-made imperfections and textures indicate the underlying inspiration from the traditional ideals. It is intriguing how these designs possess the opposing atmosphere to the vivid and hectic landscape of the city.

Instead of being imposing and shouting the message, these posters gently allure attention. The refreshing emptiness around the typography and the images together with the pastel color palette and bold unpretentious lines catch the attention immediately and is pleasing to the eye due to the peacefulness it emits through the harmonious and well-composed design elements.

He uses those qualities to create optical illusions. His posters portray a creative way of using negative space for his benefit. When white space is used in an intriguing manner, it transforms into foreground. He states that most design education is concerned with combining and sometimes inventing bits of content and it almost always overlooks the critically important part of the design that goes unnoticed: the background spaces and shapes. White space is like the glue that holds all the other elements in place.

Clutter hides and distracts us from what is truly meaningful.

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This design philosophy can be especially seen in the products of Muji It is distinguished by its minimalism and respect towards nature. It emphases on recycling and avoids waste in production and packaging. It also emphases a no-logo policy 56 , implying that only a little amount of money is used for marketing and advertisement. The products have a very earthly color palette and all the product labels are the same and indicate only the contents of the product. The photograph below of a man surrounded by void basically summarizes the ideology of Muji.


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  6. The man on the photograph looks so small and humble amongst the vast greatness of void, which fits in with their ideology that man is not the center of the world, but equal to everything and that nature cannot be controlled; instead, we should strive for harmony with it. It shows how daily life serves as a great source for design.

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    Modern Japan

    The goal was to redesign familiar objects in a unique way to create new experiences and ways to use them. Some of the objects were made to make our daily lives more beautiful and our daily routines more enjoyable. Some objects did the opposite; in fact some became harder to use in order to convey a serious message. Making a little but substantial alteration to the design, changed its purpose: instead of being just a toilet paper roll, it now serves as a reminder of our wasteful and unsustainable habits and that we should cut down and slow consumption of paper.

    Matches were redesigned in a way that they look like real twigs from a tree to remind us of diminishing forests. These redesigned products are all about preservation and renewal by making simple, yet thoughtful alterations. The chocolate bar may seem at first just like an ordinary cute pattern, but because of the cut of the pattern, you will end up eating less chocolate, resulting in fewer consumed calories. This reminds the audience to cut down sugar consumption, because of the numerous underlying health hazards.

    The title of the book means changing the traditional into totally new ideas, such as changing its original design, including shapes, functions and concepts. These works are about the products of daily life, like square tissue and redesigning pasta. Designers should face the real needs of our daily life that could help them to find the real meaning of contemporary product design.

    In order for us to make an aesthetic judgment of an ordinary object, we must first experience that object in a different form, giving it greater significance than the other, similar, objects around it. The design imitates the skin textures of real fruits. They bring out a new simplistic, refreshing take on packaging design that unquestionably stands out from the rest of the food market. The simplicity of the design puts the emphasis on the function and essence of the object. It also makes us face the reality that we tend to forget or simply ignore where for example our food comes from and therefore we could create more awareness with more design approaches like this.

    When the public understands designers, the design industry of modern products could have a bigger market. Hara encourages designers to improve the value and functions of these daily products in order to find the purpose of designing. It can manipulate reality in a way so that it brings a new perspective to the viewer. Taking the ideas of simplicity from the East and adapting it to our way of life could enhance not only the quality of our lives but our surroundings as well.

    An example of a mix of Eastern philosophy with Western design is demonstrated through the Rings-stools designed by Nao Tamura for Artek. In Eastern thought the emptying of the mind is a prerequisite to grasp universal truth or enlightenment. It could help the West, as well, to embark upon a new and more natural era. In fact, West is known to be the culture of the full and excessive. Using empty space would not only be important for the restore and maintenance of the ecological balances, but also for the development of a more natural ways of living.

    This is because emptiness in practice eliminates material objects and borders. Meanings that emptiness offers a really powerful tool to decline materialism, thus easing the pressures put on living nature. This design language has not only aesthetic value, but is used in a position of more prominent ecological importance. Designers today are familiar with the current tide that adds value to the creation of something new. I believe that design should seek for innovative, forward-thinking and experimental solutions.

    However, we have to do it in a conscious way that is aware of the currents of our world and in a way that we do not end up erasing the traces of our past and everything else standing on the way. To my understanding the Japanese sensibility is probably more adjusted towards preservation rather than only aiming for something completely new.

