ARTS & CULTURE

The Man Who Designed The Iconic Soy Sauce Dispenser Is Dead

02/09/2015 05:44 am ET | Updated Feb 09, 2015
JIJI PRESS via Getty Images

From London to Los Angeles, the sight of this shapely bottle sitting on a table at a Japanese restaurant signals the promise of a fresh meal seasoned by the salty sauce of soy.

You may never have given this condiment container much thought; for decades it has always been there, waiting for you to reach out and use on your platter of sushi. But the ubiquitous red-topped glass container with its dripless polystyrene spout didn't exist before 1961. It came from the mind of Kenji Ekuan and his team, and was created for the Kikkoman Corporation.

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According to The New York Times, the iconic tear-shaped bottle has been in continuous production ever since. To date, more than 300 million dispensers have been sold worldwide.

Ekuan's soy sauce dispenser has even been recognized as a work of art. In the mid-oughts, the bottle was added to the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of its Humble Masterpieces exhibition, which honors the design of everyday objects.

Ekuan graduated from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. He became an industrial designer, a maker of the things we use every day (and often can't imagine life without).

Ekuan founded GK Industrial Design Associates in 1957, which later became the GK Design Group. Today GK Design comprises eight domestic and four international firms providing product, transportation, environmental and communication design.

Over the course of his illustrious six-decade career, Ekuan designed the distinctive Akita bullet train and motorcycles for Yamaha. Considered Japan's foremost industrial designer, Ekuan was also the author of "The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox" and several other books.

For his contributions, Ekuan received many honors, including the ICSID Colin King Grand Prix, the International Design Award, The Blue Ribbon Medal, the Sir Misha Black Medal and the Order of the Rising Sun.

Ekuan died on Feb. 8 of a heart rhythm disorder, Kyodo reported. He was 85.

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