© Adrian Hogan



Issue statement by Iker Gil, editor in chief of MAS Context


This issue is as much about Tokyo as it as about the importance of valuing our very personal and subjective relationship to our environments.

Tokyo, the city at the core of the biggest metropolitan area in the world, can be explained through complex sets of data and precise maps. They would be a valid reading of the city that would provide valuable information. Or more precisely, we should say readings in plural as, depending on who analyzes the information, we will get different outcomes. In the end, any diagram or map is a subjective representation of information. The exclusive use of data-driven analysis is extremely common these days and, while useful, it can also complicate our capacity to relate with the reality of the place. Numbers become more important than experiences. But, the same unit (a place, a building) can be experienced differently by two people, and that is an important and valuable condition.

In this issue we want to take this subjective exploration of the city a little further and remove the use of any type of data when observing Tokyo. We want to describe the experiences we have, the people we know or observe, the cultural differences with our cities or countries of origin, and all the small details of everyday that catch our eye and define how we perceive and remember Tokyo. Each of these conditions are different for each one of us and it is that subjective observation and representation that can provide another valuable reading of the city.

To represent this personal Tokyo, we collaborated with illustrator and editorial designer Luis Mendo. Luis was the perfect person for the issue: he had already provided his personal vision of Tokyo in his “Tokyoites” drawings featured in our Communication issue; he had produced the Tokyo City Report, his “brief introduction to the city;” and he avidly draws every aspect of the city. As the guest editor of this issue, he invited twelve illustrators to join him in providing their vision of the city. Each of them has a different style and focus but, as a whole, they reveal Tokyo’s built environment, its culture, its people, and everything that makes it one of the most fascinating cities in the world. To accompany these drawings, nine other contributors share in words an aspect of their Tokyo.

Enjoy this very personal view of the city of Tokyo. Whether you were born or live there, you have visited the city once, or you just dream of going in the future, we hope this view surprises you, and you join us in our love for drawings, storytelling, and subjectivity.



Tokyo has had invaluable help from Lee Basford, Michelle Benoit, Andrew Browne, Andrew Clark, André Corrêa, Anselm Dästner, Christian Dimmer, Masaki Endoh, Ghosttthead, Hama-House, Adrian Hogan, Andrew Joyce, Taek Kim, Shu Kuge, Grace Lee, Chip Lord, Filipe Magalhães, Joey Meuross, Julie Michiels, Craig Mod, Nikki Minemura, neji_maki_dori, Yoshino Nihonyanagi, David Robert, Bud Rodecker, Terry Satomi, Jean Snow, Ana Luisa Soares, Mariya Suzuki, Tama-chan, and Rick Valicenti.

A special thank you goes to Luis Mendo without whom it would have been impossible to explore this fascinating city.


Iker Gil is an architect, urban designer, and director of MAS Studio. In addition, he is the editor in chief of MAS Context. He is the recipient of the 2010 Emerging Visions Award from the Chicago Architectural Club. | @MASContext

Drawing Tokyo



Short essay by Luis Mendo


I found my first Tokyo apartment by making an image search on Flickr. This Australian guy—the artist Richard Byers, who ended up becoming a great friend—had put up photos of his tiny place in Kagurazaka that would become my home during my three-month sabbatical. Following his advice, I navigated the streets with a book called Tokyo Atlas and a compass. A compass. Many friends would laugh at me, but in the pre-mobile internet times those two things helped me to find my house easily. Nowadays you just ask Google Maps and he will get you there without having to read one Kanji.



Richard’s (and my) view from the Kagurazaka apartment © Luis Mendo


One of my favorite things about Tokyo is that in many neighborhoods you will still find a hand-drawn map of the area, filled with names of shops, families, and buildings. Just to help people find things. The streets have no names, which is a given challenge for many. But once you learn how it works, you will probably find your way easier in this apparent maze. If not, look at the beautiful hand-drawn maps and enjoy.



Hand drawn Hiroo street map © Luis Mendo


There’s a huge difference between walking the streets, looking around, and actually stopping at places to draw them. My friend Adrian Hogan (who I met in Instagram) knows this, and he got me into drawing those places. If you draw something, you get the chance to actually see it and remember it forever. More than that. They will become part of your life. Not only the image will stick on your long-term memory, but also the sounds, the smells, the light, and the warmth of the sun (did you know that Tokyo has at least one sunny day in any given week of the year?).

