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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Let's Get Small - Muji

I suppose this is Japan just being Japanese.

There's a stereotype that people outside of Japan believe is 100 percent true—that the Japanese all live in rabbit hutch-sized apartments or homes.

I can tell you for a fact, that while stereotypes are correct for a reason, it doesn't mean it's that way for everyone or everything.

I lived in a three-bedroom, LDK (living room-dining room-kitchen) with large bathroom and two balcony apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken back when I was on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme between 1990-1993.

Huge, was the way it was described by guests to my place, and truthfully, it was too big even for a collector of curious objects d'art like myself.

But I wasn't complaining. It just meant I had to try and fill it with stuff.

So… if my apartment was huge, surely there were other such living quarters in Japan that were large, too.

I had been to people's apartments in Tokyo, and yes, they were small, but then again, they were simply one-bedroom apartments, with a kitchen and a bathroom. Sometimes the bedroom was separate, sometimes it was the living room made into a sleeping area.

But that was Tokyo, and perhaps it is also Osaka, the next largest city in Japan.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog - minimalist home living, as created by Muji, a retail shop that sells space-saving houseware items including: storage, health & beauty supplies, kitchen materials, bathroom stuff, general housekeeping items and more, like stationary and crappy gifts.

Started up in 1980, Muji was created to offer low-cost, good quality items that focused on material selection, inspection process and packaging simplification.

An example of this is the use of non-bleached pulp, providing light beige colored paper rather than super white, and ensuring Muji product labels and packaging are utilized in this manner.

Muji's concept is to provide a "This will do" consumer response, rather than create a "This is what I really want" reaction.

I get it. KISS. Keep it simple, stupid.

Thus, Muji's products are borne not out of minimalism, but rather out of rational manufacturing.

There are 700 Muji shops around the world, including the U.S. (see here, but there is also a good line-up on their on-line site.

Anyhow, thanks to that ray of sunshine Alice, we learn that Muji has created three prototype houses.

Can you buy them? Yes… even though what you see scattered over this blog are prototypes.

Pricing will range from around US$25,000 all the way up to US$40,000.

Okay… that's not bad… but is it comparable to a trailer one could use for a weekend getaway? Factor in land costs versus gasoline and camping permits.

The three huts, because that is what they really come down to, were designed by: Fukasawa Naota (surname first), who is current head of design for Muji; Jasper Morrison; and Konstantin Grcic.

Morrison designed the Hut of Cork (Koruku no Koya);

Grcic the Hut of Aluminum (Arumi no Koya);

while Fukasawa created the Hut of Wood (Ki no Koya):

Each hut was created in the design of kyosho jutaku (an architectural style of micro home that is spartan in what it offers, but functional for the daily needs of a person.

Muji says these places are designed for urban living, but really, are you going to put a house/hut onto a space that can be built into a single parking space?

These things would perhaps function best with Japanese metabolism-style architecture (see HERE) and piled onto of each other as an apartment complex.

But, at least Muji says that these huts are NOT built for urban dwelling, but really are huts for use as a weekend getaway, something the average Japanese person could use for Saturday night through a bit of Sunday considering they work so dam much and rarely enjoy a full weekend off. Suckers.

Each of these Muji-designed prototype huts come with the meager basics: a living area, bathroom, and a kitchen.

If you think about it, they simply redesigned a classical Tokyo apartment, giving the Jabba the hut-user just enough of what they need… and surely, in keeping with the Muji mantra, this will do.

Thank-you, Alice, for the heads-up.

Andrew (I need what I need) Joseph

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