Art Meets Life at Bangkok’s Japanese Design Week

Bags made from used newspaper.

BANGKOK — With pots, plates and cups scattered across tables, the room looks more like a yardsale than an exhibition.

But an exhibition it is. “Japanese Design Today 100”, held at the Creative Economy Agency on Charoen Krung Road, showcases the creativity and philosophies behind Japanese designs of everyday objects that have won admiration from the world over.

Hot, cold indicator cup holder

Design is not for philosophy, Issey Miyaki once said, it’s for life. The exhibit seems to underscore that vision. Here, a blue cup holder that changes to red as a warning when hot. There, a titanium mug that can keeps its contents cold or hot. A sauce bottle designed to avoid residue.

On one level, the exhibit illustrates how ingenious thoughts can produce ordinary items which improve our lives. But according to director Apisit Laistrooglai, the objects on display are also a window into the minds of Japanese people.


“We are not only inviting people to look at the objects. We are inviting them to look at the roots of those objects,” Apisit told Khaosod English. “We can see the psyche of Japanese people.”

“I hope Thais will also come up designs that respond to the needs of Thai cultures and lifestyles,” he added.

The displays are part of a traveling exhibition curated by the Japan Foundation that has been touring the world for a decade. Before coming to Bangkok, the exhibition was showing in Finland. Its next destination is Indonesia.

Some featured objects are Japanese improvements upon pre-existing inventions that went on to revolutionize the world: Nikon cameras, Toshiba rice cookers and Sony Walkmans.

Others offer a Japanese aesthetic: trays for incense carved with intricate detail, bags made from folded newspapers, and delicate wind bells. And then there’s the Kikkoman sauce glass bottle, a crown jewel of packaging design which combines aesthetics with convenience – modeled after sake bottles, Kikkoman sauce can be poured without having to open the cap.

Of course, the exhibit features smart disaster-relief equipment designs – a must for a country prone to natural calamities such as Japan. On display are waterproof megaphones, portable radios that double as power-banks, helmets that can be unfolded into storage boxes and other ingenious inventions.

(Curiously missing from the comprehensive exhibit are the famed Japanese electric toilets, a source of fascination for many Thai tourists.)

Apisit’s personal favorite item is a foldable walking cane that comes with a wheel and a hook to hold grocery bags.

“It’s an answer to challenges in Japan’s aging society,” Apisit said. “We Thais are also moving toward an aging society. I want our people to start thinking about designs which respond to that problem.”


“Starting with our pavements. How do we make them better and smoother?” he pondered aloud.

Casting vessel for anti-mosquito incense
Chic altar for Buddha
Colorful masking tapes
Kikkoman Soy Sauce dispenser

“Japanese Design Today 100” is held at the TDCD Center, right behind the Grand Postal Building. It’s open from 10.30am to 9pm Tuesday – Sunday from April 24 to May 26 2019. Entry is free. Explanatory texts are in Thai and English.