Exhibition: “re:new tohoku” at Asia House

If you’re in London this weekend I urge you to visit the free exhibition of crafts from Tohoku (the region in northeastern Japan which was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011) which is currently on display at Asia Houseonly until Sunday!

re:new tohoku

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending a Japan Society private view of re:new tohoku – a tradition of perfection brought to life for you at Asia House. It was a wonderful evening! As well as looking around the exhibition, there was an interesting talk from Adam Fulford (re:new tohoku Content Producer and CEO of Japanese Greats Inc) and fabulous music from Joji Hirota‘s taiko ensemble with Bruce Huebner on shakuhachi (Japanese end-blown flute). Before I get into the details of the exhibition, here’s a musical interlude…

So, what is re:new tohoku? Here’s some information about the exhibition from the Japan Society website:

Devastated by the 2011 earthquake and the tsunami which followed, Tohoku, a region of outstanding natural beauty, was home to a thriving community of manufacturers, designers and craftsmen. As it fights to recover, the area is becoming a testing ground for exciting partnerships between Japanese designers, craftspeople and the manufacturing industry and overseas businesses, organisations and individuals.

re:new tohoku: a tradition of perfection brought to life for you will bring an astonishing array of products from the area affected by the disaster to a British audience – from furniture, fashion, cookware and technology to traditional craft items unique to the region. Together they showcase an extraordinary kaleidoscope of creativity and the quintessential Japanese drive for perfection in craftsmanship – as well as the importance placed on creativity and innovation. Individually each object embodies a belief in the future of the region and commitment to overcoming the daunting challenges of the 2011 disaster.

As well as bringing many of these objects to the UK for the first time, the exhibition is designed to showcase some of the best Japan has to offer in terms of manufacturing and craftsmanship to the British retail industry, with a view to developing future relationships with UK retailers. The exhibition will make use of cutting edge technology to allow direct access through visitors smart phones to an online application.This will bring each exhibit to life, with information about the product, manufacturer’s location and history of the area all navigated in a game format.

Highlights of products on show at Asia House range from Calligraphy watches made in Iwate to Music box-inspired handbags from Miyagi.

The items on display ranged from practical but beautifully designed kitchenware to more traditional items such as kokeshi dolls, which are originally from northern Japan. Everything was so well crafted, whether it was for every-day use or ornamental. There was not a single item I would not want to have in my house!  I took a lot of photos, which you can see here, but below are my favourite products (i.e. the ones I would run out and buy if I won the lottery tomorrow!)…

Tsuchiyu Kokeshi

Kokeshi doll by Tsuchiyu Kokeshi, Fukushima Prefecture. Tsuchiyu Kokeshi is a centre for the production of wooden dolls that are one of the craft symbols of the Tohoku region in Japan.


Teabag box by Bitowa, Fukushima Prefecture. Bitowa is a creative forum for the production of contemporary lacquerware  from Aizu Wakamatsu, one of the top lacquerware centres in Japan.

Tansu Kobo Hakoya

Easy Kneeler (ideal for picnics!) by Tansu Kobo Hakoya, Iwate Prefecture. Tansu Kobo Hakoya is run by Ryohei Kido, a maker of handcrafted treasure chests, who has two types of picnic sets on show.

Snow Peak

Carry-On Chopsticks by Snow Peak, Niigata Prefecture. Snow Peak makes an exceptionally fine range of items for campers, walkers and any other fan of outdoor activities.

Kobo Takada

Bamboo Woodwings by Kobo Takada, Fukushima Prefecture. Kobo Takada produces high-precision balancing insects made of bamboo, wood and paper. There are also kits you can decorate yourself.

Kousei Inc.

Calligraphy watch by Kousei Inc, Tokyo. Kousei makes watches to order for a wide range of clients, and offers an original line of calligraphy watches at the exhibition.


Highly impractical but gorgeous wooden handbag by Kumanodo, Miyagi Prefecture. Kumanodo is a source of original, whimsical wooden products that reflect an intense commitment to craft perfection.

If I had to pick just one item from the whole exhibition, it would definitely be a kokeshi doll. I have always had a bit of a thing for them, and have a small collection already. They make beautiful gifts, and are perfect souvenirs from the Tohoku region.

Tsuchiyu Kokeshi

Also at Asia House as part of the exhibition is a small display from Tohoku London – a collaboration project between craftsmen and manufacturers in northern Japan and London-based designers.

Tohoku London

Tohoku London

I hope to feature Tohoku London on this blog in more detail in the future, so watch this space!

For more information about re:new tohoku, please visit: www.renewtohoku.org. If you didn’t already know it, this exhibition will show you that Japan really is the place for creative, innovative design. What surprised me was just how much of it there was in Tohoku. In my three years in Japan I never made it to Tohoku but, since the disaster in March 2011, visiting Tohoku seems to be all I can think about and I’m plotting and planning to try and work out how I’m going to get there for a holiday/research trip. The more I learn about Tohoku, the more I realise what an amazing place it is. The items on display at this exhibition were the icing on the cake for me – Tohoku is my next destination!

The exhibition is only on until the end of this weekend, so please pop along if you can! Asia House is easy to get to from Great Portland Street or Regent’s Park Tube stations, and the address is: 63 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7LP. The exhibition is open from 10.00 – 18.00 on Saturday 14th and 11.00 – 17.00 on Sunday 15th July.

Hirahan Senko K.K.

Hirahan Senko K.K., Fukushima Prefecture.

5 thoughts on “Exhibition: “re:new tohoku” at Asia House

  1. Hello!
    My name is Steph, and I just discovered your site by googling modern poetry written after the quake. I left London in July 2011 to move to Fukushima Prefecture, and have been here since.
    I’d like to thank you for this website, as I’ve been curious to understand how the world continues to view Japan – and especially Tohoku – since the disaster. Looking at all of your various posts, I’m proud to be British by our involvement with such work, and hosting such exhibitions.
    You say that you’re interested in Tohoku, so if you ever have any questions about what life is like here in the recovery, please feel very free to contact me. Your interest in Japan is evidently enormous, and I’m very eager to make the acquaintances of people with such strong interest! I’m keeping a blog about Tohoku-based poetry written from pre-modern Japan up until the present day following the disaster, but also using it to report on Tohoku everyday life since July 2011, just in case you’d like a read!

    Anyway, thanks again for bring so proactive!


    • Hi Steph! Thank you so much for you lovely comment and for stopping by my site. I’d be really interested to have a look at your blog and find out more about Tohoku. Many thanks! Ali (*^_^)v


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