maggieTEXT Home
12 Japanese Masters
12 Japanese Masters
"In the first 25 years after the war, Japan carried out democratic, economic, and cultural reforms that normally have taken other countries an entire century."
Yusaku Kamekura
Preface by Alex Kerr
When Maggie Saiki refers to the precious "window of opportunity"--the period after World War II (from about 1945 to 1965)--during which the basic forms of modern Japanese design took shape, she describes a time of rapid change when artists still had access to their traditional culture, but also vivid new forms arriving from the West, primarily the United States. The challenge for these twelve designers was not to reconcile the two cultures, but to rebuild their nation using the resources of each. More...
Chapter One: The Emperor of Japanese Graphic Design
Yusaku Kamekura met his first design heroes through images he saw as a child in the 1920s but his own work amplified the dreams of the mid- to late 20th century. His greatest gift to the profession was his stubborn insistence that it respect itself and take advantage of every talent. Although Kamekura was first and foremost a commercial designer, he was one of a mere handful who remained a craftsman until the end, completely independent.
Yusaku Kamekura
(1915-1997, Niigata) Uncompromising perfectionist, visionary and the profession's first undisputed leader, he worked all his life to shape it. More...
Chapter Two: The Pioneers and Organizers
Kazumasa Nagai, Kiyoshi Awazu, Ikko Tanaka, Mitsuo Katsui and Shigeo Fukuda were the idealistic pioneers of Japanese postwar design. Together they created many of the organizations that legitimized and ruled the profession until 1970.
Kazumasa Nagai
(b. 1929, Osaka) Co-founder and long-time director of the Nippon Design Center, for 50 years he has expressed the wilderness within his soul and the concerns of the age. More...
Kiyoshi Awazu
(b.1929, Tokyo). A powerful and comprehensive thinker whose work has defined decades, he is the most inclusive designer of the twelve, active in every medium. More...
Ikko Tanaka
(1930-2002, Nara) A founding father, he consciously referred to the classics of his culture, beautifully expressing Japan to the West and vice versa. More...
Mitsuo Katsui
(b. 1931, Tokyo) He has led graphic designers in the discovery and exploration of higher technology since the early '60s, always expressing the power of life. More...
Shigeo Fukuda
(b. 1932, Tokyo) Internationally known for visual magic, he confronts our tendency to imagine, rather than see. More...
Chapter Three: The Internationalists
Tadanori Yokoo, Issey Miyake, and Eiko Ishioka were born between 1936 and 1938. They experienced the defeat of Japan as children, and were the first generation of designers to introduce criticism to Japanese design, and individually enter the international arena. In the words of Eiko Ishioka, they "Have deconstructed all the boxes and flow freely everywhere."
Tadanori Yokoo
(b. 1936, Nishiwaki) Best-known designer in Japan, also cultural critic, writer and actor, commenting on the modern human condition by juxtaposing images familiar, funny, and haunting. More...
Issey Miyake
(b. 1938, Hiroshima) World-renowned textile innovator, he enchants an international clientele with ancient techniques from around the globe and original, state-of-the-art technologies. More...
Eiko Ishioka
(b. 1939, Tokyo) Unfazed by all conventional limitations and internationally active as a graphic, stage, film set, and costume designer, she has broken all the rules and succeeded in every endeavor. More...
Chapter Four: The Pragmatists
Toshiyyuki Kita, Koichi Sato and Takenobu Igarashi were born between 1942 and 1944-at the tail end of a generation that believed designers might create an ideal world and lead society to it, and at the beginning of one that discovered design's limitations and its consequences for Japan and the environment. Their work reveals an astute view of a world in which every individual is responsible for making his or her own connections, including those to the past.
Toshiyuki Kita
(b. 1942, Osaka) Cross-cultural designer, in Italy he has manufactured furniture inspired by traditional Japanese life, and in Japan produced unconventional lacquer ware and washi lamps with ancient methods. More...
Koichi Sato
(b. 1944, Tokyo) A graphic designer with a scientist's mind, he visually questions and defines his nation's and humanity's place in the world. More...
Takenobu Igarashi
(b. 1944, Hokkaido) Graphic, product, and land-art designer, sculptor and artist, he works both in the East and West, determined to connect with the world on more than a superficial level. More...
"In the 1950s and 1960s designers were constantly working to become opinion leaders. They had a dream of the world. It was important that they approximate it, simulate it, and surpass it. We have just now begun to recognize that there was no time to think, no time to prepare. The next generation, following mine, will have to fill in that gap."
Takenobu Igarashi
Art Magazine
Destroy All Monsters
Pixel Susi
Where to Buy