Monday, 8 April 2013

Spring comes to Fribble via Japan

Spring has come to Fribble-under-Par at last. 

How do I know? 
  1. the language students have arrived for their six weeks of English language learning and cultural introduction to all that is Paradise Island
  2. love is in the air

Yes, the language students have arrived. Welcome three lovely girls from Kajagoogoo Prefecture in Japan. 


Their city is bright and colourful.

And so are their benches. 

They explained their names to us. Kimiko is the one in pink. Her name means she's a Child Without Equal. Noriko is in blue; she's Lawful. (I'm pretty sure she said Lawful rather than Awful). And Emiko is a Child Graced with Beauty, a Smiling Child. 

They're staying with Miggy and last night there was a big party at Miggy's house to welcome them. The girls made themselves comfortable on the roof terrace while little April settled herself on the garden bench.

And when Miggy says Open House, she means Open House. 

Her house opened right up to make room for everyone. Wyme The Crime stood over the cakes coming out of the Aga while everyone started having fun.

It was a great party. 

Late in the evening the Japanese girls sang for us on the special benches Miggy erected for them in her Kyoto Pavillion. 

The girls said they brought some benches with them but at first we thought they were Japanese drums. 

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Kimiko explained that they are Gattai benches; gattai means 'combined', so here the benches are together. But then Kimiko took them apart and we all had a place to sit.

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Wow! Very clever. The Gattai bench is designed by Lui Kawasumi, who likes the idea of benches and people being connected. 

Later, some of us got into Miggy's origami hot tub. Being in water, I found it hard to resist trying to swim. 

Towards the end of the evening it got cooler and Migs had to close up the house. By then things were getting pretty wild.

The highlight of the evening though was the Japanese benches. Knowing we are a Bench community here in Fribble, the Japanese girls showed us some amazing Japanese benches they'd brought with them.  

We were all in a party mood so what better way to celebrate than with a balloon bench.

photograph by Ikunori Yamamoto at

Yes, it's a bench that floats! It's made by designer Satoshi Itasaka and is inspired by the 1953 French film The Red Balloon. 

photograph by Ikunori Yamamoto at

In reality the bench is suspended from the ceiling by four anchors concealed by the balloon shapes. This creates the illusion of the bench being lifted by balloons. Maybe you didn't want to know that?

Here are some bench-like sofas made out of chopsticks by clever designer Yuya Ushida. 

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This is called SOFA-XXXX. It also comes in black.

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Making furniture out of chopsticks requires skill and patience. Here is Yuya at work assembling a sofa.

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Bamboo is another material we associate with Japan. Here is a simple and beautiful bamboo bench by designer Gal Ben-Arav. 

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Gal Ben-Arav is not in Japan but the girls thought the bamboo-ness of this bench would appeal to us. It does. 

And there's something about Japan which reminds us of spring. It's all that cherry blossom I guess.

The girls brought us a Seiza meditation bench handpainted with cherry blossoms by Josh May at South Seas Design. 

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Here in Fribble we know it's spring because love is in the air. 

The lads from the Fribble Agro are always particularly interested in the arrival of new girls on the island because normally there are only two girls to look at in Fribble.

One is Virtue, who is a sporty girl and frankly, somewhat scary.

The other girl is Tamsin, who is cute and sweet but, as they say in primary schools, still working towards Level One intellectually.  

But this year is different. Ever since Root, son of Lord Brassica, Fifth Earl of Drizzly, was in hospital, his relationship with Tamsin has been close. 
The other night they had a romantic evening on Miggy's roof terrace and got engaged. 

Sorry, I haven't forgotten the Japanese benches. I haven't forgotten you, Emiko, Noriko and Kimiko. It's just that it's spring here in Fribble and there's so much going on. 

Following Root's recovery in hospital, a grateful Lord B presented Root with a sizeable cheque to spend as he saw fit.

Not a good idea in my view.  

Predictably, Root immediately spent much of the money treating his mates at the Dustpan and ipod. It wasn't long before they all ended up the worse for wear on the marble bench.

But to his credit, Root used some of the money to buy Tamsin a lovely new car. You may have seen it on the roof terrace.

Tamsin doesn't drive and neither does Root but that never stopped anyone in Fribble. Here is April, age six, racing Tamsin's new car along the Esplanade bench.

April's Parallel selves, May and June, are lagging behind a bit. It's Cora who is way out front. 

