Still got it: Japan

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C’mon, admit it. Japanese creativity bleeds heavily to all corners of art, fashion, design and architecture on a global scale, and more so than many other countries that are credited with a trendsetting nature amongst the arts. Granted, us British aren’t bad, but there is something about the Japanese eye for precision, aesthetic and form that makes you want a piece of it. Glass ventured in to a world of new architecture, art festivals that take place on islands, paper eyelashes and (very) hot stone spas. We also found out why Tadao Ando is still something of a legend in architecture and why Mihara Yasushiro is the must-know menswear designer of the moment.

Legend has it …
… “it” being Japan, by way of Tadao Ando, a highly regarded name in global architecture (and interestingly, a former boxer and truck driver). He is not only a big spiritual fan of zen (believing that “dwelling in a house is a search for the mind” – an idea which filters through most of his buildings) but also a lover of concrete, which lends to his signature clean lines and voluminous structures. An important part of Japan’s cultural arts scene, Ando is not only known for his influence on its cityscapes (such as Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art in Kobe and Ometesando Hills in Tokyo) but also for his contribution to Japan’s hotel industry.

Still got it: japan

He has designed two fine examples of luxury travelling for the decade ahead: the Capella Niseko (set to open in 2013) and the Chedi Tomakomai (for 2015). He also designed Chichu Art Museum at Benesse House, a hotel and all-round rejuvenation haven which gets involved in community and art projects, and offers a calm oasis away from the excesses of over-information and the constant entertainment embroiled in modern life. And it’s on Naoshima, one of the islands we were talking about earlier.

About those islands …
It’s not just Naoshima on which various art projects occur, but also on the four islands of Shamijima, Honjima, Awashima, and Ibukijima in the Seto Inland Sea, which separates Honshu and Shikoku. Forget the biennales we are used to – try a triennale. The Setouchi Triennale offers an array of contemporary art on all four islands during the months of Spring, Summer and Autumn (see the website link below for specific dates) amidst rural island charm and stunning backdrops.

There is also the Aichi Trienniale which runs from August 10-27 and reflects on Awakening –Where Are We Standing? – Earth, Memory and Resurrection in tribute to east Japan’s earthquake. Art, theatre, dance and visual art come together to address the socio-political events that are taking place across various parts of the world. A newly reconstructed Kabuki-za open air theatre will also offer fans of the stage something to get excited about when it reopens in April 2013.

Luxury lifestyle …
There is no better time than when you’re on holiday to schedule a few nights (or a whole two weeks) at a city’s best hotels. Cue the Capitol Hotel Tokyo (which opened in 2010) and offers panoramic views over Tokyo, as well as suites designed in a classic Japanese style. Located in Hie Shrine (which means “Hill of Stars”) Akasaka, downtown Tokyo, the hotel has everything you need – contemporary spa, many a different dining option and its never far away from many a city attraction. As well as some of the more newer hotels – Toyko Station hotel which opened in October this year for example, there is also Claska hotel, which we’re a huge fan of.

The boutique hotel offers a comfort-inducing warmth and cosiness which make it very appealing, whilst still maintaining a clean Japanese style and interiors. It also houses its own gallery and shop, DO, which offers arts and various crafts as well as a few DIY guest rooms, whose interiors have been completely re-decked out by a host of designers that include Kaname Okajima, Kayo Sato and Norihiko Terayama.

Trendhunting and self-indulgence …

Whether its shopping, eyelash culture, spas or 3D-Samurai films that gets you hooked, Glass found much to do – and all in a day’s “work”. DesignWorks Concept Store in Aoyama is a recent addition to the shopping scene, having launched mid-November, and is part of the Abahouse International Co. It offers a selection of established designers, merchandised on floors that have themes such as “Breakaway from elegance for adults” and it’s got the full- on “concept store” design and wow factor – certainly enough to put Dover Street Market in London in the dark. Then it is also worth checking out Mihara Yasuhiro, who has recently branched out from shoe design into clothes for men. Browns in London loves his work, (they also stock his clothes) and the spotlight is on him for menswear fashion right now.

The paper eyelashes trend currently flooding Japan is not one that might get you fluttering yours, but it does look rather fun and quirky, and interestingly it’s a trend which is currently booming in Japan. End of the day activities – are a must, yes – but if it’s not a spa (hot stone spas called Gabanyokus, or “bedrock baths” as they are known are very popular right now) then look out for film, The Wolverine, premiering in July. It is set to feature spectacular scenery of Japan, especially Mount Fuji, which actor, Hugh Jackman has been taking pictures of. Not exactly an authentic way to see the country’s more rural side but short of hiring your own private jet to see said scenery, it’s not a bad option.

by Ruthie Holloway

For more information, please visit: Capella Hotels abahousebenesse-artsite setouchi-artfest capitolhotelclaska

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