I aim to shape products, interfaces and services that mediate meaningful dialogues between people, systems and their environments within everyday life.

Posts tagged ‘japan’



A simple ring around a tree acts as a new space for kindergarten children to learn and play. The idea of using senses and bodily movement as tools for learning inspired the design:

The preferred space for teaching preschool children avoids the classical dynamics of frontal lectures. In “Philosophical Investigations,” Ludwig Wittgenstein writes that what children and foreigners have in common is the absence of knowledge of language and a set of codified rules. This leads them—in the first instance—to learn through the senses and the body. To give the children more freedom to move around the school, the directors of the Fuji Kindergarten requested Tezuka to design spaces without furniture: no chairs, desks or lecterns. As a result, “Ring Around a Tree” offers an architecture where there are no measures taken to constrain space, in order to liberate the body.

The Japanese Zelkova tree had already been a “place-playmate” for several generations serving as a treehouse, temporary shelter, and climbing area before being transformed as an addition to the Fuji Kindergarten.

Looking back on my own experience, the staircase and balcony of my childhood home was a playmate for my sisters and I. In addition to functioning simply as a connection between floors, it became an area for us and our friends to slide down and climb, listen to story time and to put on puppet shows. What was your place playmate?


Japanese Elevator Buttons

Many elevators in Japan have two sets of buttons. One standard set and one set lower than usual, whether it be directly beneath the first or oriented horizontally right next to a vertical set. When I first encountered two sets of up/down buttons, I h

ad to pause for a few seconds before pressing a button. I was initially wondering whether the different buttons mapped to different elevator shafts, but later I realized the lower set was made for handicap accessibility.jp_elevator

This consideration make reasonable sense, but in practice the design looks confusing and redundant. For the up/down buttons (pictured on left), why not just have one set of buttons placed lower? As for the floor number buttons inside the elevator (pictured right), I ended up using the horizontal panel more often as this was what I saw first walking into the elevator and it was more informative with a display of the current floor number. Thus, the vertical panel could be eliminated as well.


A Phone That’s More Than a Phone

photobooth1The culture of cute is rampant in Japan, especially with the youth. O

ne trend that remains ever so popular, and to which I myself have succumbed in my youthful days, is taking silly/cute/glamourous pictures with friends in pod-like photo booths. Back in the day, these pictures were printed out on wallet-sized cards or a page of stickers, but this time around I observed an interesting phenomenon of downloading the images to cellphones.

Considering the ubiquity and high-tech functions of the cellphone in Japan, it seems like a natural evolution of the “sticker booth” past time. Rather than printing out physical copies of pictures, you can now simply put your cellphone up to a screen at the side of the booth, and voilà, the images are available on your phone ready to be used as wallpaper or mass-mailed to your 100 closest friends.



Tokyo Morning Commute

Experiencing a morning rush hour commute on Tokyo’s metro is a fascinating, albeit overwhelming ride. In a car stuffed with crushing bodies, just when I don’t think I can physically get any closer to a perfect stranger, more people take the plunge

in at each new station stop.


In a city as dense as Tokyo, these cramped commutes are a daily fact of life. Imagine not even having the room to lift up your arm to hold on to a pole yet in the end not making any  difference since the mass of bodies squishing against you seem to keep you in balance from falling.


A subway etiquette I appreciate over all of Japan is the restricted use of cell phones, which makes the ride unbelievably quiet. Unlike in Hong Kong, where everyone chats loudly on their mobiles, Japanese  subways are filled with people busily texting or playing games on their cellphones. Just a tiny glimpse of everyday life in Japan.



Taipei aka Japan Lite?

On a recent weekend trip to Taipei I discovered the city to be quite an interesting mix of mainland China and Japan. On the one hand, roads are much winder and space seems more abundant allowing for more green space and parks (something I don’t see much of in Hong Kong). In the denser shopping/entertainment districts, the streets begin to look more like Japan’s urban landscape with vertical shop signs and the familiar ubiquitous Japanese shops like Family Mart and Mister Donut.


Apart from the streetscape, many buildings in Taipei are built with a Japanese architectural style and Japanese-style teahouses are dotted throughout the city. Additionally, Taiwan boasts having the world’s highest number of Japanese restaurants outside of Japan. Of course, besides trying the famous local dishes of beed noodles, shaved ice, Taiwanese breakfast hamburger, one must also enjoy some Japanese food (“kareh raisu,” anyone?), which tastes just as good as any authentic version in Japan.

taipei food

Taiwan is also big on tea culture, especially milk tea. Walking into any 7-11 store, you can have any choice from an entire fridge of teas, ranging from black to green or milk teas in various flavours. Bubble tea also originated from Taiwan, so it is no wonder why the locals love their teas in all styles and flavours with tapioca or jelly (and again, either flavoured on non!)