Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2018

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Monocle x Beams

Monocle x Beams

I love Monocle. So I was interested when I saw this Monocle x Beams collaboration watch while on a shopping spree in Tokyo’s Ginza district on Saturday. I didn’t buy one, but it should be noted that Ginza Beams does a good line in skinny fit jeans.

UPDATE: The pic on the left was shot at the store using my mobile phone.


Tokyo Metro Manner Posters

Tokyo Metro Posters

In accordance with building a more harmonious and civilized society for everyone to enjoy, Tokyo Metro (the local government controlled subway train service provider) has been campaigning via this series of brilliantly illustrated posters. They are looking to reduce incidences of inebriated salarymen sprawling themselves across carriage seats, and the evil of talking on mobile phones, whilst spreading awareness of the dangers of running to make the train as the doors are about to close. That’s hardly important to me; I’m already pretty compliant with the rules of Japanese train ettiquette. Mostly I like the style of these posters and some of them are quite funny.


Shinjuku Marui’s All New 6


Marui department store has a poetic and beautiful new promotion in the form of ‘All New 6 (senses)’. I didn’t have the perseverance or the time to decipher the Japanese text juxtaposed over the sepia toned stop frame animations of small model characters living out their lives in various locations in Tokyo, but that didn’t matter. The music and the atmosphere of this piece will draw you in, and then demonstrate to you a side of the marketing sensibility in Japan not often seen in other countries, certainly not in the west. One of haunting, wistful moodiness. A bit strange and sinister. It reminds me of watching those strange eastern European animations on TV when I was a kid.


Web Trends Map 4 from iA

Web Trend Map 4

The awe-inspiring web/info design agency, Information Architects in Tokyo have released the 4th version of their popular Web Trend Map. It’s such a great idea, and it’s so well executed – why not check it out for yourselves Google Maps style. This was no small feat of production either. I saw the pics of them examining the enormous A0 sheet at the Japanese printing company (that also happens to produce Apple Japan’s printed material), and the end result shows that an enormous amount of care and attention has gone into this one, and that’s without even thinking about the research component.


Yukio Miyamoto

Yukio Miyamoto

As an Adobe Illustrator user myself, I am amazed at how incredible these pieces of work are from Yukio Miyamoto. Driven by some obsession with the ‘gradient mesh’ tool in Illustrator he spends months producing photo-realistic images that are infinitely scalable.


Porter Bags

Porter Bags

Porter is a brand of luggage, bags, wallets and accessories from Yoshida Co. in Tokyo. People familiar with them will know that they are renowned for their high quality and high price, but in this introduction to the brand, I need to stress just how incredibly high the quality of these bags actually is. Recently, with no intention of actually buying one, I’ve been stopping to admire them at every opportunity. I found a huge range at Tokyu Hands in Ikebukuro (Sunshine City), and a small traditional bag shop in Ameyayoko-cho packed full of Porter goodness, and every time I see them I go and check them out. The problem is, with such a huge variety and at such a high price, it’s difficult to choose a particular bag. Do you get a Boston bag, which looks amazing, but you couldn’t fit your 15-inch laptop in, or do you get the messenger, which is extremely practical but also extremely boring, or do you go for a rucksack, which is fit for almost any use but seems to lack the brand’s trademark sophistication? This is the main factor behind my inability to buy one. However, I actually found a new line of Porter bags in Ikebukuro’s Parco with anodised blue zips against their trademark graphite which just might have narrowed it down for me. If you want a decent-sized item from the range get at least ¥20,000 at the ready (£127, $210), and put aside at least three hours for the selection process – this brand is prolific.

Yoshida Co. are also the company behind Luggage Label, a similar kind of brand with different motifs and a more military feel. Porter has a flagship store in Harajuku, behind Murasaki Sports, opposite the mouth of Takeshita Dori, called Head Porter. You’ll find the cheapest ones at Tokyu Hands Ikebukuro, and potential buyers should skip the Ameyoko store as everything is overpriced, the display is cluttered and the service is icey cold.

The bag in the pic at the top of this post is an Original Fake x Porter Boston bag (drool).


Don’t Smoke in a Crowd. Coats are Expensive.

Smoking Manners

Witness the pure genius which is the Japanese Smoking Manners sign campaign. Littering with cigarette butts is a real no-no here, and so it should be. Smoking whilst walking down the street is prohibited in Japan, as you will see from the gallery, courtesy of combinibento. What a find. Thanks to Mike. The picture above is a super rare one, taken at Marines Stadium, home of Chiba Lotte Marines baseball team.


