Posts Tagged ‘iPhone app’

Bento packaged for the global spotlight

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

How to make an Astro Boy charabento, as show in "Face Food Recipes" and available from Mark Batty Publisher. (Christopher D. Salyers photo)

How to make an Astro Boy kyarabento, as shown in "Face Food Recipes," available from Mark Batty Publisher. (Christopher D. Salyers photo)

The recession and a growing interest in cost-cutting ingenuity have resulted in an unprecedented amount of bento coverage in the international press. From The Guardian to The Washington Post, major newspapers are spilling plenty of ink over this humble yet refined Japanese tradition.

It’s easy to see why. Bento provide an extremely photogenic platform to explain larger cultural and economic realities for the beleaguered working classes, who in an effort to save money choose the DIY approach to lunch. However, in the New York Times’ opinion blog, “Room for Debate,” several well-known creative minds move beyond proletariat concerns to wax philosophic on the nature of bento and how they represent Japanese society.

John Maeda links traditional boxed lunches to the Japanese “less is more” principal, while Muji creative director Kenya Hara argues that bento preparation is an act of focusing on the beautiful and simple in an ugly, chaotic world. Denis Dutton highlights the love and care placed in a bento’s creation, while Nick Currie (aka Momus) sees bento as a triumph of aesthetics over efficiency.

It would be more than a stretch to call the interest in bento a new trend in Japan. After all, people have making boxed lunches for centuries, and even the buzz around bento boys (弁当男子), those working men who – “gasp!” – prepare their own lunches to save money, goes back at least a few years. But now the kyaraben version of bento are arguably becoming a global art form, with kyaraben contests, budding kyaraben Facebook and Flickr groups, and yes, a Kyaraben iPhone application.

Bonus links:

The fruits of sharing a love of art

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Tokyo Art Beat iPhone appIf you love art and design, then chances are you’ve spent some time perusing the listings and reviews found on Tokyo Art Beat (TAB), or if you get around, perhaps the Kansai (KAB)* and New York (NYAB) sites as well. About a year ago, the clever guys that run Art Beat released their API for all to see, which basically means that they made all of the site’s relevant data available for any programmer to use as he/she sees fit:

“In other words, this time we are setting our data free, free for people to share and broadcast to more places and in more ways than we could imagine.”

One of the fruits of such generosity is the new Tokyo Art iPhone application, which I am growing to love quite quickly. Not only can you search the TAB listings for a particular genre of art you’d like to see (photography, sculpture, etc.), you can also choose a specific area of town you’d like to explore.

The app goes a step further by using the iPhone’s maps and geolocation capability to find the closest Tokyo art and design events to wherever you’re standing. Just open the app and touch the “nearby” button after you choose a radius you want to work with (500 meters to 3,000 meters). A few seconds later, you’ll have gallery choices and directions. You can read TAB’s info on the gallery and exhibit, or go straight to a map.

Sort galleries by distance or popularity, or use the “free” filter to only see events with no entrance charge. There are hundreds of art events every month in Tokyo. TAB made them much easier to discover, and now the the Art Tokyo app practically walks you to their doorstep.

Just one more reason to get out there and see some art.

*KAB is currently on hiatus. They aren’t updating the calendar, but the site is still a great resource for art-related venue information such as maps, descriptions and directions. Just go to the Venues tab.

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