A design museum is the link that connects the creator, the receiver, and the storyteller. - Akiko Moriyama, Taku Satoh, Naoto Fukasawa

One of Japan’s and the world’s most respected designers of all times, Issey Miyake, published an inspirational essay in the Asahi Shimbun Newspaper on January 28, 2003, Time to Create a Design Museum, which would have revolutionized all precedent conceptions about Japanese contemporary lifestyle in design, fashion, and the arts. Miyake spoke of a decaying Japan trampled by the bubble economy burst of the 1990s; a desperate society on the brink of resurrection, yet faltering awkwardly with limited resources, lack of forceful ideas and unwavering confidence. “If there is any hope for a nation that has lost its confidence, it must come from ‘creativity,’ or in that magical six letter word DESIGN,” Miyake wrote.

Miyake also commended Ikko Tanaka, another exceptional graphic designer who successfully coerced graphic arts and the three-dimensional world into one, solid creative entity. Miyake, in his essay, graciously honored Tanaka’s dedication to innovative design that moves forward without hesitation. Miyake remarks, “Tanaka was always at the center of the creative energy generated by people who transcended genres… I think that it is vital for us to recognize the importance of ‘design legacy,’ which offers itself as the basis from which we can make comparisons… In the field of product design we had such giants as Isamu Kenmochi, Sori Yanagi, and Shiro Kuramata; and in the graphic arts, there were Yusaku Kamekura and Ikko Tanaka. The superb works of these and other artists raised Japanese design to an international standard, with a universal and general appeal that became an integral part of our lives.”

Driven by the mission to “revitalize cities” and “express enthusiasm for life by giving Form to their technologies and traditions, and showing them to the world,” Miyake collaborated with Isamu Noguchi, Shiro Kuramata, Tadao Ando, and Ikko Tanaka to establish the first Design Museum in Japan. The 21-21 Design Sight Museum; hence, was born on March 2007, and has become since, the throne of creative ideas and borderless experimentation for enhancing the limitless possibilities of design, craft and technology.

“Young, talented people come to this country to work, and will generate new ideas, while reinvigorating our communities and our people. If these are the conditions we wish to create, we must preserve and teach people about the importance of the work of generations who have gone before us. At the same time, we must also open new vistas for the future of design in our own age…The Design Museum is an institution that would become a great symbol that would draw people to Japan from all areas of the globe,” Miyake explains.

The name, 21-21 Design Sight is coined after the term, 20/20 perfect vision, which represents the ambition of establishing a niche that would generate design in a visually deeper dimension. In the exhibition, Toward a Design Museum Japan currently being held at the 21-21 Design Sight Museum, the significance of design museums is elaborated dynamically into several installations depicting the numerous design exhibitions conceptualized since the opening of the museum. The displays evolve around the themes of Finding, Making, Linking, and Creating.

Finding manifests the discovery of Things, Events, and Systems, in an attempt to highlight the vitality of water, self, color, and eventually design. To support this theme, the exhibitions Chocolate Life by Naoto Fukasawa, The Definition of Self, water and Design Ah! by Taku Satoh were conceived. Making determines the production processes through Materials, Technology, and Innovation. The concept produced the exhibitions Second Nature, Shobei Tamaya’s and Shunji Yamanaka’s Skeleton automata Yumihiki on a boat, Naoto Fukasawa’s Humidifier, and Issey Miyake’s Mendori. Linking especially encompasses the spiritual dedication to Tohoku/Prayer/Humor, in the light of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, the nuclear crisis, and the 2045 theory of computers exceeding human capabilities. Tadanori Yokoo’s Lucky Luck Show, Katsumi Asaba’s The Black and White War Dongba Scripture, Issey Miyake's Kamiko, and Films for Tema Hima: the Art of Living in Tohoku exhibitions reflected this theme. Finally, Creating shapes imaginary visions beyond time and space, and brings together the outstanding collaboration of world’s top creators: Ettore Sottsass, Jeanne-Claude, Lucie Rie’s Bowl, Shiro Kuramata’s Miss Blanche, Irving Penn’s and Issey Miyake’s Visual Dialogue, and Ikko Tanaka’s Nihon Buyo.

From the traditional arts of Ukiyo-e (woodblock prints), Urushi (lacquer art), Higo Zogan (metal inlay), Yuzen (kimono textile painting), Yosegi-zai-u (Japanese parquetry), and many more, to the modern applications of product, industrial and graphic design, Japan’s long history of commitment to art, craft, design and technology breathes inherently in the people’s everyday lifestyle—in the details in perfection and precision, evidently visible in their homes, clothing and personal taste, even in the art of cuisine. The design museum remains not only as an archive of such homage to beauty and grandeur, but also acts as the foundation for the exploration of minds the underlying force for creative and positive energy, and the cradle of comfort that brings together all world creators from various cultures across the globe.

“Design is truly fascinating. The reason I have been able to pursue my work without faltering, and for so long, is very simple and straightforward: It is because sorrow has no place in the act of designing. Design encompasses hope, and is capable of surprising and delighting people.”
- Issey Miyake

Acknowledgments: Maika Metsugi, Miryon Ko and Shotaro Okada of 21-21 Design Sight Museum