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The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox Paperback – October 23, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (October 23, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262550350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262550352
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 0.6 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,236,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Beginning with the Japanese lunchbox, Kenji Ekuan, Japan's foremost industrial designer, launches into a book-length meditation on "the source of the Japanese style of making things." For anyone interested in design as a culmination of all things cultural, or design as a moral force in the service of beauty and efficiency, this lovely book is indispensable. It will set every aesthetic synapse snapping and provide enough food for thought to nourish the reader for weeks, if not years.

The lunchbox, or makunouchi, is a closed, compartmented, lacquered or wooden box containing small, beautifully arranged foods. As the mouthwatering pictures in the book amply demonstrate, everything about the box and its contents is considered from the standpoint of visual pleasure. Ekuan gives the long history of the makunouchi as an everyday object, first introduced in the Edo period for a light meal eaten at the opera during intermission. He traces the evolution of the boxes' construction and analyzes the contents--tidbits "from mountain and sea." Variety is key, for ideally there is something--in the lunchbox and in this book--to satisfy every palate, aesthetic or otherwise. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Not surprisingly, this book is modeled on the Japanese lunchbox in both form and spirit: the reader opens the square cover and experiences a richness of content with an exquisite layout. Ekuan, Japan's foremost industrial designer and the author of seven previous books, has succeeded in explaining the essence and intersection of design and life by relating the lunchbox to all aspects of Japanese civilization. Ekuan is expert in supplying stimulating thoughts about the metaphorical meaning of the lunchbox. He compares the lunchbox to a unified-world mandala and the quadripartite structure of the lunchbox to the four seasons. A brief history is included. A delicious treat, although the print is a little too small for relaxed reading. Recommended for large art collections both in academic and research libraries.ALucia S. Chen, NYPL
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Michael Cuthbert on August 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Kenji Ekuan's book suffers from a title which inadequately expresses its content. He uses a brief examination of the lunchbox--its contents, history, and organizing principles--to ask what the larger aesthetic principles are of a society which holds this item as an ideal. Among the topics he examines are art, urban planning, and (foremost) industrial design. Though many of his design examples are taken from the late 70s and early 80s, they reveal how little the guiding aesthetic principles have changed (indeed, when it comes to stereo design, today it's hard to imagine [or buy] a form not influenced by lunchbox stacking aesthetics.)
It is a difficult read, and I agree with a previous reviewer that a more light-hearted treatment of the lunchbox and food culture alone would be an excellent study. But that's not the intention of this book (though I have seen it shelved in the cooking section of some bookstores). What that reviewer considers a flaw--the 4x4 photographs in a 10x10 page--I view as an aesthetic judgement in line with the lunchbox principle of understatement. Witness the photos of single flower arrangment in the book (e.g., p. 174). A word of caution: I returned my paperback copy because the binding was flimsy and pages seemed ready to fall out within hours of buying it. I exchanged it for the hardcover and have had no problems, nor have I generally had a problem with MIT press books.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 26, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book expecting an insightful and perhaps somewhat light-hearted introduction into Japanese esthetics, imagnative photography and outstanding book design. What a disappointment! Here the venerable Japanese lunchbox becomes the universal principle, the general compass, the ultimate paradigm for EVERYTHING-not just food and its presentation and esthetics but also commerce and technology, society, life style, you name it. Needless to say much of this is pretty contrived; the book reads as if it had been authored for distribution by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce. Most of the photography is either amateurish or archival. The lay-out looks stingy (single photographs as small as 4 x 4 " on 10 x 10" pages). The white on black printing is about as crisp and clear as if the pages had been faxed a couple of times.
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