In his opening essay to WA: The Essence of Japanese Design (Phaidon Press, March 2014), product and graphic designer Kenya Hara notes that " extreme plainness-emptiness- can invite a variety of interpretations...This kind of emptiness is reflected in Japan's architecture, spaces, gardens, ikebana and poetry, as well as contemporary design."
Kenya Hara contrasts Japanese 'emptiness' approach with American- European 'simplicity' trend.
With Japan's rich design history, he wonders why Japan has no Design Museum of its own and is advocating along with other local designers for the creation of such a place.
Rather than present items chronologically, WA groups them around materials (wood, paper, metal, ceramics, synthetics, fibers, textiles) to highlight "connection between design and material in Japan."
Wood, Bamboo, Lacquer chapter opens with photograph of huge Sacred Rope (Shimenawa) 17th Century, at Izumo Taisha Shinto Shrine in Shimone prefecture.
Less peaceful yet striking Ichinotani Helmet (Momoyama-Edo period, 16th-17th century) in Metal chapter also uses lacquered leather and laces.
It is followed by Katsura Imperia Villa door handles (Edo period, 17th century).
Getting back to a topic more frequent here than soldiers helmets, the Kasei Cooking Set with Mesh Design (Edo period) brings us all the way to 18th century (Soetsu V, attribution), a beautiful lacquered wood work.
The 'emptiness' aspect is fully explored in a contemporary setting with Ceremony Space (1986) by Toshiyuki Kita (lacquered wood, tatami mats).
I will not spoil your fun and let you discover the other many things and objects that make WA a voyage of discovery.
WA: The Essence of Japanese Design is a collaboration between Rossella Menegazzo, associate Professor of East Asian Art at the Unniversita degli Studi of Milan and Stefania Piotti who has worked as a translator, scientific coordinator on Japanese exhibits as well as editor of Japanese themed books.
Book is printed on craft paper and bound in traditional Japanese style.
Wowed by WA for Tokyo Thursdays # 283