    We could make a change by reducing the size of gadgets and minimalising waste in production and making conscious choices for materials. To conclude this chapter, simplicity is not just an aesthetic concept but possess endless possibilities and solutions to enhance our lives and the environment. We have now researched simplicity and emptiness from a traditional side, in contemporary design context and from ecological point of view.

    Conclusion The starting point of this thesis was a personal fascination and curiosity towards Japanese culture and design. Through this research I came to find the real underlying fascination and motive for my interest. I realised that I can relate to the Japanese values and strongly believe this is because my home country Finland shares a lot of similar values as Japan, such as appreciation of nature, quietness and simplicity.

    Just like in Japan, awkward silences are acceptable and one does not need to talk all the time just to fill the silence.

    1: Traditional Japanese aesthetics in modern Japan

    The major difference between them is that simplicity has existed far longer in Japan and is implemented into nearly every aspect of their society and culture. The lifestyle and aesthetic values in rest of the Western world are quite contrasting to the ones in Japan. Another major difference is that in the Western world emptiness is always viewed as something negative.

    Treating Emotion-Related Disorders in Japanese Traditional Medicine: Language, Patients and Doctors

    Western world seems to have a phobia of emptiness where as Japan has a phobia of clutter. Emptiness in Japan means a new beginning; the origin of everything and full of possibilities. The traditional Japanese views on beauty are also much different to the ones in Western society. Japanese values suggest a more subtle beauty that is imperfect, evanescent and rust. That kind of design is effortless for the viewer, because the message can be seen instantly instead of searching for it through the visual clutter. Appreciation of the subtleness could serve as a counteract to the hectic, digital lives of contemporary man, where slow engagement is often neglected and replaced by a digital screen.

    That rigid conformity, obedience and sense of national purpose helped to propel Japan recklessly into World War II. Some in the West find the Japanese unfeeling in their reaction to disaster, and assume that "normal" human emotions are being suppressed. In the West, we look for reasons for natural disasters: we blame global warming, government failure or God.

    The Japanese relationship to nature is different: humanity is neither battling nature nor at its mercy, but part of it. Japan is braced for nature's violence like no other country. Families that did not toe the line might be sanctioned in this way. According to anthropologist Robert J. Smith, the official notification of murahachibu customarily contained the phrase "having disturbed the harmony of this otherwise peaceful community. In a district court in Niigata Prefecture dealt with a murahachibu case. Eleven families in a rural area had been shunned because they did not participate in a local fishing contest.

    Among other restrictions, they were not allowed to use the waste collection depot, and community bulletins were not to be passed to them. The village leaders claimed that their non-participation in an important event was selfish and detrimental to the community. The court agreed the shunned villagers had been dealt with unjustly and ordered three village leaders to pay 2. In his book What is Japan? Contradictions and Transformations , Taichi Sakaiya, a former director general of the now defunct Economic Planning Agency, calls social isolation a "fate worse than death.

    On the contrary, he argues, many were quite afraid and did not want to go on their missions, but that refusing to go against the wishes of those around them was more frightening and painful. He does not mention murahachibu specifically, but he notes that traditionally, "falling out of favor with the village group meant that one would not survive.

    As a result of this and other spiteful pranks, the woman falls into serious depression. Then they realize it is because at a neighborhood party her husband bragged that his company was renting them their house for just 50, yen a month. As all the neighbors were struggling with onerous home loans, jealous ill will developed. In Japan, conversely, the onus is often firmly placed on those ahead of the rest not to vaunt their success. No one likes arrogance, of course, but in Japan, as the drama points out, more effort may be expected to be made in lessening any evidence of someone having greater social status than another.

    The other mothers comment on how she must enjoy 10, yen lunches when she is with other doctors' wives, which she deftly deflects. She eyes the various lunches on the menu, silently wavering between the yen set and 1, yen one, but as one after another of the women chooses the cheaper option, she follows suit. The sister rebukes her father for the damage he has caused their mother by his heedless boasting, in an impassioned outburst in which she says "The people of this country love lining up side by side yokonarabi. Those who are different from everyone else are expelled hajikidasareru.

    Then she uses the "M" word: "It's murahachibu for life. Many of our values derive from our traditions, our moral and cultural traditions, our spiritual traditions. But the reason I say it's only a partial source is that we still need, all of us, to discover and debate the meaning of the past for the present. We still have to figure out how the values that come from tradition can apply in the present, how they should inform policy, law, and the way we treat one another, even within family life and social life So I would say that tradition and history is a starting point for moral argument and reflection, but it's only a starting point because people do disagree, even people who share a common past.