Miggy has pointed out that I am being ever so rude in this post. She says I need to give the Japanese girls space to show us the Japanese benches they have so painstakingly carried over in their sandwiches suitcases.

Sorry, girls, I got carried away with the love story of Root and Tamsin. Do show us more benches.

Oh, sumo! And bamboo. And the three of you in your kimonos. Wow, this really is a cultural experience. 

Have you got any more benches to show us?

Here is a beautiful Japanese-style bench made of teak and bamboo. 

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And here is a little herd of sheep full of grass which is also, apparently, a bench  for very small people. 

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The Japanese girls explain to us the importance of having a bench in a garden so that you can enjoy the peace and tranquility on offer.

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They explain to us the importance of love and how sitting on a log together can be a very nice thing to do. 

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Emiko says she often sits on a bench with her boyfriend, Hitachi. 

image by Miggy's Mum

Hitachi needs a pretty big bench. When he visits the temple he has two.

Tamsin takes the Japanese girls off to show them one of our benches down on the Esplanade. When they get there a tour bus is in; they meet a familiar friend and pose for pictures. 

Yes, Kitty, Hello to you too.

Back to the love story. Bear with me. It's spring. My thoughts are all over the place. 

After the engagement between Root and Tamsin,  Root's mother, Lady Jessica Brassica, took fashion matters into her own hands by meeting up with Tamsin. Her intention was to get Joop, her personal dress designer, to make Tamsin some suitable clothes. After all, Tamsin will one day be Lady Brassica, wife of the Sixth Earl of Drizzly.

The current Lady B turned up looking elegantly casual. 

Poor little Tamsin misjudged the situation completely and arrived in formal evening wear and a ridiculous hat like the ones she saw at the royal wedding a couple of years ago. She brought a pink rose and a large box of chocolates for her future mother-in-law.

Her dress looked suspiciously like a doily and did nothing for Tamsin's short legs. 

Strangely though, the next morning Lady B asked Joop to make her a saucy little dress using a doily off Lord Brassica's armchair. 

The results, according to Joop, are spectacular; he is going to enter his Doily Carte design at Milano next year. 

But I digress. 

This morning Miggy and Tamsin and I took the Japanese girls on a little trip to the mainland. We showed them all the usual tourist sites, like Stonehenge.

When we stopped for a photo opportunity in the New Forest we were lucky enough to see some British wildlife.

The girls were enchanted. It reminded them of wildlife back home in Japan.

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Our Agro boy Biff seems to be quite taken with Emiko, the Smiling Child Graced with Beauty. 

Biff is not what you'd call graced with beauty. And maybe it will take Emiko a while to work out that he's snarling rather than smiling. Yet they definitely have something in common. 

Biff is checking his diary and wondering when he might make it to Japan.

Oh dear, I wonder if Emiko has shown Biff her photograph of Hitachi? 

photo by Miggy's Mum

Well, the long, light spring evening is drawing to a close now. Kimiko says it's time to bring in the gattai benches and put them away for the night.

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Amazing! Puts a whole new spin on the idea of stacking furniture. 

The Japanese girls are looking for some benches to sleep on. Apparently in Japan it's very common for people to sleep on benches in public places.

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Call me fussy but this doesn't look very comfortable. 

Noriko, the Lawful one, says it's perfectly normal, and legal too. 

Before we know it, Noriko has found herself one of the little benches outside Miggy's pavillion and she's all tucked up for the night. 

Sayonara, Lawful One.

Sayonara, Kimiko and Emiko.

And sayonara to everyone in Fribble. 

People sometimes say there's no cultural life on Paradise Island but gosh, we've had a busy week.


If you're not familiar with Japan, don't waste your time searching for Kajagoogoo Prefecture on Google Earth. Kajagoogoo are a 1980s band from Leighton Buzzard in the UK (yes, Leighton Buzzard is a real place.) Check out what people love about it at

The backgrounds of Japan I have coloured from my favourite colouring book by Canadian artist Steve McDonald. The city is Tokyo and the temple picture is Himeji Castle, in Himeji, Japan They're both in Steve's fantastic book Fantastic Cities

Satoshi Itasaka's Balloon Bench is an item made according to the customer's specifications at Studio h220430 in Tokyo. Ikunori Yamamoto at  For every project the studio arranges the color, quantities, setting positions of balloons, length of the rope, and fabric materials of the seat according to customer's request or the space that bench will be fixed in. The balloon bench shown is in a restaurant in France. Materials are glass fiber reinforced plastics, stainless steel wire, and leather. Size is W2300×H2350×D500 (SH450). The standard price is 2,100,000JPY and retailers are Gallery SOMEWHERE in Tokyo.

