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Tuesday, June 27, 2006


PBJ's SmartCaddie, Kai's kitche shears, Dainippon Type Organization's writing accessories, Nussha Japanware

Special to The Japan Times

This month, we are turning the spotlight on another eclectic array of goods that have been popping up in some of Tokyo's best design and interior shops recently, and are just begging to be included in any aficionado's arsenal of stylish accouterments. From portable computers to kitchen accessories, here's a lovingly selected collection of objects that deserve your attention, and perhaps your yen.

PC in hand

PBJ's SmartCaddie

A promising new entry in the field of compact personal computing comes in the form of the recently launched SmartCaddie. Looking like something that would fit nicely into Apple's product line somewhere between an iPod and a MacBook, this tablet-like PC is one of the first devices to embody Microsoft's Ultra-mobile Lifestyle PC (UMPC) concept. It packs a generous amount of oomph -- 7-inch touch-screen, Windows XP Tablet Edition operating system, 1-GHz processor with 512 MB of memory, 40-GB hard drive, two USB ports and wireless support -- into a teeny tiny, and very attractive, package. The price might turn some people off (around 100,000 yen), as might the disappointing 2 1/2-hour battery life, but for members of the cult of high mobility, neither should be a serious impediment in the quest to get unshackled from the desktop.

Razor beak

Kai's kitche shears

Out of the office and into the kitchen to add some playfulness to the countertop comes Hiroshi Kajimoto-designed kitchen shears from Kai (kai-group.com), winner this year of an iF Product Design Award. More than just a handy tool, what sets these shears apart from the rest is their bird-like shape, hence the name -- Bird. There's no denying that the Bird is a fun product that should add some spice to your cooking sanctum, but don't worry, it's practical as well -- the form factor actually adds functionality as the Bird's "feet" double as a stand.

Kanji in design

Dainippon Type Organization's writing accessories

When the time comes to update your stationery stash, a stop at a Delfonics or Muji store is usually enough to satisfy all your writing needs. But I was enjoying the Nadiff shop/gallery/cafe store's artful selections on a recent visit to Aoyama when I spotted -- and promptly purchased -- an out-of-the-ordinary set of notebooks (www.kokuyo.co.jp/rdi/an/notebooks/AN-1008.html). Part of all-around office goods giant Kokuyo's A n series of collaborative designs, this collection of writing accessories created with Dainippon Type Organization ( dainippon.type.org ) is an absolute wonder. Packaged as a set, the 10 pieces come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from small notepads and notebooks to musical notation sheets. The true beauty of each piece lies in the way DTO has integrated various kanji within the layout of each page. The kanji for small -- sho -- on the cover of the miniature notebook is the inspiration for the lines inside that form vertical columns instead of the traditional horizontal lines you'd expect. Far from being awkward, the design is functional, and in a striking way. Selling for around 2,000 yen, it's the perfect collection of only-in-Japan stationery to show off the country's originality and effectiveness in using kanji for both content and design.

Remaking lacquer, reusing pastel

Nussha Japanware

You don't often see traditional Japanese lacquerware in pastel colors -- which seems reasonable considering the potential for the combination to reek of kitsch -- but here comes Nussha Japanware (nussha.com) with designs by Kazuhiko Tomita to prove us wrong. With the Towering Pastel collection, Nussha shows how clever remixing can re-energize traditional Japanese items. The collection features bowls, plates (that double as covers for the bowls) and cups in various sizes (as well as spoons and chopsticks) with all-white exteriors and interiors in a choice of six colors (orange, yellow, green, aqua, green-yellow and yellow-orange). As pastel escapes the taint of cheesy 1980s fashion, it's great to see it come back in unexpected places -- this set of dishes is certainly one of them.

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