51 Japanese Characters

Posted on January 6, 2009 Under Design

Travel guides typically provide information on places and things, but what about people? If you’re entering into a foreign culture, shouldn’t you have a couple clues about its denizens? Here’s where the 51 Japanese Characters project comes in handy. While an exchange student in Japan, German visual communication design student Peter Machat “tried to shed some light on the areas of Japanese society that are often perceived as being mysterious and closed.”

51 Japanese Characters showcases typical archetypes and cultural phenomena of Japanese society. It comes in the form of a handsome set of postcards in customizable display boxes. Each card shows one of the 51 characters on the front and an accompanying explanation (in English, German and Japanese) on the back. The first edition is limited to 500 sets, produced in the offset printing studio of Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany. 51 Japanese Characters is both playful (turning the character-loving Japanese society itself into characters) and an easy way for a gaijin to learn how to avoid crowded subway trains when heading to Tokyo. You can order the postcards for about $24 (+ shipping) or a poster featuring all of the characters for about $13 (+ shipping) here.