What links Kikkoman soy sauce and the Komachi Bullet train? Designer Kenji Ekuan, who died recently. His life was brutally altered by the atomic bombs which fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing family members. This catastrophic event led him to want to make tangible things.
"Faced with brutal nothingness, I felt a great nostalgia for something to touch, something to look at. The existence of tangible things is important. It's evidence that we're here as human beings." He spent time as a monk in a Buddhist monastery, but eventually left and became a designer of pretty much everything, from corporate logos to motorcycles, bullet trains to perhaps his most famous design, the leak-proof Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, which has become ubiquitous world-wide and at the time of its creation, in the post-war era, a calling card for Japan, and a symbol of its culture.
He designed the iconic bullet train and much of his work has been collected for design museums around the world. Design is invisible at its best, it's aim to make things work optimally and give the user a seamless experience with whatever the product might be, and the soy sauce bottle did that amazingly well. It will remain a testament to how one man re-defined his life in the midst of terrible loss and found a way to remind us all that we are human and we are here.