How To Travel Like A Designer: Tokyo

While Japanese design has often been associated with the country’s post-war intense industrialization, decorative arts have been around for much longer. Back in prehistoric times, J?mon hunters and gatherers were among the first nations in the world to create pottery. The first elaborate ceramic decoration can be traced back to 8,000 B.C.

Through the ages, and in spite of foreign influences, the Land of the Rising Sun has been able to preserve incomparable aesthetics anchored in traditional culture, while opening up to modernity. And even though high-tech products made in Japan became a huge export success since the 1960s, it is ancient know-how that attracts creative minds nowadays, whether they search for meaning or authenticity.

Woodworking artist Loïc Bard seems to have a natural affinity for Nippon style: pure lines, simple concepts, sensorial material or an overall sense of harmony. He designs lamps, furniture and other items inspired by “organic forms,” which he discovered while visiting Japan. When we featured Loïc’s portrait for the October 2013 issue of M&D magazine, I was moved by the poetry of his creations and inspired to learn more about Japan.

Loïc takes us on a tour of his Tokyo…

Corinne Cécilia: Where do you normally stay?
Loïc Bard: In a youth hostel or with locals: Japanese people are very welcoming. And I spend at least one night in one of the rooms furnished by Japanese designers at the Claska hotel.

CC: Where do you like to dine?
LB: There is a wide array of restaurants to choose from in Tokyo. It’s good to get acquainted with a Tokyoite who can then help you discover one of the hidden gems tucked behind a building, such as the Shirubei restaurant in the Shibuya district.

CC: Where do you go for drinks?
LB: The bar in Claska hotel is a good place for a break when touring the best interior design shops in the Meguro-ku district. The hotel also has a showroom with Japanese design objects.

CC: Where do you like to shop?
LB: At Tokyu Hand. It’s a large store selling materials and tools for artisans (pretty much a heaven for woodworkers because Japanese tools are truly the best), as well as furniture, design objects and more. You could easily spend the whole day there. On Sundays, you can find incredible objects in little flea markets in certain neighbourhoods.

CC: Where do you go to relax?
LB: I like strolling in the gardens — the Kiyosumi garden especially — and the Shibuya district because of the shopping.

CC: What are some of your favourite places?
LB: My three favourite museums and galleries are located in Roppongi, the entertainment district: the National Art Center, Tokyo, the Mori Art Museum and the 21_21 Design Sight gallery space, with its stunning architecture.

CC: Do you have a favourite airline?
LB: Japan Airlines.

Loïc Bard’s best address for interior design in Tokyo: In the Meguro-ku district, Meguro-dori Avenue hosts a great many Japanese furniture stores.

Corinne’s travel tip: Creative industries typically have a fascination for Japanese designers, and special exhibitions are often dedicated to them. If you live in Europe, immerse yourself in the world of Takumi Nariyoshi, one of the nominees for the Rado Star Prize, an award celebrating 80 emerging designers from all over the world. Takumi’s projects will be showcased at now! le Off, at the Docks — Cité de la Mode et du Design, during the Paris Design Week, from September 6 to 13, 2014. 

Plafonnier Shensi, by Takumi Nariyoshi 

Closer to home, don’t miss the exhibition L’objet japonaisPanorama du design contemporain au Japon, which will be presented at Centre de design de l’UQAM from November 20, 2014 to January 18, 2015.

Read more travel blog posts here.

Photo credits:?
1-2. Tokyo National Museum collection, via Pointe-à-Callière?

3. Alexandre Gergely?
4. Andy Long Hoang
5, 7.  Claska?
6. Shibuya Daikanyama, via JNTO?
8. Meguro – Nakameguro 3, via JNTO?
9. Kiyosumi Garden via Japan National Tourism Organization (Canada)?
10-11.  National Art Center, Tokyo, via Japan National Tourism Organization (Canada)?
12. Mori Art Museum
13. 21_21 Design Sight, via Masaya Yoshimura/Nacása & Partners Inc.

14. Meguro – Nakameguro 4, via JNTO?
15-16. Ceiling lamp Shensi, by Takumi Nariyoshi © Takumi Nariyoshi

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