Archive for April, 2008

National Treasures from Yakushi-ji and The Lantingji Xu

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

For big fan of ancient Buddhist art, especially for those who hunt National treasures, it was very exciting season and busy to go to museums where hold the exhibition during Golden week holiday. I went to Tokyo National Museum in Ueno park to see the Exhibition of National Treasures from Yakushi-ji Temple. Last week, I went to Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple to see the Twelve generals, and this time, I could see the bronze sculptures of Nikko(日光), means the sun, and Gakko(月光), means the moon, made in Hakuo period (A.D.672-686) as National Treasures.

That’s a good chance that you’ll be able to see the back shot of the sculptures. In most cases, a statue set on the proper place in the hall of temple, you would not be able to see it from behind of it. However, in this exhibition, every statues were standing alone and displayed without their nimbus, besides, there was a deck in front of the Nikko and Gakko so that visitors could see on the same level with both of statues. So I could tell the difference of these looking between the one when I saw on the deck and the other when I could see from lower point.

The appearance of Buddha statue changes depending on where you look at it from. I walked around every bodhisattva statue to find out the best view, but it was hard to decide it. As bodhisattva statue twisted the body, so the outlines of the body gradually changed at every step I took. I enjoyed the variety of the lines.

At the Kichijouten (吉祥天), is also designated National Treasure, booth, it was hard to see it because a lot of people gathered in front of the Kichijouten picture like a wall. The museum staffs made the visitors move along not to stack in front of it, but the visitors tried to stay there as much as possible. Indeed, it was worth watching.

The number of works in this exhibition was small, but almost of them were designated as National Treasure or Important Cultural Properties. It must be rare chance to see them at once, I do recommend you go there. This exhibition is showing untill June 8, 2008.

After watching the Exhibition of Yakushi-ji temple, I went to another exhibition whoch was held at the same time in Tokyo National Museum on “The Lantingji Xuin(蘭亭序)”, which is one of the most well-known East Asian style Calligraphy works, but as I was exhausted to see the Yakushi-ji’s works, I couldn’t concentrate on the works of the exhibition “The Lantingji Xuin”. It was a pity that this exhibition will finish on May 6th, but I was relieved to know that another exhibition will be held at Edo-Tokyo Museum in this July named “The Palace Museum. A well-known treasure on Calligraphy” and will display “The Lantingji Xuin” works. I hope to see them again.

NTT DoCoMo announced new brand identity

Friday, April 25th, 2008

NTT DoCoMo Inc., one of cell phone service providers in Japan, announced to start its new corporate logo at the beginning of July. The DoCoMo’s new logo consists circular shaped lowercases, changed its brand color into red named Docomo red.

When I looked at the current logo design at first, I thought it was a unique logo design. I loved its funny style which mixed uppercases and lowercases and dots along with the letters. I’m going to buy the next Docomo’s model, but it’s a pity I can’t see the current logo any more. I thought the brand name would be better just only “docomo” without “NTT”.

Take a walk to Shin-Yakushiji temple

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

After leaving from Shojudo (see previous topic), I went to Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple in a bit of hurry to get in time for closing time. The master of Shojudo told me it should took around 30 minutes by walk. It was hot day, so I was slightly sweaty. Japanese wisteria trees along the street budded and was almost blooming. To take a short cut, I went through a path linked to the hill where Shin-Yakushiji Temple stands on quietly. I felt Shin-Yakushiji was smaller than I expected.

The front door of the main hall was closed, so I entered to the inside from left side, and then I could see the Juni-Shinsho statues: The twelve divine generals, stood on the floor surrounding the Yakushi-nyorai statue. The inside of the room was dark, but a few candles lit the statues, I was impressed. I couldn’t wait to start watching closely, even though I should have pray the principal statue before watching them. I was really into these statues.

