April 3, 2018

Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism

A growing movement in Japan is choosing to part with their possessions and appreciate the beauty of less. These extreme minimalists may limit their wardrobe to only 20 items of clothing or choose to forgo a bed, paring their home down to the bare essentials. Inspired by the aesthetics and principles of traditional Zen Buddhism, Japan's new minimalists say their transformation to simple living has freed them to spend time on other pursuits.

Fumio Sasaki, minimalist and author of Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism, joins us at Japan Society to discuss how he opted for minimalism over materialism and share his insight on this life-altering philosophy. Moderated by filmmaker Matt D'Avella, whose latest film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things examines the cultural movement of simple living

August 16, 2017


Before you start deciding what sparks joy in your life, you must first get a true sense of the problems you face. For example, when organizing clothes, I ask that you take out all the clothes you own and gather them in one spot, so that you can visually comprehend how much you have.

What we don't often realize is that the furniture and closets in which we store our clothing have a remarkable way of concealing truths we would rather not see (a pilled sweater, for instance, that does not bring any joy). It's perfectly fine to take advantage of this masking effect on a small scale, but when the amount of things that you don't need continuously increases -- along with the time and space that you devote to accumulating those things -- you will find that it becomes harder to lie to yourself.

We also work in much the same way. We often hide our problems inside the closet of our hearts as if they never existed. Whenever my mind clouds over and I feel overwhelmed, I immediately take out a sketchbook. I write down all the emotions that I feel and the possible reasons behind them across a blank white page.

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April 24, 2016

On Time

Few Northern Europeans or North Americans can reconcile themselves to the multi-active use of time. Germans and Swiss, unless they reach an understanding of the underlying psychology, will be driven to distraction. Germans see compartmentalization of programs, schedules, procedures and production as the surest route to efficiency. The Swiss, even more time and regulation dominated, have made precision a national symbol. This applies to their watch industry, their optical instruments, their pharmaceutical products, their banking. Planes, buses and trains leave on the dot. Accordingly, everything can be exactly calculated and predicted.

In countries inhabited by linear-active people, time is clock- and calendar- related, segmented in an abstract manner for our convenience, measurement, and disposal. In multi-active cultures like the Arab and Latin spheres, time is event- or personality-related, a subjective commodity which can be manipulated, molded, stretched, or dispensed with, irrespective of what the clock says.


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January 9, 2016

KonMari: Philosophy of household goods at rest or in service

Discard everything that does not "spark joy," after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service; and do not buy organizing equipment -- your home already has all the storage you need.

She proposes a similarly agreeable technique for hanging clothing. Hang up anything that looks happier hung up, and arrange like with like, working from left to right, with dark, heavy clothing on the left: "Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure."

Smaller, English-only under-titles:

Such anthropomorphism and nondualism, so familiar in Japanese culture, as Leonard Koren, a design theorist who has written extensively on Japanese aesthetics, told me recently, was an epiphany to this Westerner. In Japan, a hyper-awareness, even reverence, for objects is a rational response to geography, said Mr. Koren, who spent 10 years there and is the author of "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers."

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December 19, 2015

Write what you think

SEOUL, South Korea -- WHEN she published her book about Korean "comfort women" in 2013, Park Yu-ha wrote that she felt "a bit fearful" of how it might be received.

After all, she said, it challenged "the common knowledge" about the wartime sex slaves.

But even she was not prepared for the severity of the backlash.

In February, a South Korean court ordered Ms. Park's book, "Comfort Women of the Empire," redacted in 34 sections where it found her guilty of defaming former comfort women with false facts. Ms. Park is also on trial on the criminal charge of defaming the aging women, widely accepted here as an inviolable symbol of Korea's suffering under colonial rule by Japan and its need for historical justice, and she is being sued for defamation by some of the women themselves.

Op-Ed Contributor: South Korea's Textbook Whitewash:
The women have called for Ms. Park's expulsion from Sejong University in Seoul, where she is a professor of Japanese literature. Other researchers say she is an apologist for Japan's war crimes. On social media, she has been vilified as a "pro-Japanese traitor."

Japan's Apologies for World War II:
"They do not want you to see other aspects of the comfort women," the soft-spoken Ms. Park said during a recent interview at a quiet street-corner cafe run by one of her supporters. "If you do, they think you are diluting the issue, giving Japan indulgence."

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May 7, 2015


S&C New York's recent success with Hangul Typography Exhibition at the Art Directors Club last November has achieved international fame and a documentary film that features S&C New York's activities.

[다큐 공감] 뉴욕, 독도 그리고 "너 빼고 다 아는" from Stigma and Cognition on Vimeo.


January 23, 2015

Murakami pattern

When you read a Murakami you know it's going to contain the following list.

- Obscure Jazz references
- At least one bar scene where he can show off his knowledge of cocktails.
- A bizarre sex scene/ or imagined fantasy
- A character obsessed with fitness
- A protagonist in a middle management job with no aspirations
- A female love interest who apparently is never 'objectively' attractive but has some feature or nuance that attracts the protagonist.
- Central Tokyo but protagonist will leave to the country in search of an epiphany
- Unhealthy attention to cigarette brands

December 1, 2013

Ghosts of Honda past

"Racing improves the breed."

" We will not be content with this victory alone [first win in F1]. We will study why we won and aggressively apply those winning technologies to new cars."

"The value of life can be measured by how many times your soul has been deeply stirred."

"If Honda does not race there is no Honda."

The man who said all these things created the great company that still bears his name. That company made its name selling economy cars, but every product with an H on it was imbued with a little bit of Mr Honda's spirit. He understood that racing didn't just make better components and better cars, it made better engineers as well. Engineers who understood what made a great car, not just a car that sold well.

When Soichiro Honda died, he took the guiding force of Honda Motor Company with him, and slowly, all the people who helped him make the company retired or left, and have been replaced with bean-counters who couldn't care less about making a car that excites you, every time you start it. The performance spirit took a few years to disappear completely, but if you look at today's Honda/Acura lineup, it is clear that it's gone.

If Mr Honda came back today, and saw some of the products that now bear his name, he'd be throwing piston heads at some of his employees, as he used to in the early days of the company

April 28, 2012


Rental "relatives" are available for sparsely attended wedding parties; so-called "babyloids" -- furry dolls that mimic infant sounds -- are being developed for lonely seniors; and Japanese researchers are at the forefront of efforts to build robots that resemble human babies. The younger generation includes millions of so-called "parasite singles" who still live with (and off) their parents, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of the "hikikomori"--"young adults," Eberstadt writes, "who shut themselves off almost entirely by retreating into a friendless life of video games, the Internet and manga (comics) in their parents' home."

Incredible Shrinking Country
There are "babyloids" and relatives-for-rent in an increasingly childless Japan.

Word of the day:

March 1, 2012

Once strong, golden America's optimism was contageous

"They know Okinawa had a genuine connection to that old, bright and strong America," Mr. Kinjo said.

Such nostalgia was apparent on a recent evening at the steakhouse, where slightly built Japanese customers sat in oversize American booths while a jukebox played "Rock Around the Clock." One, Kazue Okimura, a 52-year-old salesman from Tokyo, said he had come for a taste of a time when not only the United States but also Japan seemed more youthful and confident.

"We want to see the remaining traces of that time," he said, sawing a rib-eye steak.

Those traces are disappearing fast. A block away from the steakhouse sits the site of the Teahouse of the August Moon, a brothel-turned-dinner theater that was once a center of social life in American-occupied Okinawa. In 1956, it became the inspiration for a Hollywood movie of the same name starring Marlon Brando.

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