Howaito dē: What we love about Japan

March 14th is »White Day« (Howaito dē) in Japan, the equivalent of the Western Valentine's Day. A good reason to make a declaration of love to the Land of the Rising Sun itself. For its good design, its wisdom, its cars ... and in general.
Text Marko Knab
Photo Matthias Mederer ·

Was this thing with Japan a love at first sight? Probably not. Rather, it was »Koi No Yokan.« That means almost the same thing, but it is much more beautifully formulated. Translated into English, these three words describe the »inevitability of falling in love with someone«. In other words, it's not love at first sight, but the knowledge that you will be extremely well-disposed towards the other person. This is also how we feel - towards the country itself. Here is our very personal declaration of love on the occasion of »White Day«.

Good design

Japanese design plays a very significant role in the world of creation. Fortunately, it must be said: Like probably no one else, the Japanese manage to combine their own historical influences with Western and modern trends when it comes to design. Particularly noteworthy here: the overlapping with the Bauhaus philosophy. Restrained beauty meets function - and a feeling for the material. Simple, good - and simply good. Like, for example, Vitra's Butterfly Stool, designed by Sori Yanagi.

Vitra's Butterfly Stool, designed by Sori Yanagi. Credit: Vitra.

2) Good cuisine

Japanese cuisine is also world-famous, especially »sushi,« the traditional way of tastefully processing raw fish and other fine ingredients. A master of this art is Hiro Sakai - who also runs a restaurant here in Germany, more precisely in Frankfurt. Incidentally, this way of preparing food originated in Southeast Asia along the Mekong River. There, people used cooked rice in vessels to pickle and ferment fish. Via China, this culinary art spread to Japan. While the fish was once pickled for a long time and the rice soured as a result, today both are eaten without waiting and, above all, together. What Hiro Sakai particularly appreciates about this? »That all you basically need is a good knife and good ingredients!«

3) Good automobiles

The Ferrari killer that was driven in by Ayrton Senna and changed the Japanese car world forever? We're talking about the iconic Honda NSX, which caused quite a stir in the early 1990s. That's why it recently got a modern reinterpretation. But even before and after that, Japanese automakers repeatedly made people sit up and take notice with absolute dream cars. Just think of the Nissan GT-R, the 370 Z or Toyota's GR Yaris - the latest offspring of a legendary ancestral line that in the West is attributed to the »Japanes Domestic Market«. Or as knowledgeable petrolheads say: JDM.

4) Words of wisdom

It's a similar story with the Japanese language: Here, a few words often intelligently and aptly express a profound feeling. For example, »Wabi Sabi«: This term describes the idea of finding beauty in every aspect of imperfection in nature. Beauty is found in everything - no matter how natural or raw its form. These wisdoms, as well as the other items in the list, are things you have to experience for yourself. And should enjoy it. For which, again, there is an apt term: »Ikigai«. Or translated into English: »That which is worth living for«.

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