Text by Rachel Carvosso; images courtesy of mizmiz design
Kamidana is a product that you're unlikely to find at design shows outside of Japan. The word "kami" means god in Japanese and a "Kamidana" literally translates as "god shelf." Kamidana are traditional miniature Shinto altars found in some Japanese households that worship a specific Shinto god. The Kamidana (designed by mizmiz design) on exhibit at Tokyo Designers Week is a stylish, compact and thoroughly modern take on these miniature altars.
Referencing Japan's history and Shinto religion, the front of the tabletop object features a carving of te Ise Shrine in Mie prefecture, one of the holiest Shinto shrines in Japan. The Kamidana can be used as a stylish, handy container to keep prayer papers (believed to contain some of the god's power) collected from visits to shrines.
The cedar wood is sourced from Iwaki City in Fukushima Prefecture, where the dedicated woodcraft team, moconoco, is based. Some of the design features are not immediately obvious to a non-Japanese observer—I asked what the hole in the front of it was for and was told that the small rectangle is necessary to allow the "power to come out."
"We are interested in making something that combines the best of contemporary design with an awareness of tradition, and it's important that this product works with the modern Japanese lifestyle. In many parts of Japan there is not so much space so we wanted to make something stylish and compact."
The Kamidana is truly compact compared to its traditional predecessor, and comes in two sizes (28.2cm × 112.2cm or 30cm × 11.8cm), with a choice of two finishes—white melamine resin or wood, and three styles (wood only, wood plus a melamine, melamine).