Quintessentially Japanese

Fair showcases craftsmanship of latest design products from the Land of the Rising Sun

The recent Bangkok International Gifts Fair and Bangkok International Houseware Fair 2012 (BIG+BIH), staged by the Department of International Trade Promotion in collaboration with the Thai Federation of Lifestyle Products at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC), was a huge success.

The cute and cuddly Holding Cushion by Accent Co Ltd—a perfect blend of soft toy and huggable pillow —is made from special materials that give off a comfortable feel, hence the nickname ‘‘healing doll’’.

This year's fair, held under the theme "Heart of Design & Lifestyle Showcase of Asean", saw business operators from Thailand and around the world presenting their latest lifestyle and design products. On show in the huge exhibition hall was an impressive selection of design products as well as interesting design exhibitions and forums and special project pavilions set up by various countries.

One of the displays that drew a lot of attention was the Japanese Pavilion with the "Japan House" brought to the fair by the Japan External Trade Organisation (Jetro Bangkok) and the Japanese Institute of Design Promotion (JIDP). It was a simple wooden lattice booth, displaying lifestyle products that showcased unique Japanese craftsmanship.

"Jetro's mission is to promote bilateral trade and investment between Japan and Thailand. We aim to help both large firms and SMEs do business and develop their products," said Kazufumi Tanaka, Jetro's vice-president. "The Japan Pavilion works as a centre to connect Japanese companies seeking potential partners in Thailand, and Thai lifestyle and design companies seeking Japanese partnership with a view to exporting."

"For example, our Daruma project was initiated in order to restore Thailand and Japan businesses affected by last year's flood and earthquake, presenting Thai SME products and services to Japanese business partners, so we are not only bringing Japanese products in, but also taking Thai products to Japan as well," he said.

According to Mr Tanaka, two important factors that make Japanese products popular worldwide are design and history. "Japanese design is very functional, about practical usage in daily life which answer the needs of consumers," he said. "Moreover, Japan is a country with a long history with an age-old tradition and culture with the most well-known being monosukuri or Japanese craftsmanship."

On display at the Japan Pavilion were the latest design products, some of which had won the Good Design Award. One item which caught the attention of fair-goers was the G-Mark nail clipper by Suwada, a company founded seven decades ago in a small village. Some 450 years ago this village, governed by a famous samurai leader named Uesugi Kenshin, was famed for producing knives, blades and samurai swords.

The Suwada nail clipper is 100% handmade in an open factory where tourists are welcome to visit and observe the production process. What distinguishes the Suwada nail clipper is its sharpness derived from traditional sword-making methods.

"Many customers have asked me how long they can use the Suwada nail clipper; my answer is 70 years because the nail clipper that my grandfather first produced 70 years ago is still working," said Mr Suwada. "Our main markets are Japan and Europe, mostly high-class nail salons and barber shops. For instance, the oldest barber shop in London uses our nail clippers."

The Suwada nail clipper is not yet available in Asia but the company is currently looking for a distributor in this region.

Another interesting design product from Japan is the "Holding Cushion" by Accent Co Ltd. The cushion is a perfect blend of soft toy and huggable pillow and comes in four different characters _ Loris (monkey), Rab (rabbit), Sloth (bear) and Korat (cat) _ available in different sizes, colours and patterns.

Using a special material the pillow is designed for holding and hugging, acting as a "healing doll" that makes users feel as if they are being hugged back.

The initial target group for the holding cushion was working women stressed from work and needing company or something to hold on to and relax. Another creative Japanese design product for women is the exquisite Koyudo make-up brush. The brushes, which are made from mountain goat hair, are crafted according to traditional techniques used to make Japanese calligraphy brushes in Kumano, a city famed for its brush-makers since the Edo period (1603-1868). The make-up brushes are handmade by craftsmen who pay attention to the details that machines are not capable of. As a result, the brushes are perfectly soft, smooth and gentle on the facial skin.

The shape of the brush catches our eyes with its pattern of hearts, flowers and mushrooms. The space between the heart and flower allows air bubbles to enter while cleansing the pores and leaving some moisture on the skin. Koyudo brushes are available in many sizes, designs and colours, tempting every lady to pick them up and brush them on her face.

For more information, contact Jetro Bangkok, 16th floor, Nantawan Building, Ratchadamri Road. Tel 02-253-6441-5, 02-253-6447 or email bgk-pr@jetro.go.jp or visit www.jetro.go.jp/thailand.

As of Dec 8, 2011, the Baby Beans Wireless Laser Mouse is certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s smallest wireless mouse. The adorable and colourful bean-shaped mouse comes with built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery and it uses a laser sensor, allowing higher precision reading functionality than conventional optical mice.

About the author

Writer: Thanida Tansubhapol
Position: Reporter