WA: The Spirit of Harmony and Japanese Design Today | Concept, Works, and Catalogue


Japanese design has a new look in the 21st century. In addition to the presence of innovative designers and lively new design projects, the field of design is being transformed by the creation of multi-level networks, linking central urban areas and rural regions, large and small businesses. The current situation is characterized by fusion between advanced and traditional technology rather than simple technological progress, and it is producing excellent designs to ornament the lives of contemporary Japanese people. Design naturally plays an important role in energizing industry and the economy but it does more than that. It takes on greater cultural significance as it more clearly reflects the dynamism of contemporary Japanese society and the overall conditions of life and culture today. Product design has the potential to do this because it is a preeminently human activity, rooted in our everyday lives.

What is behind the current vitality of the world of Japanese product design? Several factors come to mind. There is a tendency today to fuse traditional crafts with the latest technology, forge new connections between manual trades and machine production, facilitate exchanges between design activities in urban centers and craft work in outlying regions, promote interaction between Japanese and Western things, develop new uses for recycled materials and blend awareness of the natural environment with technological expertise. Symbiosis and linkages between these opposing terms are found more frequently within the Japanese design world, and the expansion of digital technology is resonating with the growth of a network society both domestically and internationally.

One characteristic of Japan is the traditional spirit of Wa or harmony, a capacity for blending opposing entities, whether values, people, or positions, and taking them to a higher level. This spirit of Wa, which unifies and fuses different values and positions, is a basic condition of making things in 21st century Japan.

This exhibition presents a selection of approximately 160 well designed objects from various fields of product design and introduces phenomena that explain the background dynamic development of contemporary Japanese design. We hope that it sheds light on the role of the uniquely Japanese sense of harmony in today's product design.

The Curators of the Exhibition
Hiroshi Kashiwagi
Masafumi Fukagawa
Shu Hagiwara
Noriko Kawakami

*12 Categories and 6 Keywords

Today, it is said that we use approximately 20,000 things in our daily lives. Among such enormous number of things, this exhibition presents a selection of approximately 160 items (designs) that particularly represent Japan today. As words do, things (designs) also represent our senses, thoughts, minds, and cultures. Therefore, we hope the visitors interpret the current situation of Japan by viewing these 161 items.
This exhibition is divided into sections according to 12 categories and six keywords in order to lead the visitors to understand the Japanese designs. 12 categories are based on the usage of the item as a tool: 01 tableware; 02 kitchen & bath; 03 home electronics; 04 information; 05 toys; 06 stationeries; 07 sundries; 08 outfits; 09 bags; 10 vehicles; 11 furniture; and 12 lighting apparatus. These categories reveal the way of living in Japan today. Six keywords represent concepts, senses, or tastes that are characteristics of Japanese design: 01 kawaii (cute); 02 craft; 03 texture; 04 touch; 05 minimal; and 06 sensitivity. .
At the introduction, the exhibition presents modern designed objects that represent the harmony of opposite concepts: new and old; high technology and low technology: natural and artificial; and local and global.


  • Photo of sake Barrel
    Fukunishiki Barrel/ 1993
    Designer: Issay Kitagawa (GRAPH)
    Company: Fukunishiki Co., Ltd.
    © 1993 Issay Kitagawa @GRAPH
  • Photo of chair called  HIROSHIMA
    HIROSHIMA/ 2008
    Designer:Naoto Fukasawa(NAOTO FUKASAWA DESIGN)
    Company: maruni wood industry inc.
    Photo by Yoneo Kawabe
  • Photo of  a pendant lamp called Tear Drop

    Tear Drop / 2008
    Designer: Tokujin Yoshioka
    Company: Yamagiwa Corporation

  • Photo of Zero-waste packaging material OKURIN
    Zero-waste packaging material OKURIN / 2006
    Designers: Fumihiko Maki, Yoko inuyama, Yoshimi Shimizu, Akane Yamabayashi
    Company:innocence inc

Photo of fishing reel

Opus-1 Nero / 2008
Designer: Ichiro Iwasaki (IWASAKI DESIGN STUIDO)

Photo of NISSAN GT-R

Designer: Design headquarters, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
Company: Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Catalog of the exhibition

The catalog of this exhibition will be available at The Japan Cultural Institute in Paris as well as at Japan Foundation Information Center and other sites in Japan. This book is a valuable document that contains four essays by curators and commentary on all of the 161 design items exhibited, in English and French.

Cover of exhibition catalogue
*Click to enlarge

Catalog of the exhibition "WA: l'harmonie au quotidien - Design japonais d'aujourd'hui"

("WA: The Spirit of Harmony and Japanese Design Today")
In French and English / 182 x 257 (mm) / 168 pages
ISBN 978-4-87540-098-1
Price ¥ 1,905(tax excluded)

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