Imaginary Memory

I have three kinds of memories: A. Those that I can’t remember well. B. Those that I can remember and that actually happened. C. Those that I can remember despite them never happening. Example of A: I don’t remember when I made my first step. I can’t remember which sock I put on first when I got up in the morning. Example of B: I remember the first kiss from the boy I loved. I don’t like to remember how I broke up with him. Example of C: I like to visualize people as apes when they are deliberately unpleasant to me, and I imagine them as having fallen behind in the process of human evolution. Stanley Kubrick, one of the greatest movie directors of the 20th century, exploited imaginary memory to the extreme when he made his most famous and influential film–2001: A Space Odyssey. In 1968, when he was asked to comment on the metaphysical significance of the movie, he replied: "It's not a message I ever intended to convey in words. 2001 is a nonverbal experience.... I tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content." Artistically, this movie proved pioneering and inspired many of the special effects-driven films, which were to follow the success of 2001. During the working process of this film, manufacturing companies were consulted about the design of both special-purpose and everyday objects in the future. His co-author, science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke, even predicted that a generation of engineers would design real spacecraft based upon 2001 "even if it isn't the best way to do it". Kubrick’s imaginary memory brings to life the creative process of his filmmaking and continues to fascinate contemporary audiences and critics. The famous Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw says, “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’ “ Sometimes, questions are more important than answers, especially for the creative mind.

Would You Like to Have Some Bubuzuke ?

The people of Kyoto are well known for their ambiguous behavior and way of speaking. They believe that some things are better left unsaid. As a gaijin (foreigner), I am never able to navigate the exceedingly complex social system of Kyoto without some blunders, but I find that the invisible wall of politeness can be charming and intriguing. The wall is there, but it is soft and padded.

The people of Kyoto often use non-verbal cues in embarrassing social situations. For example, when a Kyotoite asks if a guest wants to eat bubuzuke, known outside Kyoto as ochazuke, it really means that the person has overstayed or shows up at the wrong time, i.e., at dinner time, and is politely asked to leave.

Kyoto has a unique culture of idiosyncrasy and ambiguity. The people of Kyoto had lived under changing regimes from Kyoto to Tokyo, and they had to protect themselves and ensure their survival, so they tend not to show their stance clearly and to attack others openly. This nurtures individuality and diversity. While most of Japanese society and its organizations value harmony over individuality, Kyoto’s individual-minded entrepreneurs have been able to go their own way on their own turf. But how can we see through what Kyoto people really have on their mind? “If you respect the culture, then you can tell eventually,” said Takeshi Wakagabayashi-san, founder and designer at Sou.Sou , during our interview in a small, cozy coffee shop near Nishiki Market .

Apart from Ichigen-san (the first-timer), the bubuzuke invitation is another exclusive Kyoto tradition. My Kyoto-born girlfriend Yoshiko-chan told me this tradition has mostly disappeared, but when people want to tease someone from Kyoto, they would imitate the soft and polite Kyoto accent to say, “Would you like to have some bubuzuke?”


A Liquid Memory

Water, Sui (water in Chinese), or Mizu (water in Japanese)–we came up with a sound for it. The words themselves are inert. But it gets really intriguing when we use that same system of symbols to communicate all the abstract and intangible things that we are experiencing. As I drank the memory of the water glass from the café in New York, the symbol of the water glass blended in with the things I was seeing in Kyoto. And before long, the melancholy of New York and the enchantment of Kyoto merged into a single unspeakable emotion. As a designer, I wanted to visualize this emotion.

How to bottle the liquid memory of Kyoto? What scent captures these emotions? And what shape should the bottle be?

I have a chronic attraction to problems to be solved, and it is the most fun part of being a designer.