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Tangible Objects, Humanity and Soy Sauce

“The existence of tangible things is imporant. It’s evidence that we’re here as human beings” – Kenji Ekuan.

You may not know the name of Kenji Ekuan or realise how integral his role in your culinary exploration has been, but he died on February 8th, aged 85.

The Japanese industrial designer was responsible for the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle you have more than likely marvelled at whilst toying with chopsticks, a product of his remeniscence involving his mother’s kitchen manner. Beyond clever and aesthetic condiment dispensers, Ekuan’s influence is blatantly present in Japanese culture from culinary to public transport (he played a major role in the visual demeanour of the bullet train) through to education and conceptual architectural movements.

567 Table Type Soy Sauce Bottle 2


One of Ekuan’s most intriguing works was his study of the Makunouchi Bento, or Japanese lunchbox. He saw the segregated container as both an object and metaphor for understanding Japanese civilisation. Though, impressive and withstanding Jap-culture signifiers aside, a past of futurism can be found within Ekuan’s catalogues.

Makunouchi Bento or Bento Box

Makunouchi Bento or Bento Box

A witness to the apocalyptic destruction of post-atomic Japan, losing both his sister and father to radiation, Ekuan was made painfully aware of the impermanence of human life and all that survived with it.



Dwelling City, Kenji Ekuan, 1964


Cue Metabolism, a collective of architects, designers and a critic that sought to recreate the very definition of ‘city’, transferring it’s apendage from noun to verb. Cities would exist as living, moving and evolving creatures – constantly changing and adapting within a social consciousness.



Tortoise House, 1964, Kenji Ekuan


Alas, such radical innovations were only actualised within a conceptual realm, though these amazing sketches bring forward divine visions of futurism. Take a look into an imagination that was. R.I.P.



Pumpkin House, 1964, Kenji Ekuan


Dwelling City collage, 1964


Tortoise House model, 1964

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