Tee Dee Double You

If Tokyo Design Week takes place and you’re not there, does it really take place?

Apologies for the ridiculous statement, but as this year’s edition of Tokyo Design Week kicks off, it indeed feels incredibly strange to see it happen from afar. Even though in recent years I’d grown a bit disillusioned with a lot of what I’d see on display, there’s no denying that it consistently played a huge part within the evolution of what I did while based in Tokyo.

I got my start by blogging about art and design in Japan (more specifically, Tokyo) and I can indeed recall attending Tokyo Design Week (or rather the collection of design-related events that took place at that time, not specifically under that banner) during my first few years in Tokyo, and how it contributed to my enthusiasm for Japanese design.

Later, as I started carving a path in writing professionally about design – first for a now-defunct site called Tokyo Q, and then for The Japan Times through my monthly “On Design” column – I’m fairly certain that Tokyo Design Week (or more specifically at the time, “Tokyo Designers Week”) was the first major event for which I had a press pass to cover.

It didn’t take long before my desire to place myself more closely inside this scene had me collaborating with my good friend Jesper Larsson on showcases/exhibitions for Swedish design, that were part of the Swedish Style events that used to take place during TDW. It was incredibly exciting and satisfying to play a direct role in helping designers to take part in the week-long design festivities, and it also led to some fantastic connections with all manner of creative people. And who could forget those fantastic parties at the Swedish Embassy during TDW – always the best.

The last phase of my relationship with Tokyo Design Week was the most direct one, and it involved the annual PechaKucha Night that we produced for them in the big dome, which would end up being the biggest event of the week. It still doesn’t feel natural to see posts about this week’s PechaKucha Night at TDW, and not being the one who has to make sure that we have all of the presentations from our presenters, that all the tech is in place for the night itself…

So yeah, this time of the year coming around without a Tokyo Design Week to take in or to take part in is a bigger shock than I expected.

Tamori’s Ticketing Service

Efficiency in Japan is no joke.

I recently shared this animated GIF on Twitter/Facebook – first shared by my buddy Joseph – and though it’s a really funny skit (featuring the one and only comedian/TV host Tamori-san) it really did strike a chord with me.

I make no secret that I’m missing a hell of a lot of things from Japan – my aunt Anne was recently a lifesaver when she brought me my go-to MUJI pens, which she picked up at a MUJI store in Dubai – but one of the things I miss most is the incredible sense of efficiency and responsibility you find in everyday life there (and I should specify that I’m describing my experience of living in Tokyo, and can’t really speak for other Japanese cities).

Yeah, yeah, I’m sure many will immediately point out nightmare marathon waiting sessions when dealing with the government, but that kind of bureaucracy paralysis is a staple of governments everywhere. And critique of the noted inflexibility when it comes to wanting to do something slightly different that doesn’t follow the set structure is a discussion for another post.

What I’m talking about here is the efficiency found in transportation, in stores, for most paid services (like deliveries).

One thing I’m finding hard to get used to is how often I encounter a lack of ownership/responsibility here. If someone is doing a job that they don’t care about, they’re not shy to let you know about it. Try to get specific details for something – “When will this construction work end?” – and you just get half-truths (to just get you to stop asking) or a plain ol’ “who knows,” which while better than half-truths, is still not what I want to hear when you’re doing your job, and I’m assuming it’s not the first time you do something like this.

But hey, it’s easy to rant about things, and I’m not saying that Japan is the promised land. But in terms of anything that relates to services, I’m definitely finding it difficult to adapt.

I miss Tamori-san too.