Noriyoshi Ohrai (1935-2015) was a Japanese poster artist and illustrator known for his vivid work that elevated mainstream sci-fi and action tropes into hallucinatory, richly detailed compositions. In addition to his well-known posters for Star Wars and Godzilla, he created promotional artwork for thousands of films from Japan and around the world.
HISTORY, WHETHER THROUGH its presence or its absence, informs the architecture of modern Japan to a much greater degree than it does in many other countries. One one hand, the country’s millennia-long political, religious, and artistic history permeates its architectural culture to a tremendous degree, serving as an endless wellspring of inspiration and guidance for successive generations of architects and designers. On the other, Japanese architecture since 1868 (the beginning of the Meiji era that defines “modern” Japan) and especially since WWII has countless examples of structures that eschew homegrown traditions in favor of European and global styles, with some architects pursuing a specifically futurist and ahistorical aesthetic. The unprecedented building boom of the postwar period saw Japan emerge as a relentlessly forward-looking and technology-oriented society, with emerging megacities expanding at a breakneck pace.
The architectural firm Shinsoken (“New Material Research Laboratory”), founded in 2008 by artist Hiroshi Sugimoto and architect Tomoyuki Sakakida, takes as its mission statement the paradox inherent in its name:
Notwithstanding its name, New Material Research Laboratory examines materials from ancient and medieval times and focuses its activities on reinterpreting and reimagining the use of these materials in the present.
Old is New, from Lars Müller Publishers, documents the studio’s impressive body of work from the past 13 years. In texts arranged geometrically alongside a generous spread of interior and exterior photos, the studio’s founders discuss their approach to architecture and design, giving particular attention to the use of old (or even ancient) materials and traditional techniques.
ORIGINALLY FROM NEW Zealand, photographer Cody Ellingham traveled to Tokyo on a scholarship in 2012. He ended up staying for six years, and while exploring the country’s staggeringly vivid and varied cityscapes he began photographing danchi, the massive public housing projects built in the aftermath of WWII. Like many such postwar projects in both the Soviet bloc and Western Europe, danchi took a core utopian vision and expanded it into vast, blocks-long megastructures capable of housing thousands. And, as is also often the case with utopian architecture, the decades since have not always been kind to the buildings themselves and those who depend on them.
BLUE CROW MEDIA IS a London-based publisher of maps, specializing in modernist and brutalist architecture worldwide. The maps are beautifully designed in a classic-modernist aesthetic, and take particular care in their choice of typefaces. The latter point is especially evident in the numerous bilingual maps, many of which use non-Latin scripts including Cyrillic, Georgian, and Hangul. In these maps, both languages get equal space in the layout, sending a clear message that they are intended for locals as well as tourists.
Mount Misen is the highest peak on Miyajima, a small semi-tropical island located a short ferry ride from Hiroshima. The island is sparsely populated, and deer roam freely through the forests and streets at lower altitudes. The particular latitude of the island gives it a unique biome in which coniferous trees coexist with lush jungle plants and wildlife, including monkeys and poisonous snakes.
THE CRPG BOOK, from the UK’s Bitmap Books, is the culmination of years of work by over a hundred contributors. It’s one of the most comprehensive histories of CRPGs ever written, and features in-depth review-style writeups of over 400 games, along with essays on the ancient history of role-playing games (going all the way back to the Prussian Empire), the early days of MUDs (multi-user dungeons, the earliest online games), the archaic but impressive PLATO computer system, and the importance of paper manuals and hand-drawn maps.
Shots of the ring road around Kawaguchiko (Lake Kawaguchi, Fuji Five Lakes Area) in springtime. The lake and surrounding areas are a wildly varied mix of posh resorts, working-class restaurants, dilapidated former-glory hotels, modernist developments, and empty lakeside parks, reminiscent of South Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border and countless other mountain resort towns.