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Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006
Sony's Aquos line, Kaichiro Yamada's Tatami chair, Tokujin Yoshioka's PANE chair, MSG's Kakehouki broom
By JEAN SNOW
Special to The Japan Times
Slim and sleek
2011 is not that far off, really, and as SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi keeps reminding us in television spots for The Association for Promotion of Digital Broadcasting (D-PA), the end of analog broadcasting is approaching. So if you've been considering upgrading to a new TV, you're certainly going to be looking at the current crop of HDTV sets -- referred to as Hi-Vision in Japan -- filling up most electronic stores. Every brand has its contenders, all using exotic new names -- from Sony's Bravia to Panasonic's Viera and Toshiba's Regza -- but my bet is firmly on Sharp's Aquos line. Sharp is the country's biggest maker of LCD screens, which are produced at its Kameyama Plant No. 2, which is prominently featured in the company's current ad campaign. Their expertise has definitely given them a leg up in the HDTV sweepstakes. Ranging in sizes from 20 to 65 inches, they all look so good with their attractive yet understated casing designed by Toshiyuki Kita that I couldn't resist picking up the 45-inch model (LC-45BE2W) for 280,000 yen when I went on an HDTV hunt earlier this month. Sporting brilliant colors and crisp images no matter the content, from digital-TV programming to high-resolution gaming, it features more input jacks and connectors than you could probably ever use at once, including all the interfaces to take you into the next decade of digital programming.
In the past year of columns, I've covered plenty of chairs, stools and even seats made specifically for tatami mats. Now comes designer Kaichiro Yamada with a product that adds another twist to this product category -- versatility. The Tatami chair at first looks like a regular chair, with a small seat cushion for added comfort. But fold over the metal base and you have a legless seat that would feel at home in the most traditional of tatami spaces. With most Japanese homeowners usually trying to find a balance between the comfort of Western-influenced interiors and the relaxing feel of a Japanese-style room, the Tatami chair serves as a link between the two.
Still on the topic, we check in on the latest from star designer Tokujin Yoshioka and find him re-inventing the chair again. His past designs, both the Honey Pop and the Tokyo Pop, have already become instant classics. This time he finds inspiration in the use of polyester fibers for the PANE Chair. Wanting to create something solid that at the same time felt as if you were floating on air, he built the base from a multitude of tiny artificial fibers. If that isn't enough to make PANE -- which was introduced earlier this year at the world's biggest furniture design fair, the Milano Salone del Mobile -- an innovative standout, how about the fact that each chair must be literally cooked? The designer compares the process to the making of bread -- hence the name, which is Italian for bread. Promising a form factor and feel that should provide an irresistible level of comfort, expect this Yoshioka chair to also join the ranks of truly great Japanese design works. To fully experience the PANE chair, as well as various cloud-like installations created by Yoshioka, head to AXIS Gallery (5-17-1 Roppongi) from Friday for the exhibition "Tokujin Yoshioka -- Super Fiber Revolution" through Nov. 5).
Our next product, from Masanori Oji of design unit MSG, delights me to no end. The Kakehouki is a broom, but one which combines the rounded handle of an umbrella with the bristles of a traditional Edo-Era broom. This simple remix of such basic items not only makes the most commonplace of household tools that much easier to carry, but more importantly, provides us with a convenient way of hanging it on a hook when not in use, putting a stop to the really annoying habit that brooms have of toppling over.
With this year's edition of Tokyo Design Week fast approaching (the main events are held Nov. 1-5), expect Tokyo to turn into a wonderland of all things design as four huge events -- Tokyo Designers Week, 100% Design Tokyo, Design Tide, and Swedish Style -- come together to contribute to what has become one of the world's biggest design extravaganzas. Those looking for help in navigating the whole labyrinth -- not the easiest of undertakings -- should look to the Nov. 2 Re:Arts page of The Japan Times for my TDW guide.