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Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006


Make the most of this year's celebration of practical art

Special to The Japan Times

Once again, Tokyo welcomes the design world with open arms into its streets, shops, cafes and galleries -- all under the umbrella of Tokyo Design Week, which encompasses four different yet complementary events: Tokyo Designer's Week, 100% Design Tokyo, Design Tide and Swedish Style.

Tokyo Design Week
Visitors to Tokyo Design Week in Aoyama, Tokyo, come to enjoy the design that Japan's hybrid contemporary culture produces. The week's events run till Nov. 6. BENJAMIN BUDDE PHOTOS

Things kicked off Wednesday, in a five-day carnival crammed with enough design-related happenings to make even the most avid of aficionados weak at the knees (Swedish Style actually runs an extra 10 days). It is, therefore, no surprise to find people intimidated by the choice of so many exhibitions and installations. With this in mind, here's a guide to those events that are not to be missed.

Tokyo Designer's Week and 100% Design Tokyo

The expo that started it all, Tokyo Designer's Week, is now in its 21st year, and remains an essential component of the week's festivities. Like last year, it's being held at the Jingu-Gaien grounds in Aoyama, and is sure to attract a lot of attention with its regular series of showcases: "Shop Exhibition," with various shops, galleries, and cafes coming together in one spot to sell their wares; "Pro Exhibition," featuring prototype designs by leading creators; "Student Exhibition," that tends to delight with its innovative and bright new takes on design problems; and of course, the always popular "Container Ground." The theme-parkesque atmosphere of the containers usually draws the biggest crowds, all lining up to enter the 3x6x12-meter spaces that have been decked out by manufacturers, media companies and designers alike. It's an exercise in branding -- and some say it strays too far into the commercial/advertising side of things -- but it is often also highly entertaining, with a light/sound/visual extravaganza that, at its best, can leave the impression that you are experiencing a slice of the future.

Following its successful inaugural showing last year, 100% Design Tokyo, the Japanese version of the U.K.-based event, returns as a partner of Tokyo Designer's Week (both are held in the same area). Bringing together interior designs from selected individuals and manufacturers, it's a massive one-stop, catch-all showcase that can be a bit hard to take in with just one visit. Popular Web portal Designboom will return again with its shop Mart, which provides a rare opportunity to buy works directly from their various designers. For fun, go during the last hours of the final day to see designers frantically chasing down any press still in the building to take a look at their products.

One-time entry for both events is 2,000 yen. You can preregister online at (www.c-channel.co.jp/en/exhibition/pre/form/) and receive a 500 yen discount.

Design Tide

The various events that make up Design Tide -- which is back after its 2005 debut with the theme "Design & Peace" -- are going to be a lot easier to take in this year. Instead of spreading its participating shows across many locations as in 2005, they've consolidated most of them into one exhibition space on Meiji Dori (6-12-20 Jingumae). The centerpiece is "Tide Exhibition," which brings together more than 55 contributors, each of whom is creating spaces to promote their respective works (entry fee 500 yen). Also try to catch "Treasured Trash," an eco-friendly exhibition that showcases the transformative power of design when it comes to re-purposing trash, and "Tide Market," which, like Designboom's Mart, lets creators sell works directly to attendees.

Design Tide
Party goers gather outside the Design Tide exhibition space.

There will still be many off-site events in shops and galleries throughout Aoyama, which are being referred to as "Tide Extension," including a not-to-be-missed "The Taste of my Skin" exhibition at Louis Vuitton Omotesando's LV Hall. The exhibition is produced by Virginie Lavey, who presented last year's hit, the award-winning "Fresh Touch" food-design event.

Swedish Style

Swedish Style, that purveyor of all things culture- and design-related from Sweden, is back for its seventh showing, this time aiming to create "Another Paradise." Look out for the "Sketch Furniture" installation by design unit Front at Tokyo Wonder Site -- they got raves in Milan a few years back for their game-like environmental designs. The funky styles of the "Fashion Deluxe No. 6" exhibition, which brings some of the hottest Swedish fashion designs and brands to Ginza Gallery House, should also make for a must-see event. A special exhibition at Absolut Icebar Tokyo that features collaborations between design units Thoms & Nilsson and Next Century Modern is sure to delight, and a few cafe events, including the "Nordic Lounge Cafe" at Cafe 246, presented by Legends of Skandinavia, are also not to be missed.

As with last year, Sweden will have a presence at 100% Design Tokyo, with a large booth bringing together some of the best in contemporary Swedish interior design. The Embassy of Sweden will also host a festival of Swedish films Nov. 10-12 (all films shown with English subtitles). Lastly, if past years are anything to go by, the official Swedish Style party held at the embassy (Nov. 3) is the party to try to get into, and although invitation-only, it's well worth trying to seek out someone who has an invitation to share.

Practical tips

Based on past years, try to pick up your copy of the event catalogs on the first day, since they disappear quickly, especially the Tokyo Designer's Week/100% Design Tokyo ones. Swedish Style and Design Tide have you covered with comprehensive Web sites (www.swedishstyle.net and www.designtide.jp) that offer up plenty of event details, something sadly lacking on the 100% Design Tokyo and Tokyo Designer's Week sites (www.100percentdesign.jp and www.c-channel.com.)

If you're a fan of flyers and information pamphlets, prepare to encounter mountains of them, especially if you take in all of the booths at the various Tokyo Designer's Week/100% Design Tokyo exhibitions. Bring a sturdy carry-all with you, as the promotional bags you'll receive at the events will probably destroy your shoulders way before you make it back home.

The past couple of years of the event have coincided with worrisome amounts of rain, so, just in case this happens again, make sure to do all your outdoor browsing, especially for Tokyo Designer's Week, as quickly as you can, keeping one-stop, roof-covered locations (100% Design Tokyo and Design Tide's "Tide Exhibition") for those possibly wet days.

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