Since starting TATCHA, I have received many questions and compliments about the packaging of our collection – this week, I wanted to introduce you to a man who was instrumental in their design and creation. Hitoshi Sagaseki, a native of Japan, studied architecture before building his own creative design agency.
Hitoshi is also the founder of J-COLLABO, a non-profit organization based in New York City. J-COLLABO seeks to bring to life the beauty of Japanese art and culture. Like TATCHA, they strive to revive and revitalize the past in a modern world. Hitoshi spoke with us about J-COLLABO, the world of design, and how he keeps in touch with his roots.
What inspired you to create J-COLLABO? What are your dreams for the organization in the future?J-COLLABO was started five years ago by a small community of artists and designers in New York. We believed that, in the cultural melting pot of New York City, we would be able to effectively communicate our own roots and cultural identity. We began promoting our work online in the hope of providing greater opportunity for cultural exchange and self-expression.
We seek to re-examine the roots of Japanese culture and art, and hope to develop various opportunities to introduce these to Americans. Some elements of Japanese culture, such as anime, sushi, and Zen, have already been adopted in the U.S., but there remains a lot of splendid, unique and unexplored culture from Japan. It is our mission to deliver lesser known, yet equally charming elements of Japanese culture and art to the world at large and to bestow them to the next generation.
Since 2012, when we were officially approved as a 501c3 Non-profit Organization, we’ve been enlarging our activities. In the near future, we are aiming to have culture salons, both in New York and in Japan.
There are a lot of Japanese organizations in the U.S. What makes J-COLLABO unique?J-COLLABO is a network that brings artists with different disciplines and genres together, providing a stage for their collaboration and making their work accessible to the public. J-COLLABO utilizes digital and social media to develop this community, to encourage a cross-cultural and cross-sector communication, and to present the unique products of its members. We are not introducing existing culture; we are creating new culture by collaboration. J-COLLABO is a lab to create a brand-new culture!
What is on the horizon for J-COLLABO in 2013?
We are steadily having lots of events and activities, so please check out our website and stay tuned! We are particularly excited to present BELLA GAIA: Origin Stories of Japan, with a preview on March 19th and the premiere in New York on March 31st. BELLA GAIA is a spectacular music and visual art performance to connect Japan and New York City. It’s a collaborative project uniting important Japanese historical monuments with prominent locations in the U.S.
J-COLLABO has developed this original art and music performance with the brilliant composer violinist, Kenji Williams. Our goal is to present a new vision of Japan through collaboration of Bella Gaia, a visual art performance originating from NY that uses NASA images, with various artists who carry on Japanese traditional arts (Noh, Gagaku, Shomyo, etc.). The resulting show will be a valuable opportunity for audiences to experience the traditional performances and beautiful images of Japan with a blend of Eastern and Western music.
People often ask what makes Japanese designs special - would you tell us what you think makes it so unique?
Japanese designs often have their roots in traditional craftsmanship, so they focus more on the concepts and perfection of their works. Sometimes this drive for perfection – kodawari - hinders their commercial success, but their serious attitudes toward their works were handed down from the spirits of traditional craftsmen in the old days.
What does kodawari mean to you in the world of design?
That depends on what I’m looking at. If we are talking about packages of the goods, what is important is people who will use that product. lf we are taking about the designs of the shops, people who seem likely to come to that shop. First I clearly imagine those, and try to please those people by my designs as much as I can. It is almost like giving a gift to someone – I always think about what can make them happy. Therefore my expression usually comes from what I have in myself, but I always try not to be self-centered. That is my kodawari.
As a Japanese transplant to New York, what are some of your favorite places to discover authentic Japan in New York City?
J-Collabo issues a “J-map” once in a year; the next one is coming on March 1st. J-map is a culture guide, distributed free of charge through 100 sites. It locates and profiles significant Japanese cultural sites in New York City such as schools, galleries featuring Japanese artists, and Japanese restaurants.
One of our favorite things to do here at TATCHA is to introduce people to secret treasures in Japan. If someone were visiting your hometown, where should they go to experience your favorite hidden places?
I was born and raised in Beppu, a town known for the hot springs, one hour and a half flight from Tokyo. In this kind of hot spring resorts, there many are Ryokan, Japanese-traditional-style hotels. Tokyo and Kyoto are wonderful places for visitors, but I think it is also attracting to relax and spend time in local hot spring resorts.
Chief Treasure Hunter