The Daily Heller: Indulging My Big Appetite for Everything Miniature

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Why is there such a voracious consumer appetite for miniature things, for instance like teeny pieces of sushi and bottles of saki, tiny clothing, furniture, pots, pans and appliances — dozens of quotidian objects? It stumps me, and I hoard lots them. Mostly my favorites come from Japan. So, I asked the designer/illustrator Naomi Otsu, who recently returned from Tokyo, where she nurtured her mini-habit by stocking up on mini chairs, if she had a theory as to why there is such reverence and obsession for these itsy-bitsy simulacrum. (Although I used a different word.)

“I looked up to see if Japanese people had an answer to why they loved minis,” she told me. “Although there wasn’t a specific answer, there are some interesting theories …

“—Miniature things were always a part of our culture (miniature gardens and bonsai?). 

“— Japanese people don’t have a lot of space in their house so they end up liking tiny things (this one made me laugh).

“—Japan has economically come to a place where people are able to have hobbies and enjoy things outside of work.”

Maybe it is related to Netsuke, traditional small, palm-sized ornaments, usually carved from boxwood or ivory.

But I’ll go the less-artistic route: I propose that in our hardwiring, anything small has appeal (like a newborn baby, puppy, pony or frog—or the original Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper). We can control miniatures (unless they are microscopic).

At another end of the spectrum, the Japanese are masters of fake food that is so lifelike it attracts flies (this is where I get my fake food miniatures).

Entire shops in Tokyo cater to minis for everything from footwear to foodstuffs.

My personal favorite is the scale-model modern furniture, especially the designer chairs that are manufactured in numerous sizes. Newly acquired are the miniature pen and pencil sets that actually work (if your fingers are nimble).

1961 chair designed by Kenomochi Design Associates (forgive the bitten nails, I couldn’t get a hand model).
The Miniature Mascot line offers mini writing implements, tiny rubber bands and a tiny paint set.
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