Japan

Just In Time For Summer.

The first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere is just a couple of days away. With it comes long warm days, sunshine, and unfortunately harmful UV rays. In many cultures using an umbrella to shield you from the sun is as much a custom as using one to keep the rain off of your head. Unfortunately most umbrellas don’t offer a solution that is visually fun and exciting.

Japanese designers Fumito Kogure and Shinya Kaneko have come up with an artful answer to the umbrella. Komorebi is a Japanese saying that roughly translated means “sunshine filtering through foliage.” These two designers have applied that phrase to your typical umbrella creating something that shades you with the feeling of sitting under a tree. Komorebigasa, can be used in rain or shine but the shadows it creates on a sunny day simply make me smile.

If you have 3900 Yen ($41.50) you can pick it up here.

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Life After Death. Reinventing Funeral Services Advertising.

The subject of death and funerals in most of the world brings up somber visuals in monochromatic shades of black. Japan, is no exception to this with funeral services being viewed as a largely a black & white affair, with any deviation from the code being considered taboo and disrespectful to the deceased and the family.

The March 11th Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami had a traumatic effect on Japan where so many people died as a result of this tragedy. Issues of life and death, hope and despair, beauty and tragedy became an all too real part of people’s everyday lives in Japan.

In the months that followed the tsunami, funeral home Nishinihon Tenrei approached Tokyo-based ad agency I&S BBDO and asked them to create an ad for funeral services that broke from the standard mode of operation. The request understandably posed several challenges for I&S. The challenge became how to communicate the funeral home’s new role of remembering and celebrating the beauty of a lost person’s life. The result is the spectacular image shown below.

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Creative director Mari Nishimura decided to create a real-size human skeleton made from pressed flowers. The image is both beautiful, as well as celebratory, expressing through flowers what remains after death.

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Tsuneaki Hiramatsu’s Fireflies.

It’s firefly season again, and for the next 30 or so days the field to the south of my house will be blanketed with thousands of glowing lights from dusk until dawn. Hopefully this year, I’ll be able to get photos of it that are as nice as the ones taken by Tsuneaki Hiramatsu.

Hiramatsu’s photos of fireflies were taken around Maniwa and Okayama Prefecture in Japan using slow shutter techniques combined with multiple composites to create the final images. They show the fireflies during their mating season after thunderstorms from June through July’s rainy season in the area.

The images really are quite astounding.

 

MIT’s City Car, Becomes a Reality as Hiriko.

About 5 years ago, MIT began developing an inner city automobile that was designed for highly congested areas. The commuter car had a distinct advantage in dense urban areas where parking is always at a premium. “City Car” could fold up to reduce it’s physical footprint.

Recently in Brussels, the “City Car”, now renamed “Hiriko Fold” was revealed as an actual production prototype slated to go into production in 2013. The first urban areas slated to receive the car is Vitoria Gasteiz, a community on the edge of Bilbao Spain. Cities slated to follow the debut of for a trial run with Hiriko are Boston, Berlin, Hong Kong, Francisco, and Malmo. It will be interesting to see how well this concept does in the United States, a country that loves it’s over sized gas guzzling SUV’s and Trucks. A country where people don’t mind driving from an hour outside the city on their daily commute. One thing about most of the United States, land is available, and urban sprawl is common. These factors lend themselves to the obsession with Suburbans, F-350’s, Hummers, and Explorers in most of America.

The Hiriko, when unfolded is slightly smaller than a Smart Car, yet the styling is very futuristic, and sleek. Factors that might help it do better than Smart has done since it’s introduction to the American market a few years back.

What makes Hiriko unique is it’s ability to fold into itself allowing it to park in a space about one third the size of a normal car. According to MIT, three to four Hiriko vehicles can fit into the space used by a normal full sized car. This will be huge for American cities like New York, San Francisco, or Boston. In addition, the Hiriko has the ability to turn on its axis with virtually no turning ratio which aids in inner city driving/parking conditions. Powered by four independent electric motors (one for each wheel) Hiriko can even move sideways in a crab-like manner, virtually eliminating the need to ever parallel park the in a traditional fashion.

Hiriko is estimated to cost around $12,500 when it arrives next year. That price point makes it affordable, and it’s size makes it desirable for many. I just hope MIT can come up with a marketing plan that will sell this to an American audience. In my opinion Hiriko will be a huge success in Europe, Japan, India, and other extremely dense urban areas. Here in the good old USA, it might be a tough sell since we have to share the streets with so many bloated over sized vehicles. Either way I can’t wait to see this in person, and actually take it for a test drive.