I guessed some of Japanese Mangas and animations had much influenced by the Buddha statue images. For example, the Bassara general, which is one of the Twelve divine generals, reminded me of the Katsuhiro Otomo’s “AKIRA”, which is SF manga. While the Four Heavenly Kings of Todai-ji Temple reminded me of the Gundam, which is the most well known Japanese robot animation, and I could find some common characteristics between these images.

One of the reasons I like the Juni-Shinsho statues was that every statue has its own characteristic looking each. They were soldiers to protect Yakushi-nyorai. I thought they seemed to play their roll saving the principal statue Yakushi-nyorai as if the characters in a fantasy story would try to save a heroine.

Japanese black ink stick, Sumi.

Monday, April 21st, 2008

My short trip to Nara was very good and comfortable because fabulous weather and the brilliant green leaves on the trees made me feel good.

I’d visited to almost of famous temples in Nara city, but the last one I’ve never visited before was Shin-Yakushiji, which is famous for several Buddha statues designated National Treasures such as Yakushi-Nyorai and Juni-Shinsho: The twelve divine generals, So I’d been looking forward to seeing them.

At the JR Nara station, when I looked for a map for tourists to Nara, I happened to get a free sightseeing guidebook of Nara city. I found an interesting photo on an ink stick, which was called Sumi in Japan, and I decided to go to the shop before visiting to Shin-Yakushiji. The shop’s name was Shoujudo “松寿堂” located in an old town. It took about ten minutes to go there from the station by foot.

I hesitated to enter the shop for a while because its facade seemed to be an old-established and really high-toned, but the owner was very happy and welcomed to enter the shop. The inside of the shop was very beautiful and traditional Japanese style, there were many Japanese-traditional furnitures such as wooden step-like chest of drawers.

The master showed me some products, which were the same ones on the guidebook, and explained how to make them. According to the master, the Sumi made in Nara is called Nara Sumi, which has been for more than 600 years since Muromachi period to provide for demand from the temples, mainly Kofuku-ji temple, in Nara area. Shojudo has been making Nara Sumi scince 1865, Edo period, and designated as a royal warrant shop. There were a few Sumi makers in this district a few years ago, but now, Shojudo is the only shop around there. And then, he showed me a Sumigata, the decorative wooden molds made from Asian Nashi, Asian pear, used to form ink sticks.

As I remembered that Prof. Hermann Zapf mentioned about a Japanese ink stick in the movie “The Art of Hermann Zapf”, I told him that I’ve heard some of Calligraphers not only East-Asian style but also European style used a Japanese Sumi as a black ink. Then I proposed him that he would introduce Sumi to Calligraphers who lives in Europe area. The master was very interested in this topic.

I bought two pieces of Sumi that shaped lovely Japanese deer, which lived in Nara Park and was considered sacred of Kasuga Taisha shrine, in a small box of paulownia wood.
It was a pity that I didn’t have much time left to get until the Shin-yakushiji temple would be closed. I hoped I would like to visit again so that I could get enough time to chat with the master.

(Above) The wooden shop signages and “Noren: 暖簾”, which is a store curtain hanged on the shop entrance, read “古梅園: Kobaien”on another shop that I found out during return to the Nara station from Shin-Yakushuji temple. (Lower right) The letter “墨: Sumi”, which means ink stick.

TDC exhibition 2008 opened at ggg gallery

Saturday, April 12th, 2008

Tokyo Type Directors Club (TDC) exhibition 2008 started on April 4, 2008 at ggg gallery in Ginza, Tokyo. There are many unique and interesting typography works and type designs contained TDC prize award winning works. Especially, award winning TDC prize Latin typeface design Frida, which was designed by Fernando De Mello Vargas who was a student of Reading type design course in UK, was very interesting multi lingual font. Frida supports Latin and Tamil scripts. I met Fernando at the party after the Christian Schwartz’s presentation in 5tanda-sonic, see previous article, but I didn’t have enough time to chat with him, so I emailed him.