Drawing will save you, it will teach you to appreciate and enjoy this enormous monster metropolis that you will never ever master, no matter how long you walk its streets. Any of the twelve cities (kus) that make Tokyo are much bigger than my hometown.

Drawing and Tokyo have been two constants in my life for the last five years. By drawing lines I learned to navigate the city, to make myself understood when someone doesn’t speak English, to make friends, and to enjoy life everyday. My next dream is to get more and more people to draw. Together with Adrian Hogan and Eiko Nagase we started a spin off of the PauseTalk meetups, called PauseDraw. We get together and just draw and have a good time.



PauseDraw session last December © Luis Mendo


When curating and designing this issue of the journal, I chose artists that see the city as a beautiful object that needed to be registered and needed to be frozen in time—but including their feelings and interpretation. I hope I have made the right choices and that you will also enjoy both Tokyo and drawing.


Luis Mendo is an editorial designer converted into an illustrator. He worked for twenty years in Spain and The Netherlands as a successful magazine and graphic designer until 2013, when he moved to Tokyo and started drawing on a regular basis, rediscovering the joy of the craft, and developing a career as an illustrator and artist along with his design work. |

And So You Come



Essay by Craig Mod


What right do I claim? None. No family, no blood ties, no citizenship. Friends, yes, but nothing legal. A visa, up for renewal yet again. Nothing binding. Nothing strict.

And so you come. You, too, who (probably) have no lay of claim to this city. Come eyes wide open, knowing nothing. Arrive at this place that will not accept you. You, The Other. Always, The Other. Always pushed to the outside, only an insider in being an outsider. Forever asked in broken English if you can speak the language, can use chopsticks, can eat sushi, forever asked where you come from, to which you eventually answer—having lived here over a decade—“Down the street,” and they laugh and say, “No, really, where do you come from?”

Disembark your plane at Narita, the airport that shouldn’t exist, the airport that suffered protests, the airport thrust into the countryside, the airport rice farmers attacked with bombs—bombs!—the airport in which one small rice paddy was left in the middle of the tarmac because one farmer simply wouldn’t sell his land. You hear this—this story of the tarmac rice paddy—about this airport so far from the city proper, and you believe it (why not?) because you can imagine far stranger things happening in this unknowable country about which you know so little.

Disembark and wipe the blear from your eyes. High-fives to immigration and customs. Board the Narita Express. Those dangerous paddies flit by your window as night descends. Eat onigiri from the cart lady. Drink green tea from the cart lady. Marvel at the punctiliousness of the cart lady. Jump off at Tokyo Station because, well, it sounds important, a critical station, the critical station, Tokyo station, forgetting that you were supposed to get off at a so-called “Shin . . . juku?” station, forgetting even that the train went to Shin . . . juku. Everything is a jumble and your brain is still over the Pacific, anyway, due to arrive in approximately three days. Get lost at Tokyo station and have a little old lady—speaking not a word of English, hair a blue puff, hunched four-foot-five, scarlet shirt—sense your concern, your lostness, you, The Other and take you by your nineteen-year-old hand and weave your way through the throngs of a rush hour metropolis, a life-in-bags, knocking young women in click-clack high heels, old men in dark suits, everyone tiny, foreign announcements trumpeting overhead, your octogenarian red dot bounding ever faster, arm outstretched behind her body, soft hand holding on with a strength that surprises. You knowing only “Shinjuku,” a word written on your itinerary and so you keep shouting it like you’re insane and she keeps nodding and yelling the unknowable back and you think that, heck, this is something, this is a way to fast forward through the labyrinth, to get to where you’re supposed to go with but an innocent smile and a single word.

Remember the first moments you leave the network of train stations. Rise up from the underground in a back suburb of Shibuya. Emphasis on the bu because you still can’t speak Japanese, don’t yet know how to properly intone. Look around. Everything—everything—new. Not a familiar sight or sound or smell. Remember the miniature trucks on the wrong side of the road. Remember so many cigarettes bobbing in the evening air. Signs all scribbles, standing on end. Bars and restaurants Jenga stacked. Remember the street lights, their beautiful octagonal prisms hanging in tight luminescent bunches. Remember the barber shops closing, languid sweeping, the rush and fall of pachinko parlor screams as their automatic doors opened and closed for addicts unseen, the small tobacco shop carved into the corner of a house, the noodle shop variants aside noodle shop permutations.

