Look Here!

Tokyo firm Elephant Design has a keen appreciation of the value of the point of view of the consumer. Their Mite-koko (“Look here!”) exhibition at the Oriental Hotel encourages us all to take a closer look at the everyday, and to join in the fun.

Last week I received a call summoning me down to the Oriental Hotel on Peace Boulevard. Apparently, there was an opening party for a new exhibition in the little gallery space on the hotel’s first floor, and the artist was keen to meet someone from GetHiroshima. On arriving at the hotel, I was whisked into the gallery which had a pair big cartoon eyes on the glass wall. Inside, were cushions, toys, and more eyes. I didn’t have a clue what the heck it was all about. The eyes were cute though.

When the “artist”, a very slick looking guy by the name of Kohei Nishiyama, showed up, it turned out that he is an entrepreneur rather than artist. His companies Elephant Design and CUUSOO SEIKATSU persue a collaborative approach to product development. Consumers send in their ideas  (those “wouldn’t it be great if there were a …” or “if only this did this” moments we all have), designers come up with possible solutions, and, if there is enough consumer interest, some of the products make it into the shops.

On the second floor of the exhibition there are several examples of products created by the process. All of them started life as a snapshot taken by a dissatisfied consumer in their home or office and sent to Elephant Design. More than a few have proved to be huge hits. The key to this process is, that it is consumer led, starting from the viewpoint of the user.

This is where the eyes come in.

Nishiyama says that he had a gallery space to fill and in need of an idea with which to fill it. Then, back in December, an unfortunate accident that befell colleague, Sonoe Azuma. Unae, as she is affectionately known, is the founder of Unagi Travel, a company that arranges travel tours for stuffed animals (!), and one day the googly eyes popped off one of her most valued dolls. Seeing the now disembodied eyes staring up from the floor provided the inspiration for the key “visual” around which Nishiyama would base his Hiroshima show.

And so the Miteco.co (from the Japanese mite-koko or “look here”) interactive art project was born. The free exhibition currently on display in the Design Gallery on the first floor of the Oriental Hotel is basically an introduction to the project. People from, and passing though, Hiroshima are encouraged to email their own photos highlighting points of interest (things they love, hate, or are just plain confused by) with a short line of text to the project website www.miteco.co.

This was all very interesting, but I was wondering why Nishiyama was so keen to speak to GetHiroshima. Well, he and Unae (accompanied by a stuffed cuddly eel) had visited Miyajima the previous day. There, he noticed a group of Europeans gently stroking the soft white fur around the backside of one the deer. It struck him that you would be pretty unlikely to see Japanese tourists putting their hands so close to the business end of a wild animal. It turned out they were Italians with an appreciation for fine leather wear. In much the same way as some Japanese visitors start to salivate when looking at the sea life in the aquarium, they were imagining the uses to which this choice part of the hide could be put.

This chance encounter suggested to Nishiyama the potential of the project to capture a wider range of viewpoints, and perhaps, provide opportunities for communication. He wanted GetHiroshima to convey that he is very keen to include the viewpoints of Hiroshima’s international community and overseas visitors.

How To Take Part

  1. Stick a pair of eyes on something handy (purchase eye stickers at the exhibition for ¥100, on Etsy for $1.50 or download for free here). 
  2. When something catches your eye, take a photo of it with your “eyes” alongside.
  3. Send the photo by email to [email protected] with your comment in the message body.
  4. Submissions will be reviewed and the first 300 approved photos will be shown on the project website.

So, what do you think? Do you feel inspired to take part? Personally, this is the kind of idea I love, and any opportunity that encourages us to seek out interest and beauty in the mundane is worth taking.


The Mite-koko Exhibition is currently showing the Design Gallery in the Oriental Hotel on Peace Boulevard and continues until Tuesday, February 28. Admission is free.


Paul Walsh

Paul arrived in Hiroshima "for a few months" back in 1996. He is the co-founder of GetHiroshima.com and loves running in the mountains.