What's on at Japan House London
Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Spread over three floors right in the heart of Kensington (moments away from Kensington High Street Tube Station), Japan House London is an oasis of authentic Japanese culture, magnificently and meticulously parted divided between an art gallery space, a hall for live performances, talks, events, or workshops, a cultural retail shop where you can purchase the latest Japanese products straight from original designers or artisans, and AKIRA - a ground-breaking restaurant for Londoners who wish to indulge in the finest Japanese dining experience inspired by Chef Shimizu Akira’s “trinity of cooking” philosophy - food, presentation, and tableware.
On the ground floor, prepare to be amazed by one of the most enchanting shop displays in London, and don’t be surprised if you’ll ask yourself at least a couple of times: "am I in a museum or a shop?" That’s precisely what the concept is about: blurring the boundaries between an art gallery and a conventional retail space.
The thoughtfully curated product collection offers guests the unique chance to learn about Japanese artists, manufacturers, designers, and regions of Japan. At the moment, the shop is dotted with a selection of works by interdisciplinary artist, designer, and educator Tokolo Asao. The display includes an original Tokyo 2020 art poster, laser-cut wood artworks, and ceramics (dishes, tiles, unusual decahedron cups).
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torches
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games Torches (still on the Ground Floor of Japan House London) were designed to blend traditional symbolism with contemporary innovations under the concept “Hope Lights Our Way.”
World-famous Japanese artist and designer Yoshioka Tokujin enhanced the renowned, conventional form of the Olympic flame with a cherry blossom (sakura) shape to celebrate a deeply cherished floral motif that’s very close to the hearts of all Japanese people. Cherry blossoms’ seasonal beauty is intrinsically representative of Japan’s culture and epitomizes perpetual renewal.
The design originated in the inspiration fuelled by Yoshioka’s 2015 visit to the Fukushima Prefecture, a region that went through a colossal reconstruction programme following the 2011 tsunami and the Great East Japan Earthquake.
During a drawing workshop held with children from the affected area, the artist was touched by the spirit of the local communities and their contagious optimism for the future, projected in the children’s lively cherry blossom sketches.
Five separate flames arise from flower petals to unite in the centre and create a more brilliant light that conveys a universal message - the path of hope. To further align with the current global issues, the design was equally focused on sustainability.
Marking Japan’s continuous contribution to advanced technologies, the torch is partly made from the same type of recycled aluminium used to build prefabricated housing units in the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake, and through the same manufacturing process involved in the production of the Shinkansen Bullet Train.
And to complete the idea of seamless minimalism, the torch is shaped from a single sheet of metal. The simple yet lightweight, beautiful, and strong execution comes together to become a unified symbol of peace.
Exhibition: “Tokyo 1964: Designing Tomorrow”
As the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games were the first to be held in Asia, becoming a turning point for Japan and neighbouring regions, the talented team of architects and designers behind it seized this massive opportunity to reshape the country’s brand and profile by coming up with a fresh way to share Japan’s story and post-war identity with the world.
“The design of these Olympic Games influenced every international sporting tournament since, from the pictograms to the idea of a brand.” (Simon Wright, programme director and curator at Japan House)
The exhibition explores the lasting legacy of the Tokyo Olympics and the revolutionary design strategy that informed many graphic design principles of all the major international sporting events that followed.
Visitors will discover the first-ever sports pictograms, the award-winning Tokyo 1964 symbol designed by Kamekura Yusaku, the original posters of the competition, and even the original architectural model of the Olympic site. You'll notice the ubiquitous presence of the 1964 Olympic logo: a big red circle on a white background floating above five golden intertwined rings and “Tokyo 1964” written in a bold, gold sans serif typeface. A simple yet powerful symbol of innovative graphic design that catapulted Japan at the top of historic achievements in the world of design and branding.
The Summer Games of 1964 introduced the world to many graphic design"firsts," such as:
the first major worldwide exposure of the Helvetica font;
the first unified brand identity scheme comprised in a cohesive design guide;
the first set of sports-related informational pictograms;
the first “total design” approach supervised by a design committee formed to oversee the consistent use of the Olympic colours and typograhic uniformity;
the first world-renowned modernist visual identity championed by Kamekura himself (the internationally recognised father of Japanese graphic design).
📍 Visit Japan House London at 101-111 Kensington High St, London W8 5SA.
📅 The current exhibits can be seen until 7th November, 2021.
⏰ 10 am – 8 pm, Monday – Saturday; 12 pm-6 pm, Sunday.
🚇 The nearest London Underground stations are High Street Kensington (on the District and Circle Lines), Gloucester Road ( Circle, District, and Piccadilly lines) and Notting Hill Gate (Central, District, and Circle lines).
*All photos were taken by Ina/WithinLondon, unless stated otherwise.
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