In Japan, there is a culture of living together with nature. An example of this that has been on my mind a great deal recently is the ideographic character涼,“ryo,” meaning “cool”. Ryo is a logograph made up of two parts: 京 “kyo” indicating a building on a high hill, and “氵” (sanzui) meaning “water,” which together represent the presence of “good airflow and cold water.” During the summer season, people often open their windows and put wind chimes on the engawa (a passageway which sits between the inside and outside of a traditional Japanese house) to cool off while listening to the sound of the wind. I’ve been deeply longing for scenes like this the last few years.
I moved my base to Singapore a few years ago and continue to divide my time between Singapore and Tokyo. As a subtropical country, you would think that Singapore is hot all year round, but in reality, the air conditioning is so strong that you often feel cold indoors. After living like this for a while, I began to feel uncomfortable with this heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all approach to keeping cool. City living in Japan faces a similar challenge, however once you get away from the city there you will find many people who believe that natural fresh air feels more refreshing than artificial air conditioning. I think the character “cool” reveals the key to understanding why they feel that way.
There are other ways to “cool off” besides listening to wind chimes, like going under the shade of a tree or close to the water, but you can also feel cooler looking at a picture with a sense of transparency or listening to light and airy sounds. I want to live a life where all five of my senses are stimulated and my mind is moved, where I can feel the wind passing through my heart, rather than simply feeling cold air on my skin. The journey of our brand “KORAI” was born from this wish.
In urban life where space is limited and people have to huddle together and share small spaces with each other, achieving such feelings of coolness is a challenge. Closing the windows may create a quiet and private space, but if it goes on too long, we may feel cramped and uncomfortable, as if new ideas and experiences cannot come into our lives. From time to time such natural changes can bring a gentle breeze into our hearts. “Cooling off” starts with opening a window, letting the fresh air in, and taking a big breath.
Text: Yusuke Shibata
Photo: Takuma Suda