a web thing


Category: Japan

Planning of, evidence during and after the trip to Japan


Design Context

I just finished this book and would like to share an excerpt. I picked it up due to a long-standing interest in anything Japanese. As soon as I started reading however, I was giddy with the unexpected analogies that can be made between the type of work I do (Interaction Design for apps or websites) and this medieval Japanese philosophy. I don’t want to shape your personal impression too much, but since I’m trying to share some of my own ideas and impressions through this website, it’s worth mentioning that I easily found direct correlations with the excerpt below and the following:

  • Lean — Just start designing. Imperfection and incompletion are unavoidable
  • Combat feature-creep/feature-bloating in your product
  • Validated minimalism — i.e. interview users to see if a simple interface is still enough to easily accomplish tasks, and doesn’t add confusion
  • Design for emotion

  • Minimum Viable Product
  • “No” to the No UI trend – a post about that

So, those are some of the ideas that are sparked by this philosophy. I’d love to hear yours.


from Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers – GoodreadsAmazon

Simple. Simplicity is at the core of things wabi-sabi. Nothingness, of course, is the ultimate simplicity. But before and after nothingness, simplicity is not so simple. To paraphrase Rikyu, the essence of wabi-sabi, as expressed in tea, is simplicity itself: fetch water, gather firewood, boil the water, prepare tea, and serve it to others. Further details, Rikyu suggests, are left to one’s own invention.

But how do you exercise the restraint that simplicity requires without crossing over into ostentatious austerity? How do you pay attention to all the necessary details without becoming excessively fussy? How do you achieve simplicity without inviting boredom?

The simplicity of wabi-sabi is probably best described as the sate of grace arrived at by a sober, modest, heartfelt intelligence. The main strategy of this intelligence is economy of means. Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don’t sterilize. (Things wabi-sabi are emotionally warm, never cold.) Usually this implies a limited palette of materials. It also means keeping conspicuous features to a minimum. But it doesn’t mean removing the invisible connective tissue that somehow binds the elements into a meaningful whole. It also doesn’t mean in any way diminishing something’s “interestingness,” the quality that compels us to look at that something over, and over, and over again.

Owl Café

After experiencing a cat café, David and I decided we had to experience an owl café. For about $20 you can spend an hour hanging out with a variety of owls. You can pet them – gently, on the head only – and hold them or set one on your shoulder. I held a little one, and put one of the big ones on my shoulder. It’s one of those (many) experiences I’ve found that can’t be captured in pictures, but I certainly tried!

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Cat Café

David and I woke up early to see the Ghibli Museum, but it was closed! That’ll teach us to plan ahead. It’s closed every Tuesday (the day we went), and you have to buy advance tickets too. So we checked on tickets but they were sold out for the week. I was really bummed out as this was the one main thing that I wanted to see in Japan; the rest was just free exploration.

Walking back to the subway, David decided to look up Cat Cafés and there was one only a few blocks away featuring exotic cats. Let me just say that an afternoon with cats quickly erased any disappointment about the missed Museum visit.

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Beckoning Cat Temple

This might be something unique to see (out of endless uniqueness) in Japan. Pulled from an article, but follow the link at the end if you want to see all the pictures.

“The Maneki Neko, or “Beckoning Cat”, is one of Japan’s most iconic images. Thought to bring luck and prosperity to its owner, these cats are frequently found outside businesses and within homes. And in the neighborhood of Setagaya, we found the Gotoku-ji temple, where the Maneki Neko plays a starring role.”