Remember how rough your palate—an American pallet built upon a simple childhood of fried bologna, Spaghetti-Os, Wendy’s cheeseburgers, Peppermint Patties, Snickers, Snapple, Fruit Roll-Ups—is upon arrival. How little you understand the food, you, The Other, the heathen, baptizing each piece of sushi in a lake of soy sauce, how you know not the difference between udon or soba, how you are afraid of tako-yaki, tako-anything, how the difference between hire and normal katsu is lost on your rube gullet, how eating oden—the floating “food” at 7-11 (a 7-11!) that smells of old feet—is unimaginable, natto unthinkable, how it’ll be years before you even meet tororo and years thereafter until you can slurp the white goo up, until you crave it, demand it with your grilled fish, the names now of which you know: the fleshy saba, hokke, sawara, the bone filled sanma. It takes years to strip down your crude gut, to re-train your body to crave these foreign flavors, flavors that become native, indigenous to your mouth and brain, a mouth and brain reconstructed to navigate the beautiful nuances of this less and less foreign land.

The more you visit the more you accrue—things, sure, but really, memories, or more specifically, nicks and cuts and dents and patches and weld marks of the heart, parts of which—a ventricle here, a valve there, your innocence, a first betrayal—are locked in the various drawers of this city, never to be returned. And so some place names become temporary land mines, others buoy the chest. Over time they normalize, mostly. Remember the summer on the seventh floor in a Nogata building most definitely not earthquake proof, daily rides on the Seibu Shinjuku line—a bastion of the bizarre, the down-and-out—capping the days with clove cigarettes smoked in underwear on the balcony looking out over a hushed city, street lamps burning down to the horizon. Remember Kagurazaka and the first geisha (of dozens? hundreds?) to flutter past the one-coin bar you spent too much time in as a student. Remember Waseda and Takadanobaba, the late night improv jazz performances at the smoke soaked Intro, fifty, sixty whiskey drunk musicians from twenty to eighty years old—the older the drunker—all jostling and vying for a turn on stage. The short stint on a friend’s floor in Nishi Kasai (why, oh why, was he living there?) with disproportionate populations of Indians and prostitutes smoking and soliciting at all hours—Curry! Massage!—just outside the station gates. Your time spent in a patch of nowhere land behind Omotesando, the books and (literal) marathons that started and ended in that tiny room of tatami mats. The other rooms, the other stations, the other cafes, the other restaurants, the other night walks, always on the outside, always looking in.

And so you come. You, The Other. Come to this city upon which you hold no claim, come with a blank mind, a beginner’s mind, knowing few things but really knowing nothing. It’s better that way. Don’t delude. Cherish these opening moments, unreturnable moments, sharp moments, moments seared into the supple mind of a new visitor, eager, excited, impressionable, the moments still clear to me fourteen years after touching down, after getting lost, after being squeezed by the hand and kindness of that tiny old lady, after emerging from the spaghetti of the underground up onto the edge of the twilight center of this Swiss clock of a city and taking, finally, those first steps within.


Craig Mod is a writer and designer interested in how the digital shifts in publishing, writing, and the reading of books is changing education and culture. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, CNN, New Scientist, Codex Journal, Contents Magazine, The Morning News,, and other publications. He splits his time between Tokyo and New York. | @craigmod

Anselm Dästner



Like a true journalist, but armed with paint and brushes, Anselm is able to bring us what is out there.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

AD: I grew up in Germany and stayed in New York after college. My second father was directing an opera in Tokyo once a year. I visited Tokyo frequently and was fascinated by the alternate universe of an Asian metropolis and dreamed of living there. A few years later I met my Japanese wife in New York and since then our family lives in both places.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

AD: As a kid I started sketching while traveling on vacations with my dad through Europe. He wanted to see every church and museum on the way and wrote and sketched in his notebook. Buildings and places were easy to draw because they didn’t walk away and you didn’t have to ask for permission.

MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?

AD: I am a graphic designer working on record covers, websites, and logos. I start collecting ideas and then sketch and draw them out before finalizing layouts on the computer. And I also paint for fun.

MC: What is it you tried to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?

AD: Drawing and painting are a good break after sitting too long in front of the computer. You can get hold of the atmosphere of a place and walk away with a tangible souvenir. At home my daughter and I like to bring out paints.

MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.

AD: They are all places that I walk by often—for example the Shimokitazawa station drawing is in front of the supermarket. I also like to have a place to sit comfortably for an hour. A cafe would be good, like in the Shibuya drawing.

