Danny Stewart-Smith is back this month with another great Ruly Mix! Download a great free track to keep you motivated in your organizing efforts. In line with this month’s focus on design, Danny’s mix this month is an Asian-inspired piece called “Insights” that is great for adding a little zen atmosphere to any situation.
Last month, Danny provided an introduction to his influences and musical training. This month, he gives us a little background on modern Japanese interior design and even lets us peek inside his gorgeous Tokyo apartment!
Tell us a little about the sound in “Insights.”
Insights features samples of Koto recorded at my old studio back in London. Koto is a wooden, Japanese harp that is played horizontally or flat on the floor. It is about 5 feet long and has a central sound hole in it much like a guitar does. The strings were traditionally made from gut, but nowadays are nylon, much like classical guitar strings.
There are also samples of Shakuhachi (a Bamboo flute) featured in there for atmospherics. The track was inspired by the juxtaposition of tradition, nature and modern urban design in Tokyo. Hence, the tranquil parks with their serene ponds, flora and fauna is represented by the quiet parts vs. the bustling central city, like Shibuya or Shinjuku, where you see some old temples and houses surrounded by modern high-rises, gaudy animated shop signage, and buzzing traffic represented by the busy beat. It all kind of blends together in Tokyo!
What are common features in a typical Japanese home?
The Japanese urban home is considerably small in comparison to western counterparts covering an average of about 80 square meters (~861 square feet) and containing 3 rooms and an LDK (living dining and kitchen in one larger room). Most urban buildings tend to be relatively new, usually 25 or 30 years old at most.
The entrance to a Japanese home, known as the genkan (lobby), is by and large the most important part of the home as it receives visitors and is the point of departure and return, therefore it should be pleasantly decorated and arranged in a way that makes it seem as spacious as possible.
The genkan must contain a shoe cabinet in which all the family’s shoes are usually stored out of sight, (except for the guests). There is usually a linoleum or tile part for removing and leaving guests shoes, while the rest of the apartment / houses floor boards are raised at about 3 inches higher. So, in effect you step from the genkan up onto the main floor, usually lacquered wooden floor boards that are uniform throughout the whole apartment.
Another unique feature in Japanese homes is the unit bath/shower room, in which a very small but very deep bath is located (the Japanese sit in the bath rather than recline). The floor is all molded plastic or is tiled and there is a sealed door so that the whole room is water tight.
The third distinguishing feature is the Nihon Jooma or Japanese room, which is a traditional old style room that even most modern apartments have. The floor of this room is covered with Tatami mats which are made from special grass that is painstakingly woven into tight warp and weft resulting in a mat that is about an inch thick. Each mat is about 100cm x 50cm in size and a standard Nihon Jooma has about 6 or 7 of these mats. These mats start out as green but gradually fade to the color of straw over time. The walls in this room are usually covered with rough wallpaper
that mimics plaster in a kind of olive green or beige. The ceiling is usually beech wood and the doors to the room are usually Shoji doors, constructed from a lattice of wood and paper. It is common for the family to sleep in the Nihon Jooma, on futons that during the day, are stored in a fitted Japanese cupboard, which is also adorned with Shoji doors.
Many Japanese enjoy western style furnishings, often favoring leather couches over the traditional wooden and cotton ones. Ikea is popular with Tokyoites and many Japanese furniture manufacturers mimic western design. Companies like Nissen provide functional space saving, stylish modern furniture at affordable prices, but the quality
is not so high. Many people keep at least one piece of traditional furniture. Usually there is a display cabinet kept in the Nihon Jooma which is used to display many festive ornaments throughout the year on the various festival dates. One of the most famous festivals is probably Hina Matsuri, or Dolls Day, which is to pray for the stable and healthy growth of all girls in the family. Small effigies of a Japanese girl in a Kimono and a boy in a Yukata are displayed on a special plinth atop the cabinet.
As there is little space for gardens, the Japanese usually take pride in adorning their balconies with plants and flowers. One can see a whole array of wonderful balconies in the residential enclaves of Tokyo. Fortunately for Tokyo residents, the city boasts many wonderful parks and gardens, so if you need some peace and quiet in natural surroundings you can escape to a Japanese garden cross its various ornate foot bridges and sit amidst the azaleas, chrysanthemums, wisteria and carp-filled, lotus-adorned ponds and enjoy the bubbling of landscaped streams, the gentle chirrups and humming of insects and the mysterious pose of twisted, gnarled pines and strategically placed granite outcrops. Such gardens and parks are so well planned that you soon forget you are in Tokyo and somehow they even manage to block most buildings from sight by strategic placement of camphor, cherry and pine trees.
Now that Danny has set the zen-like scene for us, download “Insights” to complete your Japanese escape. Click the picture below to play or right-click to download. (If the picture is not working for you, you can also download by clicking here.)
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Have a great weekend!