Japan Must Embrace Product Design To Survive

Top Japanese product designer Toshiyuki Kita called on his country to make more appliances that look good and feel unique to compete with the rapid industrial growth of China.

Kita, who designed Sharp's sleek and successful Aquos liquid crystal display television series, said on March 29 that Japan must embrace the transition from being a country of manufacturing to a country of design. "Japan has finally begun presenting to the world its original designs," Kita told a news conference in Tokyo.

"Unless it starts designing products with Japan's own values, the industry wouldn't be able to survive," he said.

He hailed liquid crystal display as an example of a Japanese product that has foreshadowed global trends, while for decades the world's second largest economy followed Western concepts. Although Japan was a late starter in the industrial revolution, Kita said Japan now had an opportunity to unite high technology with advanced design and eco-friendly ideas.

"China is already very motivated to cultivate product design as a new industrial resource," he said. "China also has a history and culture of 5,000 years. It will be a good rival for Japan."

Works by Kita, who was also in charge of Mitsubishi Heavy Industrial's humanoid Wakamaru, have been included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Georges Pompidou Center's Modern Art Museum in Paris. Kita is now working on designing a rice cooker, saying that Japan's staple food has been prepared for too long in appliances based on Western ideas. "I'm trying to redesign the rice cooker as something original from Japan," he said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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