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

AD: I like the small, bustling neighborhood markets and tiny isakayas. Even though tradition is important to the Japanese, progress and profit move faster and Shimokitazawa station is being turned into another generic mall. I also like the onsen bath culture a lot.

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

AD: Tadanori Yokoo of course. He is also a graphic designer and such an idol to me. I like how he portrays Japanese culture so brutally honest.

MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?

AD: I don’t remember not drawing, so I wouldn’t know how life would be without it.



© Anselm Dästner



Google view of our neighborhood in Sasazuka. © Anselm Dästner



Slim street corner near Takaido. © Anselm Dästner



The old Shimokitazawa station in front of Ozeki. © Anselm Dästner



Train crossing near Yoyogi Station. © Anselm Dästner



Shibuya Station. © Anselm Dästner


Anselm Dästner is a graphic designer, motion designer, and networker. He has lived and worked in the United States since 1991. His international achievements include the creation and design of promotions for New York’s greatest nightclubs, co-founding the monthly magazine “Flyer,” the creative direction of numerous cutting-edge album packages, title and menu design for a multitude of DVD and Blu-ray titles, and design and illustration for MTV Online, Criterion Collection and The New York Times.

Andrew Joyce



Andrew captures in his characteristic style both buildings and objects in a highly personal manner. His thick marker and clear lines are truly representative for both what he draws and how he is—a clear, honest fellow.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

AJ: I’m a UK illustrator living in Tokyo for the last three years. 

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

AJ: When I first visited Tokyo over ten years ago, I wasn’t an illustrator or even wanted to be one yet. I just drew things ever since I was a child and visiting a new place is always a great opportunity to draw. 

MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?

AJ: For me, it can sometimes be difficult to get the hobby of drawing back into everyday life. After a busy period at work I usually take a bit of a break. This brings time to think of new personal projects and collaborations. Recently I’ve been keeping sketchbooks where I do one drawing a day in. This way I can draw something for me everyday without taking up too much time. 

MC: What is it you tried to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?

AJ: Nothing in particular to be honest. If I see a view that catches my eye then I try to capture it. I like the busyness and shapes of the buildings in Tokyo, so I suppose I try to get that across in my drawings. 

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

AJ: Ueno interests me a lot actually. It’s an old part of Tokyo with lots of little alleyways and markets with tons of restaurants and local hangouts to discover. It was the place I stayed when I first came to Tokyo so it always reminds of that time in my life. Whenever Tokyo becomes a bit normal, I go there and remind myself how excited I was arriving on my own ten years ago. 

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

AJ: People like Kate Morross, Hennie Haworth, and Linzie Hunter are all illustration icons for me. All for slightly different reasons, but I like the lively and colorful nature of their work as well as the subjects they choose to illustrate. Recently, Fernand Léger’s Cirque has also been an inspiration.  

MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?

AJ: Well, it started as something I did everyday as an only child to pass the time and turned into something that become a career for me. It has also let me live in the city I love. I guess drawing has been, and will hopefully continue to be, one of the biggest factors of my life. 



Tokyo Tower is a landmark that has always fascinated me, and I always find myself drawing it in my spare time. © Andrew Joyce



Tokyo landscapes (for an exhibition): I’ve always enjoyed trying to capture the detail and busyness of Tokyo. I love filling the page building by building. © Andrew Joyce



Tasu Ichi, a bar in Tokyo that my friends and I would meet in. Cheap beer, dodgy food and always cramped but I have good memories of that place.. © Andrew Joyce



I like drawing individual things and building up a collection, which I sometimes turn into zines or use for exhibitions. Every now and then people pay me to do it! © Andrew Joyce



Illustrations for TO Magazine in Japan. Each issue focuses on one ward in Tokyo. This issue was for Meguro ward. © Andrew Joyce



Tokyo is built up of so many areas with their own personality and landmarks. Sometimes I like to capture this by drawing mini-maps as a guide. © Andrew Joyce



I was contacted by a lady last year asking me to draw her favorite parts of Tokyo as she was moving abroad for her job. It was a perfect excuse to draw Tokyo. © Andrew Joyce


Andrew Joyce is a UK illustrator specializing in cityscapes, hand-drawn lettering, and observational illustration. He lives in Tokyo with his family. | | @doodlesandstuff




Alex came to Tokyo for one of his work visits. He joined us one day to draw the city and we thought he couldn’t be left out of this issue. Of course you don’t need to live in the city in order to draw it, and he did a great job in capturing the essence of it.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

G: I travel more or less once a year to Tokyo for work. I always try to stay a couple of days to enjoy the city. I love Tokyo. I think it’s one of my favorite places in the world. I hope I can one day live in Japan for a few years.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

G: I always have a sketchbook with me and Tokyo has a lot of things to draw. Since the first time I came, I naturally started to draw the city.

