A small collection of mini-case-studies based on my trip to Kyoto in October 2015.
While I saw this product in Kyoto, it's not a Japanese product. In this case, the instructions are (partly) needed to offset an awful user interface (UI) design. Can you explain why it's such a mistake?
A little old woman runs this shop that makes brushes out of wood, shrubs, and grasses. This kind of craftsmanship is still considered highly desirable. The influence of culture on design must be considered by all designers, especially if you're designing for a culture other than your own.
Space is at a premium in Japan - not just horizontally, but vertically too. Notice how it's not particularly difficult to get into the lower car even if there's a car directly above it. That is to say, the designers realized that just because drivers are of a certain height doesn't mean that parking spaces for cars need to be that tall; and they realized that by observing how people get into and out of cars, and where the vertical space requirements are in a horizontal space, and that there's a difference between the vertical requirements change as people enter and exit cars.
Here's my hotel room. For about \$100 CAD per night (albeit during low season), I had a very, very small room; but it had everything in it. A surprisingly large bed, desk, pant press, mini-bar fridge, a nightshirt (it's folded on the bed), a lap desk with cushions to rest on your lap and elastics to hold your laptop in place, telephone, humidifier (that white thing that looks like a shredder), shelves and hangers on wall pegs for storing clothes, etc. Also, in the desk was a recharger that could connect to five different types of electronic devices.
This is the headboard of the bed in my hotel room. The headboard has embedded switches for all the lights in the room, so that you can control everything without having to get out of bed. There's even a dimmer switch for the main room lights. The switches are positioned so that they are easily accessed either from the bed itself, or when standing in the room near the bed.
In a country of such technological modernity, history still matters. This is the park around the Kyoto Imperial Palace. That tree in the centre of the frame is over 400 years old. More than one historically significant military figure is known to have fought (and, in some cases, died) in the shade of that tree. The vertical posts are meant to help support the branches. Vandalism of the tree is considered an insult to Japanese culture and is very heavily punished. Notice the significant balance between old and new that this brings out about Japanese culture.
Two things here. First, because of the cost of land, many buildings have such a small footprint that each store gets its own floor. This is actually part of the addressing system in Japan. For instance, Vivienne Tam's address would end with “2F” to indicate that her office is not on the 2nd floor - it literally is the 2nd floor. Secondly, sometimes something gets lost in translation. The business on the 3rd floor is the Yayoi-Brains Hair Fairy, presumably where all the stylish zombies go for a style and wash….