And Jiyu Kobo, is one of the most remarkable type foundries in Japan and also known for making Hiragino family bundled on MacOSX, got the TDC prize for Japanese fonts series it made.

This exhibition continued through April 26(Sat.) and will be also held at ddd gallery in Osaka Dojima from June 13(Fri.) to July 23(Wed.), 2008.

TAB Talks #4 with a N.Y. based type designer Christian Schwartz.

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

I didn’t think that I could meet him in Japan. Christian Schwartz, based in New York, held a talk show at 5tanda Sonic event space in Gotanda, Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo . There was huge audience to see his show in spite of hard rain.

Wearing a lovely “I love N.Y.” T-shirt, he started to show some customized fonts for some major companies like Esquire, Deutsche Bahn (the German national railway company) and the Guardian, and explained the background stories of these customized fonts using a lot of specimens.

One of them, a typeface called Haçienda was developed for the Guardian, which is a famous news paper in UK. Haçienda, eventually renamed it Guardian, had a dynamic family more than 100 styles covered wide range weights and several kinds of styles like Serif, Sans and Slab styles, which would be released by the end of this year. Christian told us a full story of the design process from beginning to end.

After the show, I met him to ask some questions about his works, and I showed him my portfolio to get some opinions. He seemed to be interested in my heavy weight style fonts and told me some opinions. Thanks for the opportunity to meet with you, Christian!

(Left) Christian explained the difference among three styles of Hacienda. (Right) A brochure for the audience of this presentation and a Christian’s autograph on it.

And I must say thank you to Chris Palmieri of AQ design studio. He was a coordinator to hold Christian’s presentation in Tokyo. He was very familiar with Latin typefaces and had some interviews with type designers that he was interested in such as Jeremy Tankard, which was on AQ’s web site. He helped me out a lot to have communicate with Christian. He was a very nice guy and really kind to me.

Christian’s presentation was held again at Robundo inc., a well-known publisher on typography in Japan, in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, before his leaving from Japan due to a request by a member of Society of Typography in Japan.

Kazui Press relaunched its web site

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

The Kazui Press, which is the most famous letterpress house, especially Latin composition, in Japan, relaunched its website at the beginning of April. For the renewal of the website, several specimens of the hot metals they had were added to it, so you can see specimens on not only several classic and traditional typefaces, but also ornaments and wood types with the photos of hot metals for letterpress.

The second case, AXIS Font for railway signage

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

Seibu Railway, which runs through in northwest Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, started new signange systems using AXIS font as a main font to change its sign boards.

The brilliant blue color of the sign board looks good and very striking, but I was wondering whether the commuters have been aware of this replacement. When I saw the new design sign board at Nerima-Takanodai station of the Ikebukulo line, located near my office, for the frst time, I couldn’t see at a glance that was AXIS font because I didn’t have enough skills to find out the difference of Kanji characters among the other Japanese Fonts. However, I could tell the Hiragana “た” as I knew well the characteristic Kana forms of AXIS.

Regular weight was used for the signboard letters and Latin parts are Helvetica. The route map on the sign board is also the same. The old sign boards seem to be replaced by the new design, which is in progress now.

AFAIK, this is the second case AXIS is in use for a railway signage. The first one is Hisatsu Orange Railway in Kumamoto and Kagoshima pref., which started new sign boards that were designed by an architect Yasuyuki Kawanishi in 2004. launched.

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

I started my design office and my blog today. I’ve been thinking about that I try to introduce situation on type design and typography in Japan, because there seemed to be nothing English language web site concerning Japanese type design.

Although I didn’t know which is the best tool for my blog, I set up WordPress for a starter. I have a lot of work on my plate to revise this site, but I wanted to start this at April 1st so that I could excuse that it was April fool if I would not continue to post topics to this blog.

I have to say I’m not good at English, so I need to excuse my English skills in advance. I would appreciated if you had find out my mistake and let me know about it. Any suggestion and comment would be appreciated. Thanks!