by Kenya Hara (Lars Müller)
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Designing Japan is the result of two years' worth of columns written by Kenya Hara for Tosho magazine, originally under the rubric ‘The Education of Desire', which the legendary designer sees less as consumption-focused marketing and more as cultivating human desire through interaction with refined design in all areas of life.
According to Hara, this concept is more valid than ever given Japan's unprecedented social and economic circumstances, i.e. a dialectic of nativism versus Westernisation originating from the Meiji Restoration. He argues for a future driven by the intentionality of design and informed by the aesthetic sensibility that underpins Japan's approach to work and industry but firmly focused on the future. Spread over six categories, topics range from design platforms and the taxonomic to homes, materials, tourism and the re-conceptualisation of growth, with aesthetics becoming the primary resource in the natural resource-starved nation.
The work marks the first presentation of these ideas in English, and Hara explicitly courts non-Japanese people as part of the dialogue. And while Hara's conception of Japanese culture is highly reified, the distillation contributes to the clarity of his ideas, making for a fascinating read.