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The last three weeks of August went by very quickly.  Anime scripwriter Dai Sato was in town along with Ryan Morris, his interpreter, for a couple of weeks to teach Anime Production/Scriptwriting to 25 high school students. Here are some summary videos of the classes he taught during those two weeks. Learn about 起承転結 (Ki-Sho-Ten-Ketsu) and 鳥獣戯画 (Cho-Ju-Gi-ga), Japan’s oldest manga. It is fascinating!

Also here is a link to Dai Sato speaking about how to create anime characters.

On the last day of the two weeks, the students divided into 5 groups presented their work at the auditorium. Here is a link to the 15 second previews that each group created. The preview was presented along with their story proposals. Dai told me later that he was intrigued that how all the groups had the notion of  fate/destiny embedded in their theme. He also thought that all story proposals dealt with the issues of coping with diversity and different values. He felt that groups made up of Japanese high school students would have come up with totally different theme and story ideas. Dai also had a chance to meet up with his old acquaintance, Justin Leach, also an IN member, who currently works at the Blue Sky Studios as a Senior Pipeline Engineer.  We paid a visit to Blue Sky in Connecticut and Dai was invited to speak about his work and the creative process to the storyboard department staff. Then we all took a tour of the studio.  Dai kept on saying how amazingly better the work environment is for creators like him in the U.S.  It was indeed a beautiful office space with huge windows overlooking a forest outside. There were ping pong tables and pinball machines, too.

Justin Leach and Dai Sato

Justin Leach and Dai Sato

During the last week of August, the Kyomachiya preservation group was in town after attending a symposium in Boston on historic preservation. The occasion was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of sister city between Boston and Kyoto. It was great to see Fusae Kojima again, a machiya owner and the President and Executive Director of Kyomachiya Revitalization Study Group. She was one of the panelists at the symposium we organized in collaboration with Kyoto Center for Community Collaboration (Machisen) last November at Japan Society. The symposium summary is featured in a new book titled Machiya Revival in Kyoto edited by Machisen. It just came out in July.  As part of the Innovators Network activities, we continue to support the Kyomachiya preservation group’s effort to gain further recognition abroad.

Last but not least, we have some newly edited videos of the Social Design Forum we organized with JIDPO (Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization) back in February.  I highly recommend that you watch Valerie Casey’s video on Design Thinking especially if you are a design student.

Masaaki Ikeda’s video, which touches on the history of  social design in Japan, is also quite interesting if you heard about Michael Linton, who had designed the LETS (Local Exchange Trading System).

(Fumiko)

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Yugo Nakamura – A Wizard, a True Star

It’s the first day of our exploration of design and sustainability in Tokyo with Max Schorr and Casey Caplowe of GOOD Magazine and Valerie Casey of IDEO.

Wending our way through Shibuya, we arrive at tha ltd, the studio of maverick web designer Yugo Nakamura. You enter through the ground floor of a non-descript apartment building to an open foyer that doubles as a meeting space.

Nakamura, dressed casually in jeans and blue sweater, is a tall man with a shock of black hair peppered with gray. Using a laptop and projector he shares some of his latest work involving interactive Internet animation, including a series of ads for Uniqlo.

Another of Nakamura’s projects is an image bookmarking website, designed as a frame. “I love making images and looking at images I love,” Nakamura says. .

“It’s interesting because it’s the first generation of digital interactive art design on the web,” says Schorr.

Asked about his approach to work, Nakamura says, “I’m interested in methodology. “We work like craftsmen. Our clients have their ideas. We want to make our products as original and fun as possible.”

Asked about collaborating with his American visitors somewhere down the road, Nakamura’s enthusiastic.

He notes that getting people to do good often starts on a small scale, from mundane social networking like dating and friend finding.

“Maybe we can come up with a mechanism for mobilizing a small part of people who that will enable the collections of goodness among people through communication,” he says.

(Daniel Rosenblum)

Yugo Nakamura at his office

Yugo Nakamura at his office

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Newark Airport, morning, Feb.3, 2009

I’m waiting for my flight to Tokyo, thinking about the three days of intensive meetings Japan Society‘s Innovators Network will be hosting on the theme of sustainability and cutting edge design.

GOOD Magazine Co-Founders Casey Caplowe and Max Schorr, and Valerie Casey, Leader, Digital Design Experience of IDEO arrive in Tokyo on Thursday.