    I think there is a connection between a big gap between rich and poor, and the erosion of community. Because one of the things that holds communities together and provides for social cohesion is the ability of everyone to have access to basic care and support. For medical care, for care after their working career has ended, in retirement, and growing inequality can make it difficult to provide access for everyone to basic health, education and retirement support when they are in need.

    Japan is home of one of the world's wealthiest and most egalitarian societies. Wealth is spread relatively evenly. Not long ago 90 percent of Japanese referred to themselves as middle class. The gap between the highest and lowest incomes is the smallest among advanced nations. Many factory workers and construction brokers fit comfortably in the middle class, able to afford nice houses and cars. There is less emphasis on being number one and winning in Japan than in the United States. Individuals that do excel at something are taught that their specialties or skills should be done for the benefit of the group not just for themselves.

    In elementary school sports festivals, there are no winners and losers, no medals or ribbons are given to the winners, and every child revives a small gift. In some events, children are to run together, locked arm and arm, rather than against one another. Students are also generally not sorted out according to ability.

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    The middle class in Japan has been anchored by corporate policies of lifetime employment and seniority-based promotions. Economic reforms that began in the s have made the workplace more competitive and jobs and middle class stability more insecure. Some say egalitarianism in Japan is on the decline as economic pressures have forced Japan to be more competitive and more like the United States.

    The gap between rich and poor is widening and the numbers of homeless and people on welfare or struggling as temporary workers are increasing. The Japanese place enormous importance on rank and hierarchy. Jumbahn is a word that describes keeping things in their proper order and staying in one's assigned place. In work situations Japanese tend to use titles instead of names and decisions tend to be made through the chain of command.

    Western culture

    A typical memo reads, "I gave the assistant manager's report to the section chief. Japan is often described as a vertical society. This is a hold over from feudal timeswhich ended relatively recently in Japan, in the 19th centurywhen society was stratified like a pyramid with the emperor on top, followed by members of the royal family, court officials, priests, military personnel, scholars, artisans, farmers and merchants. Members of these classes displayed their rank through their clothes, hairstyles and family crests. The concept of a vertical society has its roots in Confucianism.

    It defines the way Japanese interact with one another in relationship to rank and age within a group and shapes relationships that are not unlike those of a family. The vertical society is often manifested with Confucian relations between juniors and seniors and defined by people's place within a company or bureaucratic structure. People are ranked by their titles within the hierarchy of their group. Within companies people are addressed by their titles rather than name. One reason why business cards are so important is they help define rank. Uniforms are also important it defining rank. The group is regarded as more important than the individual.

    Individualism has its place but in the case of companies and bureaucracies is not a defining characteristic. Most Japanese are part of some group, either through their work, school, club or community. These groups are central to their lives and loyalty to group is often considered a virtue above all others.

    These groups are often in competition with one another. This partly explains why Japanese sometimes seem distant and rude to strangers and people outside their group. Many Japanese view decision making and responsibility in terms of the bubub shakai "party society" , a concept in which society is viewed as multitude of collective entities, whose primary duty is meeting the needs of their individual members. The system ensures the survival of a variety of social, political and economic groups at the expense of individual rights.

    Tensions between individualism and groupism are expressed in art and society by the conflict between honne "individual personal views" and tatemae "roles of the individual in the group" and between ninjo "human feelings" and giri social obligations. Groups of various kinds are found in the social, economic and political world and the roles people play are characterized by perceptions of insiders and outsiders with competition between groups being very fierce. From birth, a Japanese will belong to many groups, starting with family, then their school class, various clubs and eventually their work place.

    In my apartment building, the first person to swipe their access card is always the one others let enter the door first, even if others are physically closer to the door. This intuition includes imprinted nostalgia for moments such as Hanabi fireworks on the beach in the summer, yukata-clad young women eating snow cones at a matsuri festival , a night out with friends singing karaoke until dawn. Japan has been described as a group society with a strong emphasis on trust.

    Rules are obeyed and complied with. Reid wrote in National Geographic that he overheard a guide tell a group of 50 climbers ascending Mt. Fuji, "We won't make it in time to see the dawn unless we stay in order and think of the group.

    If you stop to take a picture or make a sketch, if you fall even 10 meters behind the rest, that's a serious setback for the whole group. Don't be so selfish that you threaten the order of our group. Life in Japan often seems like a series of duties and obligations. The Japanese cherish rules, revere authority, associate order with respectability and regard stability as something that must be preserved at all costs.

    Traditionally, the greater good of society and family have been placed above individual needs. It has been said the Japanese love to give orders and, even worse, obey them. Ships in 7 to 10 business days. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed. Description Table of Contents Product Details Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book!

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