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Monday May 13, 2013

Fans of Japanese aesthetics flock to Kansai design shops

Selected tableware available at the
Truck showroom. Selected tableware available at the Truck showroom.

For an alternative to Tokyo’s crowded shopping precincts, try Osaka’s design shops in the Kansai region.

WHEN it comes to design in Japan, Tokyo is undoubtedly the pulsating heart. Just try flipping through the Interior Shop File, a comprehensive directory of design shops in Tokyo, you’ll get a list of about 400 shops hawking everything from Japanese and global designer products to Scandinavian vintage furniture.

But in recent years, the Kansai region – comprising cities like Osaka, Kyoto and Sakai – is boldly crawling out of Tokyo’s shadow to snag its share of the limelight. A growing number of progressive Japanese designers, architects and artists are setting up practices in the region due to “cheap rents, a strong community spirit and a good work/life balance” as reported last year by the London-based global affairs magazine Monocle.

In fact, Osaka companies like graf (the “g” is stylishly lowercase) and Truck Furniture are earning a following among design aesthetes globally. More than just peddling gorgeous furniture that compel you to part with hard-earned cash, these companies espouse an anti-throwaway culture and strive to change the way people consume. And their premises offer sublime sensory experiences that redefine the retail experience.

After a visit to the area last year, we share a small sampling of what Kansai has to offer.

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