The Japanese are known for their flair for design – especially for food-related items, which they often turn into complete experiences in themselves. Contemplating the perfection that is opening a Ramune bottle, or the long and storied history of bento is an exercise in a cultural respect for food we don’t often see in North America.
Add to the list of delicious Japanese inventions the humble Kikkoman soy sauce decanter, that (on our shores at least) is most often seen gracing a sushi restaurant table. Originally created by Kenji Ekuan in 1961, the perfectly balanced sloping glass bottle with the distinctive bi-spouted red cap is so revered by the design field that MoMA has it in their collection. Ekuan’s decanter was so ideal for its purpose that it’s been used continually for sixty years, with no improvements needed – until last month.
Matthew Clark of Odachi Design in Los Angeles has 3D printed a prototype of a new soy sauce lid that addresses what he sees as the chief flaw in the original design: That it leaves the soy sauce inside open to the air and, therefore, flavour-robbing oxidization. Said Clark:
“‘Soy sauce’s greatest enemy is oxygen. So, with my design, I harnessed the capabilities of 3D printing to integrate a gravity valve within the lid itself. This is achievable with 3D printing, but costly or much more difficult otherwise. The valve is printed within the top when it’s produced. This was created to effectively maintain the flavor and shelf-life. After every pour, the remaining liquid aids the seal.’”
Clark was careful to create a smart lid that respected Ekuan’s original look, making sure that it was, in the parlance, “plug compatible” with Kikkoman’s iconic bottles. The next step would be to ensure Kikkoman’s approval of this 21st century spin on a mid-century modern classic, and to try the smart lid out in food-safe plastics for mass production. I’d love to see one of these in action at my local sushi joint; both to witness two designers collaborate three generations apart, and to enjoy the freshest soy sauce ever. As the Japanese food and design ethos has proven time and again, it’s the simple things that matter!