Among those they’ll meet with are Yugo Nakamura, a web designer, who is considered one of the most interesting talents in today’s digital design field; Satoshi Yasui, Head of Design Planning at Muji; and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, architect and founder of Atelier Bow-Wow, a leader of a new generation of Tokyo architects that promote a site- and use-specific approaches to design.

On February 8, Max, Casey and Valery will have a chance to share their thoughts on design and sustainability with a wider group at a public symposium, cohosted by JIDPO (Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization), called “Design + Community + Social Impact“.

I’ll be blogging live about the symposium, which starts at 2 p.m. Tokyo time.

The symposium also includes a dialogue between the Americans and Katsufumi Nagai, art director at Hakuhodo Design, Soichi Ueda, producer at Spaceport, on “The Designer’s Mission Today.’

Should be a lot of fun!

(Daniel Rosenblum)

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In Japan, we have a tendency to wrap everything. We are very much into packaging. Beautiful packaging. When people get married or die, we have the custom of wrapping money in an envelope and wrap the envelope with strands of cords which are made of rice paper. We call these paper cords mizuhiki. The mizuhiki could be quite elaborate. The colors of the cords are usually different depending on the occasion. For wedddings and auspicious occasions, the cords are red, white and gold. For funerals, the cords are black and white. A visitor from Japan gave us the following mizuhiki envelope today. It is created by Yasuhiro Asano, a designer based in Tokyo. He uses traditional paper, washi and mizuihiki. It is called Alphabet mizuhiki. (Look for product number 46.) I like it very much. It is quite different from the ones that I saw growing up. Definitely a merge of Japanese tradition and the West. My coworker Betty is leaving for Japan tomorrow for the design and sustainability exchange that we are organizing. From the U.S., Max Schorr and Casey Caplowe from GOOD magazine and Valerie Casey from IDEO, the founder of the Designers Accord, are joining.  They are all speaking at the Social Design symposium to be held in Tokyo on February 8. Betty will be showing the GOOD mizushiki envelope to Max and Casey. I bet they would like it. (Fumiko)

Good mizuhiki envelope

Good mizuhiki envelope

Good mizuhiki CU

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Yesterday I checked out Japan C at Felissimo Design House. Some days earlier, my colleague, Japan Society Director of Education Rob Fish, was interviewed on NY1 about the culture of cute while visiting Japan C. Japan C, Felissimo says, represents “all that Japan is today: Cool, Cute, Clever and Creative”. And it’s true. In the market for a cool chrome rice cooker, an eco-sensitive, recyclable gift bag, or the latest keitai accessories? Felissimo’s put together a combination Kiddie Land, Tokyu Hand and Aoyama Dori wrapped up in a tidy four-story package in the middle of Manhattan. (Daniel Rosenblum) (more…)

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May 20, 2008 – The U.S.-Japan Innovators Network held the public symposium Innovation & the Art of Future Building in New York on May 20 in order to explore innovative approaches to helping people envision a better future, whether it’s a community coping with natural disaster, an individual rebounding from homelessness or online networks sharing information vital to recovery. Part of Japan Society’s U.S.-Japan Innovators Network, the program was co-organized with MCG Jazz, Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans and The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. A second presentation took place Thursday, May 22, at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, LA.

For a summary of the event, please read Innovation & the Art of Future Building.

To listen to the participants’ different perspectives on recovery and future building, please visit Innovators Podcasts on Japan Society’s website.

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Architecture for Humanity and UNICEF are working together to innovate schools and classrooms for children all over the world, scaling architectural innovation to a profound level. As of right now UNICEF and Architecture for Humanity are seeking design and engineering professional to help develop and build a number of educational facilities in West Africa. Their focus at the moment is in Liberia and Ivory Coast, but in the coming months they will look for candidates for Sierra Leone and Guinea. Working in partnership with local communities and the ministry of education, they will design and facilitate the building of two schools that will include alternative energy sources, water reclamation, connectivity, basic services, and play spaces.

In other Architecture for Humanity news, almost $35,000 has been raised for the rebuilding project for Myanmar/Burma since Cyclone Nargis slammed into the country’s southern tip. AFH has spoken with a number of in-country and ex-patriot designers about their strategy for long term rebuilding and have representatives on the ground in Rangoon. Given their available funding they’ve decided to assemble a design team that can focus on the rebuilding of one community that has been devastated by this horrific disaster. AFH is also giving preference to regionally based designers due to the high travel costs associated with getting into Myanmar.

Join hundreds of others and support AFH’s sustainable reconstruction effort, make a donation today by visiting: http://www.architectureforhumanity.org/donate

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