The design has a red lid and a narrow neck which widens to form a base of sturdy hips. When poured, the contents flow in a singular, uninterrupted stream.
The Kikkoman bottle hasn’t changed since it was designed in 1961 by Kenji Ekuan for the world’s largest soy sauce producer.
Simplicity has made it ubiquitous. And crucially, it works — think of wrestling with glass Heinz ketchup bottles or constantly wiping lids on plastic iterations. Likely, Kikkoman’s bottle is the reason we’re so familiar with soy sauce.
Serene: A contemporary Japanese-style sitting room. The country’s influence can be seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes
In the introduction to her book Japanese Design Since 1945 (£35, Thames & Hudson), Naomi Pollock writes: ‘In Japan, good design is everywhere. But most of all, it’s in the home.’
The trend for Japanese-inspired, UK-based brands, such as Wagamama, Superdry and Yo! Sushi, is well worn, but the country’s influence is likely seen most clearly in the clean, elegant and functional everyday products we use in our homes.
The Japanese approach to design is summed up well by a single product – Muji’s right angle sock (from £3.50, muji.eu).
As the foot is perpendicular to the leg, the sock should follow the shape of the body: design centres on the user rather than the designer.
The word ‘Muji’ translates as ‘without brand’ and the company invites (often renowned) designers to create reasonably priced products anonymously.
Design guru Naoto Fukasawa is an adviser to Muji, and his wall-mounted CD player for the company (£149) is in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Naoto Fukasawa’s butterfly-inspired Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair (£2,869, chaplins.co.uk)
In the UK, Chaplins stocks a large selection of products from Japan, including some from the designer.
‘The idea is to create designs that appear to have been sculpted by the elements,’ says Ludovic Aublanc, creative director at Chaplins. ‘It’s the kind of minimalism that brims with emotion, that makes you grateful and happy to come home.’
The company stocks Fukasawa’s butterfly-inspired Papilio range – chairs and sofas sporting headset ‘wings’ to protect the user’s head (Grande Papilio Swivel Lounge Chair, £2,869, chaplins.co.uk).
Japanese designers have described the chair as the centre of design and an extension of the human form. It follows that these things should be easy on both the body and the eye.
Habitat’s Mori charcoal two-seater sofa (£716, habitat.co.uk) certainly fits the bill. It is compact, unfussy and elegant with its plush curved armrests and contrasting thin, wooden legs.
Simple unfinished woodwork is a key part of design in Japan, like the solid oak dining chairs from Oak Furnitureland (£140, oakfurnitureland.com) which would pair well with the Japanese oak Castor Table by Karimoku New Standard (£1,169, nest.co.uk).
Last year, decluttering guru Marie Kondo took the world by storm with her hit Netflix show. The programme has been talked of plenty, but we’re perhaps unaware of how key these principles are to Japanese design.
A large part of the focus on user-friendly products comes down to space. As ever, it’s important for Muji, with its storage bed (from £299) which has spacious drawers to banish clutter. Loaf has the Woody storage bed (from £995, loaf.com).
Simple boxy shelving units such as the Ikea Kallax range (from £15, ikea.com) are practical, but can also be used for displaying plants, books and records.
Or, for a modern twist, try the John Lewis Dice shelving unit bookcase (£450, johnlewis.com). The company also stocks Japanese brand Like-it’s clear storage products (from £8).
Crockery that rocks
Japanese pottery has long been a feature of our homes, and a collection by John Lewis is a nod to this. Inspired by woodblock prints, the range includes glassware, plates, mugs and even Christmas decorations.
It’s all delicate, bright patterns and the infuser mugs by Tokyo Design Studio (from £25) are a highlight.
But elegant motifs are only part of the story. The earthy charcoals, whites and beiges of Hasami Porcelain (hasami-porcelain.com) are a calming, elegant addition to any kitchen.
Hasami teapots start from £65 and mugs from £22 (la-gent.com) – also pick up a copy of Okakura Kakuzo’s The Book Of Tea, written in 1906, an insight into the Japanese ritual of tea-making. Elsewhere, an Oriental Hobnail tea set costs from £22.98 (wayfair.co.uk).
For eating, Denby Pottery has Japanese-inspired bowls from £58 for four in grey and white (denbypottery.com).
Finally, being able to serve Japan’s other favourite drink – the highball – is a must. Try LSA’s Mia Highball glasses (£27 for four, lsa-international.com) or, for something cheaper, a set of six Duralex Prisme highballs is £11.99 at rinkit.com.
Then grab a bottle of Akashi whisky (£28.50, waitrosecellar.com), add ice, stir clockwise 13 times, add soda water, stir again and appreciate another example of elegance and simplicity in Japanese design.
What your home really needs is… a Christmas throw
At this time of year, people fall into two groups: those who believe more is more, with bright lights and decorations aplenty; and others who keep things simple, with a few holly sprigs and a carefully adorned tree.
Yuletide luxury: You could use this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw, £99.50, all year round
But whether you’re a maximalist or a minimalist, your home will need a Christmas throw because someone in your festive bubble is bound to complain about being cold.
If glitter is your thing, you’ll like the fleece star throw from Marks & Spencer (£25, marksand spencer.com).
Or snuggle up under Dunelm’s red cable-knit design with a fleecey inside (£60, dunelm.com).
For something more fun, Redbubble has one that reads: ‘This is my Hallmark Christmas movie watching blanket’ (£34.73, redbubble.com).
Going low-key? How about a white and grey reindeer pattern with red pompoms (£40, barkerand stonehouse.com)?
Or this Alpaca Fair Isle Throw , £99.50, notonthe highstreet.com), which you could use all year round.