2017Eight essential GDA perspectives on design trends
Ryutaro Yoshida
Director’s Message

Lifestyles where the human and technological coexist


Contemporary lifestyles

We can interpret a "lifestyle" as being the lived experience that contributes to a contented life—the sum of all the satisfying moments we have, and a measure of our quality of life. Recent years have seen our everyday lives greatly transformed by the Internet, as the ways we live continue to be shaped by technological advances. People of all ages now seem to own some kind of computing device. Communicating through these devices has become second nature, and if we have something to say, we reach for a device to share our thoughts. Even children can access sites of all kinds, and they both study and play in the digital world. It is also hard to restrict this access and protect children from the bottomless pits online, where predators lurk. Meanwhile, through a process of natural selection, one digital innovation gives way to the next, whether a cryptocurrency or some new social infrastructure, evolving at a faster pace and spreading into our lives. These are the facts of life, in contemporary lifestyles. Seemingly inevitable, trends toward tomorrow's digital society will accelerate, and in Japan, where the population is declining and labor shortages can be offset by AI, robots, and similar innovation, it will be a key challenge to build a society where people coexist with these things.

However, we face serious social issues in this digital society, such as a lack of humanity or the loss of real human ties in our families or communities. Finding solutions—the legacy we leave for our children—is our profound responsibility.

Uniquely Japanese lifestyles

Japan has its own distinctive lifestyles. Although lifestyles and traditional cultures of all kinds here have evolved through rapid natural selection since the Meiji Restoration and exposure to Western ways, our lives and communities still retain much culture that is uniquely Japanese, even today. One example is the inner life of people in Japan, which is still rooted in Japanese culture, but there are others. Long-enduring lifestyles, arts, and crafts are still alive and well, and in the future, Japanese culture may provide insight to people around the world on ideal forms of lifestyles and communities. Japanese culture itself is not exclusively made in Japan. Cultural heritage has been handed down from China, Korea, and elsewhere over the course of 2,000 years, with a cultural infusion from the West in medieval times. In this way, indigenous and foreign cultures have blended together as our distinctive culture took shape. This uniquely Japanese culture will become globally appealing as a lifestyle that enriches social life, including the world's social life in general. In most of the countries that have passed down culture to Japan in the past, the original cultural heritage has been lost and no longer exists. But Japan will return the culture that the world has passed down to it, and this act of transmission will build positive ties around the world.

Community life

We can also interpret a "lifestyle" as referring to the richness of humanity in everyday life. Historically, society has grown as ties between individuals led to families, and then communities. Especially in disaster-prone Japan, these communal ties encouraged neighbors to help each other, and communities grew to influence the business of everyday life. Communities developed and passed down their own ways, and the communal ties fostered from their crafts and traditional cultures made life fulfilling and created new value. Larger areas then served as a community, where people of all ages lived together. In this context, one Good Design Special Award winner provides community advice on a myriad of everyday issues. Here, on a shop-lined street, on the first floor of a large residential complex with many seniors, anyone can drop in for free assistance on matters of health, medical treatment, home care, and everyday life. The initiative anticipates needs in a graying society by helping seniors who live alone to feel comfortable and part of their community. In response to these social issues in everyday life today, such projects with human warmth hold the potential to redefine communities as reassuring places where solitary seniors can enjoy neighborly ties. In this, we recognize an attempt to restore a sense of community that Japan has lost.

Also meeting local needs in many ways is an award-winning community center in Hakusan, Ishikawa. Here, elderly and disabled residents receive nursing and medical care, while children are cared for at a nursery school. People of all ages and abilities mingle at the hot spring, restaurant, fitness center, and elsewhere, showing how community ties that have weakened in Japan can be restored. Programs such as these represent admirable new design focused on fundamentals of community life in years to come, and they provide an answer to current social issues faced across Japan.

Bringing the lifestyles of Japan to the world

Much that is made in Japan is made by hand, to an extent rare in the industrialized world. This reservoir of manual expertise by those with a knack for subtlety and detail has supported the precision of domestic production. Found everywhere across the country, traditional manual industry has a long history. In fact, the craftsmanship behind most of this venerable, diverse, and exquisite production now exists only in Japan. Bringing these sensibilities to manufacturing processes can create products that are alive with human spirit, and bringing a craftsman's touch to the finish can yield industrial products with textures unmatched by machines alone. Design and finish that capitalize on the subtlety of Japanese sensibility can endow products with fine textures, revealing value only possible with Japanese craftsmanship. As we rediscover satisfying lifestyles, we can rediscover many early qualities passed down as a unique cultural heritage over the course of Japan's long history. By taking a fresh look at our uniquely Japanese culture, we find new things to appreciate. I look forward to the creation of future-minded lifestyles with new technologies and historical perspective in balance.

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