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With all the press and buyers swarming around Milan's Salone del Mobile, I was so happy to wander into a seemingly inauspicious exhibition called "Shapes of Japanese Style." The group show was tucked into the gallery's basement and, like many exhibits of its kind, felt a little thin.

That was until my eyes landed on Hidebumi Yamaguchi's IMAnoWa collection. The concept, to encourage users to enjoy "Wa" (a sense of Japanese), is represented by three strikingly beautiful objects: a vase, a bento box, and a set of plates. The plates are named kuru kuru, which the award-winning designer said translated as "rotate rotate," though he agreed that our more literal translation of "spin spin" sounded nice. Comprised of two brilliant rouge pieces with thumb-like extensions, and a white piece with a protruding nipple, the three can be stacked or arranged in different ways to create subtle character shifts.

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Akaikage, or "red shadow," is a simple flower vase infused with architectural qualities. Looking like a housing tower set against the cityscape, the red acrylic cylindrical container emanates a subtle red glow against the backdrop. The most striking piece was the bento box called Shima, or "island." Hidebumi's description of this piece, given in hushed, somewhat broken English, brought home just how radically different Japanese design is. He said the piece represents an island in the middle of a sea (the tabletop) that friends travel across to reach their common refuge, the food and drink contained within. Also resembling a modern building with a low-slung roof, the bento box could be likened to a shelter and the three red sake cups, giant columns supporting an overhanging roof.

See more images after the jump.

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