The latest book from architect and journalist Naomi Pollock highlights 100 objects—from kitchen gadgets to furnishings—that illustrate why products that are “made in Japan” continue to be revered in the international design community. Renowned designers featured in the book include Naoto Fukasawa, Toyo Ito, and Nendo, a multidisciplinary firm founded by Oki Sato that has become a headliner at design shows like Milan’s annual Salone del Mobile.
In her short introduction, Pollock, who is Records’s Japan-based correspondent, describes the Japanese culture of monozukuri, or “making things,” which originated with traditional crafts like woodworking but has extended to the mass-produced and machine-made. She writes that this national ethic “drives the maker to refine, study with the eye and the hand, and refine again, no matter how infinitesimal the change. This cycle of repeated evaluation and revision yields the high-quality products that enjoy a great and enduring appreciation in Japan today.” While created for modern Japanese consumers and their needs, these items also lend themselves to other urban settings where people need to carry bags home from the store (the Ai Walk by Takano), require a step stool handsome enough to leave on display (the Lucano by Chiaki Murata), or want a space-saving recycling bin (the Guh bin by Gaku Otomo).
Each of the 100 featured items—many of which will be new to consumers outside of Japan—gets a two-page spread including a short essay on its origin and development. The pieces range in scope from dumbbells that double as sculpture to Fukasawa’s bestselling CD player for Muji that “fits effortlessly into people’s lives,” writes Pollock. As the designs cover an 11-year period, from 2001 to 2012, some readers might find the description of them as “new” a bit subjective, given today’s rapid-fire pace of social media. But as they represent the timeless quality that is the ethos of Japanese products, these pieces illustrate that good design comes without an expiration date.