Shinjuku Turtle Mural

Shinjuku Turtle Mural

When in Shinjuku the other day, I spotted this turtle climbing the wall of a building. I thought it was so well painted that I should get a picture of it. The kanji character on the turtle’s back says 勝 (katsu) which means win. If you look closely, there are other, smaller turtles scaling the building, as if climbing a hill. So I think the meaning of the character relates to some determination to achieve – possibly that of the company housed in the building.


Guerilla Art: The Mystery of ‘BNE’


I’ve seen these all over Tokyo. Shibuya, Akihabara, Harajuku, Naka-Meguro and now this one, in a grungy underpass in the heart of Shinjuku. I’d heard about the mystery of BNE, but had never bothered to look into it properly, so I did a little research. It seems that the phenomenon is indeed worldwide, and the artist, whoever he/she maybe has great taste in cities. So far these stickers, and other BNE works, have been spotted in Hong Kong, San Fransisco, New York, Kuala-Lumpur and of course Tokyo and more besides (including London, no doubt – in fact I think I saw some on my last visit home on New Year’s). Authorities are furious, but mostly everyone else is plain curious: who is the mystery bomber? A news article from ABC investigates.

A printing company somewhere on the planet, responsible for running these off, must know the answer? Leave your own insights in the thread.


Suehirocho Mural

Suehirocho Mural

Looking from the window of the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line subway train on my daily commute to work I noticed this gloriously dated mural in Suehirochou station (which will spit you out in Akihabara, electric town should you take the main exit onto the street). I had to step off the train and get a picture of this retro masterpiece (above).


Uniqlo Retro Game T-Shirts – Final Collection

Uniqlo Retro Game T-Shirts

Yes, Uniqlo’s retro game T-shirts have been out for a while but the preliminary selection didn’t contain anything I really wanted to buy. When I heard they were coming out, I decided I might get the Galaxian one, but the design wasn’t so great I thought. Nostalgic T-shirt lovers now have a load more to choose from though, in the form of Uniqlo’s second wave of game tees. If I could just direct your attention to the Hadouken long sleeve, and, see that Metallica inspired number? Ghosts and Goblins! (The print says ‘Makaimura’, which means demon world village as the Japanese title for the game.) Thank you Uniqlo, and thank you Japan! If you want one of these, let me know in the comments thread. I just might run a few on eBay for those not lucky enough to get to a Japanese Uniqlo store anytime soon.


Sinister Independent Games: Mondo Agency

Mondo Agency

And, on the very same day, I found this. A twisted, retro sci-fi first person shooter that seems to have been inspired by early David Lynch. Now this is worth checking out, just to hear square-head’s surreal monologues. The game is called Mondo Agency and it’s developed by a guy called Cactus. Unfortunately (for me), there’s only a PC build, and no Mac version. I ran it under Parallels but it ran pretty badly. I enjoyed watching the YouTube clips more.


Sinister Independent Games: Judith


After discovering some interesting independent games recently, I wanted to post about them here so people can have a look for themselves. This first game is a collaboration between distractionware and increpare, two game artists who have created an interactive narrative game for Mac and PC (and now Linux too). I don’t want to spoil anything, so just try it for yourself. It’s a dark affair, made to feel only more so by the dreary colour palette, haunting sound, and nostalgically low-res aesthetics. Games as art?

UPDATE: Don’t Look Back is also worth checking out on the distractionware site.


R.I.P. Designers’ Republic

R.I.P. Designers' Republic

There seems to have been a lot of ‘the end of an era’ scenarios recently, and this one is definitely no exception. Easily one of the most well-established graphic design companies in the UK, and possibly one of the most well known around the world, TDR was highly influential from as far back as the early 90’s, and particularly close to my heart due to their association with the independent UK record label, Warp Records – home of Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, Autechre, Mira Calix, Plaid, and of course Warp Films. They closed their doors on Tuesday, but there are rumours of a return from some of the founding members. Apparently, the studio had started down the classic agency model route, with account handlers and such, in order to facilitate the acquisition of big contracts like Coca-Cola. This is miles away from the original manifesto of TDR, which was to be a rebel faction within the design industry, and to shun the usual conventions followed by the big design companies in order to offer some kind of alternative angle. The insolvency was due to business bad luck with debtors and tax complications leading to the collapse. I’m interested to see what happens next.


Groovisions do the Tokyo Marathon

Groovisions do the Tokyo Marathon

So, the Tokyo Marathon was yesterday. I cheered the runners as they passed through Ginza, and I also snapped this poster with the camera on my DSi which is instantly identifiable as the work of Groovisions. Now I’m looking at their poster it’s obvious that their style suits this event perfectly. Anyone familiar with their previous work in music videos and their infographics for MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Farming) in Japan, will know their clean isometric vectors and statistical-representation-esque visual style. I like it.

So here’s the video they did for MAFF whist on the subject: