The Essence of Japanese Design

Designed by Julia Hasting, the form of the book itself reflects its subject, with red thread binding the spine and a gorgeously tactile, shiny red and white pattern across the front and back covers that references traditional Japanese lacquer.

Wa the Essence of Japanese Design cover
Wa the Essence of Japanese Design cover

The pages themselves are also rather unusual, folded over to create thick, double-pages, and creating a pattern along the edge that looks almost like the outline of a temple.

Wa the Essence of Japanese Design
Wa the Essence of Japanese Design

The ‘wa’ of the book’s full title –  WA The Essence of Japanese Design –  is the character that refers to both the concept of peace and harmony and to Japan and Japanese culture.

In the book’s introduction by Rossella Managazzo, she explains, ‘In design, wa refers subtly not only to the simple form and the natural material of an object but also to an internal approach to craftsmanship, art and life in general.

‘Over time, was has also become a prefix to denote something Japanese or in the Japanese style, such as washi (Japanese paper) or waka (Japanese poetry).’

Bambi chair, 2012, Takeshi Sawada; Oak, walnut, synthetic fur

Source: Takeshi Sawada

Bambi chair, 2012, Takeshi Sawada; Oak, walnut, synthetic fur

The book shows images of 250 Japanese objects from the 17th century to the present day, with home-ware, furniture, architecture, fashion and more represented.

Wajima lacquerware, 1986, Kita Toshiyuki; lacquered wood

Source: Satoshi Asakawa, courtesy Kita Toshiyuki

Wajima lacquerware, 1986, Kita Toshiyuki; lacquered wood

The book is arranged by material themes, such as wood, bamboo and lacquer; paper and fibres and fabrics.

Torii gate, 6th century (rebuilt 1168, renovated 1875), Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima, Hiroshima Prefecture; cedar, cypress, camphor wood

Source: © Tomo. Yun

Torii gate, 6th century (rebuilt 1168, renovated 1875), Itsukushima Shrine, Miyajima, Hiroshima Prefecture; cedar, cypress, camphor wood

Managazzo says, ‘Our aim was to draw out the delicate thread that identifies the essence of the Japanese spirit, without reference to a particular time or to the characteristics of individual personalities, which manifests itself in shadow, silence and empty spaces, in irregularities and asymmetry, and in the perfection of the most minute thing, as if that thing represented the whole universe’.

Robe, Paris F/W 2008 Collection, 2008, Kenzo; printed silk

Source: Imaxtree

Robe, Paris F/W 2008 Collection, 2008, Kenzo; printed silk

WA The Essence of Japanese Design, Rossella Managazzo and Stefania Piotti, is published by Phaidon priced £49.95, www.phaidon.com

Latest articles