September 2004

Japanese Design: From Asahi To Zen

Carlton Publishing Group

  • 20 Mortimer Street
  • ,


Japanese Design is a compilation of images and culture from journalist Sarah Lonsdale’s career in Tokyo and fascination with Japan . Japan’s cultural identity is a mix between old and new and it is evident walking down a busy street and seeing it’s neon signs next to an elegantly designed shrine and passing newsstands selling manga to older businessmen and kids without discrimination. Lonsdale’s book is full of colorful images that take you through a tour of the city and its merchandise with brief text detailing the sometimes confusing or surreal photos.

It is divided into design sections for easy reference starting with fashion. This section shows traditional work wear and school uniforms alongside Japan ’s notorious street fashions. The book shows illustrates for the reader how white face makeup is used by performers in kabuki theatre as well as a Japanese teenager in an Alice in Wonderland inspired outfit. This section also covers popular international designers like Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe as well as technological textiles.

The architecture and interiors section further illustrates the traditional vs. modern theme of Japanese culture. There are tall chrome skyscrapers that tower over the city and traditional houses and inns that are complete with beautiful gardens and Koi ponds.

There are additional sections that cover food and drink, transportation, products like toys and cars, house wares and most interesting advertising, communications and packaging. Japan ’s eclectic mix of ancient and modern graphics has created something very different and attractive to consumers around the world. Remember the Pokemon craze? Before that it was Hello Kitty and even now advertisers search for new ways to use traditional Asian inspired packaging- the new beauty line Miso-Pretty is an excellent example of this. The Japanese put extra detail into the whole product and with their advanced technology the end result is something that transcends language barriers.

The country places genuine value on aesthetically pleasing images and structures and can be counted on as helpful to design students of all disciplines.

Reviewer: Rodriguez, FIDM Library Staff Member, Orange County