Tokyo Design Week Report: Design Touch 2013

This year’s series of design events that cluster together to form Tokyo’s so-called “design week(s)” is a bit sadder because it’s the first since one of the major events, Designtide, closed down after the 2012 edition. However, it’s a mistake to simply think that the other events have scaled back. Far from it, everything is livelier than ever! PingMag went along to check out Design Touch, now in its seventh year and one of the main events in the calendar.

This year’s Design Touch was themed around “going in search of design”. Well, if you head to Roppongi’s Tokyo Midtown to do that, the first example you may encounter is this massive “dungeon”.

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It’s called the Midtown Dungeon, designed by architect Ryuji Fujimura. At first glance, it looks like a giant maze but actually it’s a city based on the grid design of Manhattan, complete with a “skyscraper” towering up in the middle space which is meant to be Central Park. The idea is visitors experience design with the five senses, wandering through the spaces, playing hide-and-seek or climbing the tower to watch the scenery.


design_touch04You can also frame the skyscraper in a “heart”. There are four spaces with sculptures or things to interact with.

The white containers that appear out of nowhere are part of a selection of 2013′s best designers, curated by Elle Decor Japan. You can stroll around the containers, taking everything from top global products to independent design.

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This is Salone in Roppongi, designed by nendo and which was already exhibited earlier this year at Milano Salone. Walk into the middle and it’s a mysterious, warm and tranquil space.

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The start of Design Touch also coincided with the announcement of the Tokyo Midtown Award. The competition gathers the best in both art and design, and the works selected for the second round were also on display inside Midtown.


design_touch10Look out for this massive crow, keeping guard over Midtown.
‘Corvus’ by Motoka Watanabe


design_touch12This soft and fluffy ballerina is actually made entirely from baby chicks.
‘Clematis’ by Genki Sato and Yu Watanabe

design_touch13This is from the design category in the awards. Open up this cute matrioshka doll and you find a glamor girl!
‘Mato Ryoko’ by Masahiko Yoshihara

design_touch14This eraser looks like a pickled plum! Put it in the middle of a notebook and you have a rising sun!
‘Umekeshi’ by Fuminori Motoya

You can also find lots of artworks around the Midtown area. Here the artists and designers have created work using Inada stone, one of the best quality stones in the world. The granite stone is often used for grave markers and if you keep that in mind, the exhibits take on a different character.

design_touch15‘Birdman’ by UG Sato

design_touch16‘Bones from Bones’ by Chie Morimoto

It’s not part of Design Touch but we also used the occasion to visit the Toraya store in Midtown. The long-established confectionary brand is currently hosting the ‘Sugar Cats’ exhibition and we thought it was too good not to include here as well. It introduces traditional cat dolls from around Japan.


design_touch18From Yonezawa City in Yamagata Prefecture

design_touch19From Kanazawa City in Ishikawa Prefecture

design_touch20Alongside the exhibition there are also some specially made wagashi sweets on sale in the shape of cats… Like these cat ears!

Well, that was just a quick overview but we hope your interest was piqued. As well as the exhibits, there are also workshops and other events scheduled through Design Touch, so be sure to head to Roppongi to have fun with the design (and the cats).

Design Touch
October 18th to November 4th