Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Very Special Watermelon

This is not trick photography. This really is a heart-shaped watermelon. Abby and I found it prominently displayed at that specialty fruit shop in Tokyo Midtown. Raised in Chiba Prefecture, this melon comes with an impressive price tag. At a whopping Y31,500 (or about $350 dollars), I doubt it is going anywhere fast.

The square melon on sale at the supermarket nearby is pedestrian by comparison.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sunglasses Week

I totally get it. Eve: thank you for spotting and shooting this gem of a sign in Shibuya.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Potatong! Combining 'potato' and 'tong' into one tidy word, this is one of the silliest Japanese inventions that I have encountered in a long time. Shaped like chopsticks, these plastic tongs enable the removal of a single chip from its bag without getting grease on the fingers. It is hard to imagine that someone spent their working hours creating such a device. Manufactured by Suncraft, a Gifu Prefecture company that fabricates spoons, spatulas and other plastic kitchen tools, these tongs are not a joke.

I chanced upon Potatong at the Interiors and Life Style Fair. When I expressed incredulity, the sales representative presented a selection of colors and offered me a set of tongs to take home and try for myself. I must say that all of the colors were nice and vivid -- any of them would be a perfect compliment to a pale slice of deep-fried potato. The ridged tips designed to eliminate accidental chip droppings are another nice feature. Since we are not really chip consumers, we are not likely to test out our tongs anytime soon. In the meantime, Potatong will enjoy a place of honor amid the collection of designed goods that is growing steadily around the periphery of my desk.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Shigeru Ban's Partitions

Shigeru Ban is a remarkable architect. A very accomplished designer, he has authored the so-called Swatch Building in Tokyo, the Pompidou Center in Metz and the soon-to-finish Metal Shutter Building in New York. However, when disaster strikes, Ban drops everything and heads to the site to see how he can help. Championing the overlooked and the under served, Ban always ferrets out groups of people whose needs are not being met by government initiatives.

After the earthquake and tsunami toppled a good portion of Tohoku, Ban made a beeline for the blighted area and immediately assessed how he could help. Quick to spring into action, he turned his attention to the needs of displaced persons bedding down in gymnasia and other large rooms throughout the region. Though they had shelter and food, there was a palpable dearth of privacy. To ease this problem, Ban resurrected a scheme for partitions made of paper tubes that started out as a project with his students a couple years ago.

Earlier this week, I had the chance to see his paper tube partitions on display at the Interiors and Lifestyle Fair at Tokyo Big Sight. A simple assembly of tubes and tape, each unit is able to encircle an individual space with cloth curtains that provide a modicum of privacy. Ban told me recently that he is about to trot out a summer version made of mosquito netting.
Here is the link to my article about Ban's partitions published by Architectural Record in April: