Tokyo-based design studio SIMPLICITY finds the perfect balance between modern sensibility and Japanese tradition, creating a new approach in contemporary design to inspire the next generation. Joanna Kawecki writes.
Top image: Yakumo Saryo, Sabo Tea House
SIMPLICITY was established in 1998 by founder Shinichiro Ogata, and is recognised for its acute attention to detail, respect for skilled craftsmanship, and its pairing of traditional Japanese philosophy and aesthetics with contemporary design.
The studio works across Product and Graphic Design, as well as Creative Direction and Interior Design for their own sensorial dining experiences located in Tokyo, namely Yakumo Saryo, HIGASHI-YAMA Tokyo, and HIGASHIYA. Their work also extends to store design for Australian brand Aesop, and design and creative direction for hotel Andaz Tokyo, where it worked primarily with natural materials like wood, plaster, stone, cooper, and steel.
In the field of product design, SIMPLICITY’s in-house product line S[es] utilises technical Japanese craftsmanship elements in a modern context. Here, there is an admirably strong emphasis and aim to inspire and support the longevity of traditional Japanese skilled crafts.
SIMPLICITY’s WASARA paper tableware is notably recognised for its stylish forms and sustainability, and is a recipient of various awards such as the 2010 Good Design Award from the Chicago Museum of Architecture and Design.
Joanna Kawecki speaks with SIMPLICITY in Tokyo to find our more about their multidisciplinary design practice.
HIGASHIYA GINZA, counter
SIMPLICITY creates work across various design disciplines. How is a consistent approach maintained between all disciplines?
An acute sensibility and palate cultivated in an abundant yet severe natural environment; an aesthetic that can be generous or daring; an attitude towards craftsmanship that never spares any effort; wisdom of living a modest and simple life. With ‘cultural creation for modern times’ as the base philosophy, SIMPLICITY endeavours to translate a culture that has developed over a long period of time in Japan, to fit our contemporary lives.
HIGASHIYA GINZA, Sabo Tea Room
When did SIMPLICITY expand into design and architecture work?
SIMPLICITY was established in 1998 by Shinichiro Ogata when the Japanese restaurant HIGASHI-YAMA Tokyo was opened. Ogata designed and directed the interior and exterior of HIGASHI-YAMA Tokyo, as well as the food, tableware, and graphic design, and has been involved in designing since SIMPLICITY was established. He opened HIGASHIYA, a traditional Japanese confectionery brand in order to pursue and express Japan on an even deeper level.
Craftsmanship in Japanese design and architecture is inherent, however in this current generation it is in decline. How have you worked within this challenge?
We have been working together with craftsmen from all over Japan to create products. In order to keep the craftsmanship running and prevent it from disappearing, we craft items that fit our contemporary lifestyles – in this way, we are using traditional practices as a means of cultural innovation.
Yakumo Saryo, front yard
What has been the most important project for SIMPLICITY to date?
Yakumo Saryo, a Japanese dining club and teahouse, is the most representative of the world of SIMPLICITY. Through the atmosphere, the view seen through the windows, and the texture on the tables, guests can feel the culture of Japan through all the five senses.
Yakumo Saryo, entrance
WASARA is a unique and sustainable line of paper products. How did this project come about and how was it developed?
It began with a wish to create a sustainable paper tableware that reflected the Japanese sensibility. It took three years to develop this collection, during which we studied and examined various ways to get the right shape that would look beautiful in your hand and make you feel at ease while using it.
As we look to the future, what are the most important aspects of lifestyle and design that need to be maintained or promoted in society?
Lifestyles throughout the world changed drastically in the 20th century under capitalism. A vast amount of nature has been destroyed. When we think about how to change the future and our lives, we believe the clues lie in the way the Japanese people live. From this, we are thinking about first creating venues where Japanese culture can be disseminated and people from all over the world can experience first-hand the Japanese way of living.