Just 16 and recently released from a naval academy, Kenji Ekuan witnessed Hiroshima’s devastation from the train taking him home. “Faced with that nothingness, I felt a great nostalgia for human culture,” he recalled from the offices of G. K. Design, the firm he co-founded in Tokyo in 1952. “I needed something to touch, to look at,” he added. “Right then I decided to be a maker of things.”
One of the most enduring objects in his 60-year design career — which includes the Akita bullet train and Yamaha motorbikes — is the Kikkoman soy-sauce dispenser. Introduced in 1961, it has been in continuous production ever since. Traditional in its grace yet modern in its materials, the bottle’s design drew on Ekuan’s experiences at war’s end.