Red benches are very popular here on Benchsite, so much so that they have their own story. If red benches are not your thing, have a look at the blue ones. Or yellow. Or orange. You might want to know that pink is the most popular bench colour though. 

Yuya Ushida was born in 1975 in Nagoya Japan. He studied mechanical engineering and before graduating realized that he was more interested in making practical things that would contribute to people’s daily lives, rather than just machine parts, and therefore he decided to turn to the world of industrial design. Yuya says, "Becoming a designer does not only require the attention to aesthetics, but also an understanding of materials, techniques and usability aspects of the product. 
The goal is to create products that make people happy."  His chopstick SOFA-XXXX and other designs can be seen at

Gal Ben-Arav is an industrial designer, focusing on new technologies, creativity and sustainable design. He graduated B.Des from Bezalel Academy for art and design in 2010. The bamboo bench has different designs and colours. His website is at

Spring's Invitation is by Samuel Yoo and yes, it's cherry blossom but it's not from springtime Japan. It's October 2012 in Extrema, Minas Gerais in Brazil. Why is there cherry blossom in Brazil? Because around two million Brazilians are of Japanese decent. I didn't know that. Sao Paulo, Brazil is Samuel's hometown, though he currently lives in Seoul.

Speaking of Brazil, there are some ravishing Rio Olympic benches at

Seiza meditation benches are designed to provide perfect posture during sitting meditation. Josh May's Seiza meditation cherry blossom bench is available from  It's made of hardwood and is painted by hand. If you thought the name Josh doesn't sound Japanese you'd be right. Josh is a tattoo artist who works in Atlanta, Georgia. His website is at

The sliced bread suitcase is one of those internet photographs which is so ubiquitous that its original source is impossible to find. Google sandwich suitcase and you'll see what I mean. Pages and pages of this same image. I have tried various design publications and have been unable to find it. I copied it from  If you like sandwiches and you like picnics, let Lord Brassica show you all the best picnic benches

The Gattai bench is by Lui Kawasumi at  Lui Kawasumi has lived in Japan, the Czech Republic, Turkey and the USA and he speaks fluent English, Japanese and Czech. His design work is influenced by his experiences in these different cultures. The Gattai is designed for social interaction and, depending on how it's configured, resembles all manner of things: mooring docks, drums, a flute. Whether the stools are touching or apart, they are always connected by the rope and so are the people who sit on them. 

The beautiful Japanese garden photograph was taken on a visit to Japanese gardens in 2005. I saw it at Permission to use it came from the website editor, Carolyn Allen, at

The loving monkey couple sitting on a log are from   For more love benches we have hearty hearts for Valentine's Day and also romantic white benches. And we have monkey benches. Boy, do we ever have monkey benches. We even have The Year of the Monkey bench. 

Miggy's Mum acquired Hitachi at a garage sale. She was certain he'd know one of our Japanese girls and sure enough . . . 

The Babycham deer belong to my friend Effie, who is 93. Sometimes she lets me borrow them and I have such fun taking pictures without knowing for what purpose. Isn't it lucky that the deer happened to be around when the Japanese girls were visiting?

The sunny animals on a log bench are from  It has taken me a while to work out that is the Japanese equivalent of etsy, which means I have to try to contact each shop owner individually. Egads. I guess that means hundreds of emails in Japanese and a lot of confusion. Already I have accidentally ordered two garden benches and an origami hottub. 

The serene Japanese teak bench is from 

The sheep herd with grass are from Toshi Morita at   The Zento facebook page is at
I've already added my thumbs-up to the sheep and a whole story about baaaaad sheep benches here on benchsite. 

There are many Japanese people sleeping on benches on the internet. This one accompanies an excellent illustrated bedtime poem called Good Night Train. It appears on the blog   This writer describes herself as, among others things, a translatrix (English/Japanese) and she has been blogging about her life in Japan since 2007. A fascinating blog about what it's like to live in Tokyo. 

Biff might, eventually, have made it to Japan. In the meantime though, I asked him to help me show some perfectly purple benches for Christmas.  

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