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Japan shows its creative side at Tokyo Designers Week

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Japan is famed for its history of unique design, and Tokyo Designers Week is the biggest chance the country has to show it's still got it. Taking place across the city from October 30th until November 5th, the event brings together artists, students, architects, and technology companies in a celebration of all things design.

This year's event was built around the themes of "House" and "Play," but not all exhibitors stuck to the themes so strictly. Our visit managed to take in skateboards made from kimonos, giant rabbit art, Kinect-powered alarm clocks, giraffe-shaped skyscrapers, and over six hundred cellphones. Read on to see these and more.

  • The slogan for this year's event was 'Hello Design!,' with the legend emblazoned onto these bags handed out to early attendees.

    The slogan for this year's event was 'Hello Design!,' with the legend emblazoned onto these bags handed out to early attendees.

  • As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, NTT Docomo showed off all 611 phones in its history at Tokyo Designers Week 2012.

    As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, NTT Docomo showed off all 611 phones in its history at Tokyo Designers Week 2012.

  • This year's show revolved around the themes of

    This year's show revolved around the themes of "House" and "Play," reflected in many of the outdoor exhibits.

  • A student from South Korea's Sejong University rolls up his cabinet. His team designed entirely foldable living quarters and slept in them on site for the duration of the week.

    A student from South Korea's Sejong University rolls up his cabinet. His team designed entirely foldable living quarters and slept in them on site for the duration of the week.

  • Ototoki, from Kyushu Sangyo University, is a building-sized percussion instrument designed to be played by its inhabitants.

    Ototoki, from Kyushu Sangyo University, is a building-sized percussion instrument designed to be played by its inhabitants.

  • 'Pretense,' an installation from Nihon University.

    'Pretense,' an installation from Nihon University.

  • Namiko Shinohara talks about her giant rabbit projects.

    Namiko Shinohara talks about her giant rabbit projects.

  • This house made of saran wrap is from Tama Art University and explores the relationship between people and architecture.

    This house made of saran wrap is from Tama Art University and explores the relationship between people and architecture.

  • Masafumi Tashiro's

    Masafumi Tashiro's "Dance with Space" installation consisted of a levitating table.

  • Manga on display at Tokyo Designers Week.

    Manga on display at Tokyo Designers Week.

  • Studio_01's

    Studio_01's "Barcode Room" allows the walls and furniture to be moved freely along rails across the ceiling.

  • "scoreLight," a musical instrument that plays sounds in response to darting laser beams.

    "scoreLight," a musical instrument that plays sounds in response to darting laser beams.

  • Exhibitors demonstrate Necomimi, the brainwave-controlled cat ears that briefly took Japan by storm.

    Exhibitors demonstrate Necomimi, the brainwave-controlled cat ears that briefly took Japan by storm.

  • Nuuo's

    Nuuo's "Nubot" is a communication robot designed to bring more animation to Skype video chats.

  • Motuungee, designed by students at Ewha Women's University in Seoul, is intended to make better use out of corners.

    Motuungee, designed by students at Ewha Women's University in Seoul, is intended to make better use out of corners.

  • Many of the installations and exhibits at Tokyo Designers Week are housed in outdoor cargo containers.

    Many of the installations and exhibits at Tokyo Designers Week are housed in outdoor cargo containers.

  • Zillion's David Guarino designed these hand-wrapped kimono skateboards.

    Zillion's David Guarino designed these hand-wrapped kimono skateboards.

  • Graffiti from Presto and Titi Freak. "Shinjiru" means "believe" in Japanese.

    Graffiti from Presto and Titi Freak. "Shinjiru" means "believe" in Japanese.

  • An exhibitor sits on top of her exhibit towards the end of a show day.

    An exhibitor sits on top of her exhibit towards the end of a show day.

  • Attendees examine an exhibit from Waseda University.

    Attendees examine an exhibit from Waseda University.

  • Docomo's exhibit provided an opportunity to see some of the more unusual phones in the carrier's history, such as this 2010 LG handset with a Pentax 3x optical zoom lens.

    Docomo's exhibit provided an opportunity to see some of the more unusual phones in the carrier's history, such as this 2010 LG handset with a Pentax 3x optical zoom lens.

  • This Paldio phone was fashioned in the image of popular manga and anime character Doraemon.

    This Paldio phone was fashioned in the image of popular manga and anime character Doraemon.

  • NTT's earliest cellphones predate the Docomo brand itself, which was introduced in 1992.

    NTT's earliest cellphones predate the Docomo brand itself, which was introduced in 1992.

  • It seems the carrier tried out just about every possible form factor at some point over the past two decades.

    It seems the carrier tried out just about every possible form factor at some point over the past two decades.

  • This plastic cup installation is called "Yuragi," meaning "flicker," and is the work of Aoyama Technical College.

    This plastic cup installation is called "Yuragi," meaning "flicker," and is the work of Aoyama Technical College.

  • Nissha Pax makes products such as this coathanger and toy out of hardened paper.

    Nissha Pax makes products such as this coathanger and toy out of hardened paper.

  • Toyo University showed off some deck chairs with personality.

    Toyo University showed off some deck chairs with personality.

  • The international section of the main Tokyo Designers Week hall feels like a market, with designers from all corners of the world hawking various wares.

    The international section of the main Tokyo Designers Week hall feels like a market, with designers from all corners of the world hawking various wares.

  • The Designium's

    The Designium's "Arm Clock" employs Kinect to let you set the time with your own two arms.

  • TicTac's Click-Watches show the time with a lightswitch-style press of a button.

    TicTac's Click-Watches show the time with a lightswitch-style press of a button.

  • A simple temple constructed from Kawada Nanoblocks, a popular and small-scale Japanese alternative to Lego.

    A simple temple constructed from Kawada Nanoblocks, a popular and small-scale Japanese alternative to Lego.

  • Docomo's 611 phones were placed in a single, extraordinarily long cabinet that could take a while to pass in its entirety.

    Docomo's 611 phones were placed in a single, extraordinarily long cabinet that could take a while to pass in its entirety.

  • Eriko Kasahara's

    Eriko Kasahara's "Lumi Babies."

  • Akitoshi Imafuku and Supermaniac Inc.'s

    Akitoshi Imafuku and Supermaniac Inc.'s "Shunkan-light."

  • Event workers advertising a paper hat workshop.

    Event workers advertising a paper hat workshop.

  • Haruna Ono exhibited her Zwart label's distinctive heeled shoes.

    Haruna Ono exhibited her Zwart label's distinctive heeled shoes.

  • Several art exhibits were part of a series inspired by Edo-era painter Ito Jakuchu, such as Junko Koshino's

    Several art exhibits were part of a series inspired by Edo-era painter Ito Jakuchu, such as Junko Koshino's "The Coat which Flies Away."

  • Alberto Meda's

    Alberto Meda's "Lightness."

  • Zhang Ke's

    Zhang Ke's "The Shinki of Chairs."

  • Yoichiro Kawaguchi's

    Yoichiro Kawaguchi's "Growth:Tendril."

  • One of the more practical designs on show: a piggy bank maraca.

    One of the more practical designs on show: a piggy bank maraca.

  • Klein Dytham's giraffe-shaped skyscraper concept was one of the standout architecture exhibits.

    Klein Dytham's giraffe-shaped skyscraper concept was one of the standout architecture exhibits.

  • People entering the event site well into the night.

    People entering the event site well into the night.


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