Designer of soy sauce bottle passes away

Japan’s Kenji Ekuan also behind the designs of several motorbikes, a bullet train

Ians February 11, 2015
Ekuan received The Order of the Rising Sun, one of the highest recognitions given by the Japanese government. PHOTO: FILE

TOKYO: Kenji Ekuan, considered one of the pioneers of modern Japanese industrial design and father of the iconic Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, has died at the age of 85, his office announced Monday. The designer, who passed away on Sunday at a hospital in Tokyo due to a heart complication, conceived the iconic teardrop-shaped design with a red plastic anti-drip top in 1961, which Kikkoman continues to use for its soy sauce bottles.

Since then, the company has sold hundreds of millions of bottles with the design, which combines simplicity, usefulness and beauty, and became synonymous with soy sauce in Japan as well as the rest of the world. Born in Tokyo in 1929, Ekuan lost his sister and father when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima during the Second World War. Ekuan later admitted that the total devastation caused by the bomb motivated him to become a “creator of things.”

He later managed to enrol in an exchange programme at the prestigious Art Centre College of Design at Pasadena in California from where he graduated in 1955. Two years later, he was among the founders of GK Industrial Design Associates, which would go on to play a significant role in creating what is today considered the contemporary Japanese lifestyle.

During his celebrated career, Ekuan was also behind the designs of several Yamaha motorbikes, the Narita Express train that connects Tokyo with Narita international airport, and the bullet train that runs between Tokyo and Akita prefecture. In 1976, he was elected president of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design and in 2000, he received The Order of the Rising Sun, one of the highest recognitions given by the Japanese government. 

Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2015.

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