MC: Do you draw professionally?

G: I work as a fashion/graphic designer, so I don’t draw a lot at work. Most of the time, I draw on the bus, at a coffee table, or late night at home. The fact that I use a computer eight hours per day makes me flee away the screens, so most of my drawings are 100% made on paper.

MC: Are there any recurring subjects in your Tokyo drawings?

G: I like the small streets, the details of the walls. Drawing the cable lines is a cliché, but it’s really relaxing to draw them. I also like to draw the vending machines. They are full of secrets.

MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.

G: I moved to another hotel placed in a more residential area near Shibuya. I lost myself in the small streets and started to draw what I was seeing every day.

MC: Do you have any other special places in Tokyo?

G: I like to go to eat fish in the restaurant Kaikaya. And I like to cross the Yoyogi Park. But I still have a lot of places to discover.

MC: Do you have any references for your work or anyone whose work you particularly admire?

G: I’m really a drawing enthusiast so I like a lot of artists. I will say the first three names that pop in my head: Matthew Houston, Helge Reumann, and Blutch.

MC: Why is drawing important for you?

G: Drawing is the best way to kill the time I have. 



© Ghosttthead


Once upon a time there were gods only, and no mortal creatures. But when the time came that these also should be created, the gods fashioned one out of instant ramen and Marlboro’s ashes: ghosttthead. |

Andrew Browne



Andrew’s technique and the media he uses are very much like Tokyo: a mix between old and new. Pixels and ink. The neon in the streets and fast youth culture blend naturally with the old Asakusa temples and narrow streets at night.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

AB: I have been living in Tokyo for three and a half years. I moved to Tokyo right after graduating from university in the US. Previous experience living in Japan and my interests in Japanese printmaking and film made me want to experience living in Tokyo.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

AB: I became fascinated by Tokyo toward the end of high school when I was lucky enough to see some lithographs of the city by Hisaharu Motoda. While studying in Hiroshima in 2010, I would occasionally visit Tokyo. That’s when I started drawing the city, though I really got going once I moved to Tokyo in the summer of 2011.
I started drawing Tokyo partly because of those Motoda prints, and partly just because I was so inspired by everything—all the people and places I saw. So many things in Tokyo spoke to me, and I needed to get those ideas down on paper.

MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?

AB: I previously worked in web design here in Tokyo and would use drawing whenever possible—drawing icons by hand and that sort of thing. Now I illustrate full-time, drawing for gallery shows, etc.

MC: What is it you try to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?

AB: My character pieces are from a series I did for a Fall 2014 exhibition that discussed images (and what I think are often misconceptions) of what Tokyo is to many foreigners. I wanted to share those ideas with a Japanese audience.

My nightscapes are a bit different. With these, I try to create a sense of quiet and isolation. Sometimes this is just to convey the awe I feel when considering Tokyo. Other times it’s more of a comment on the emotional isolation that Tokyo can create, or reversely to bring attention to just how many people really are in Tokyo. All of these ideas are interesting to me.

MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.

AB: The character pieces included here feature Kabuki-za and a pachinko parlor, two very different forms of entertainment that both seem to go unnoticed by so many people in Tokyo. They seem so normal that I wanted to bring attention to them using my kabuki characters.

My monochrome nightscape images are based on shitamachi streets in the Asakusa neighborhood, as well as old gates around Tokyo. These areas are a great contrast when compared to brighter and more well-known areas like Shibuya, Ginza, etc.

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

AB: My favorite place in Tokyo, for several reasons, is the Asakusa neighborhood. For one, I like seeing the different levels of history there, from the Edo period to postwar Japan to the economic bubble of the 1980s, all mixed together with contemporary Japan. Though beautiful, if you leave Senso-ji behind and walk through smaller streets, you start to see the shitamachi streets and the people living there that really give the area character.

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

AB: Jamie Hewlett and Katsuhiro Otomo have both had a big influence on my work. Films by Akira Kurosawa, particularly Yojimbo, as well as prints by Motoda have also inspired and influenced me.

MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?

AB: I do not know if it has changed my life, but drawing has always been present when I’m the happiest. All I want to do is create. And though I may be happy creating, I am never completely content with my work, and that keeps pushing me to work harder. In that sense, drawing has given me direction and drive.













© Andrew Browne


Andrew Browne, a.k.a. Monomizer, is an American designer and illustrator based in Tokyo and Minneapolis. | | @monomizerart

David Robert



David’s sharp eye observes the Tokyoites and makes a universe with them. The sleepy people in the trains (yes, many people uses their commute in Tokyo as a nap time) serve him well to create a parallel universe where travelers dream of cute characters.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

DR: I have lived in Tokyo for a year and half. My first visit was in 2008. I came from France to work as an art director, and now I am living a pleasant and enjoyable life here.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

DR: I guess every drawer starts to draw Tokyo even before coming there. I drew Tokyo in my mind and on the margins of my high school books. I mean, as a French kid I knew about Japan through manga comics, so Tokyo was already in my mind somehow. Then, in 2008 when I first came here, I started to draw the city, especially buildings and temples, as trip souvenirs. 

MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?

DR: My regular job is an art director and graphic designer, but surprisingly I never had the chance to combine my graphic design work and my illustration work. It’s like a second person. The things I like in graphic design are not really close to my illustration style, so it’s okay. So far I am okay not merging them.

MC: What is it you tried to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?

DR: It’s a good way to collect memories and stories other than thousands of photographs made with your telephone. My main problem is that I need a purpose to start drawings. I cannot just draw something. It’s not natural for me to pick up my sketchbook and draw the first thing that I pass by. I need to have a framework or a silly idea to start with.

MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.

DR: For this series, the silly idea was simple. Japanese people always sleep on the train, which is great for the drawer. It’s the perfect combination. Drawing on the train is a good way to spend your time and there is always somebody who does not move. I also noticed that there was always one of those cute characters that the Japanese used for commercials or signage. Then the sentence inspired by Phillip K. Dick popped up in my head: “Do Japaneses Dream of Kawaii Sheep?” If the last thing you see before falling asleep is a cute little penguin with a rolling suitcase, are you going to dream of a suitcase or a penguin?

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

DR: My favorite place in Tokyo is based in the Hikarie building in Shibuya. On the 8th floor there is a nice gallery and concept called D Department project. Every exhibition focuses on one prefecture of Japan and presents a selection of shops, objects, restaurants, festivities, or people.  It is a great way to find inspiration and great still objects to draw.

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

DR: My main reference is the comic book artist Daniel Clowes and all the underground comics culture from the US, Europe, and of course Japan.

MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?

DR: Somehow drawing led me to Tokyo because of the love for the stroke, the line, or the trace—whatever you call it. I really think this city and Japan is the most graphic and the most inspiring country for stroke lovers.























© David Robert


David Robert is a French-born artist based in Tokyo. He came to Japan to buy some special pens for his illustration work, and ended up staying permanently. Working as a designer in the advertising industry, he considers making the jump to dedicating himself purely to illustration. | |

Terry Satomi



Terry’s drawings of people at Starbucks are as important as her comments on them. She’s a Starbucks anthropologist.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

TS: I was born and raised in Tokyo. I’ve been in Saitama and Kyoto, and I have lived for twenty-one years in Tokyo.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city? 

TS: I have been drawing people while commuting on the train, starting a year ago. I like people’s faces. People who are sleeping, operating a smartphone and are frustrated, or people doing their makeup in public. I am drawing the problems of a contemporary person.

MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?

TS: I don’t. It has not yet led to work.

MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.

TS: I drew on the train and at the Shibuya Starbucks. On the train I can observe people’s faces from the front and the gestures of people. At Starbucks there are a lot of people of varying age, sex, and nationality.

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

TS: My favorite place is the station square bench in Jiyugaoka. There are beautiful cherry trees in the spring. I will go out there with a water bottle on a warm day. I like to take my time to watch the families, couples, high school girls, mothers, and dogs.

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

TS: I like Katsuki Tanaka. He is a cartoonist, an art director, and a writer. His appeal is his importance of living plainly over making humorous manga. I respect his artwork.

MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?

TS: I have an instinctive feeling for what I see when drawing. I had never thought deeply about “What do I see,” “How do I feel if,” ”Why did I feel so.” I noticed that I was watching invisible things unconsciously. I became able to reconsider my value objectively, so it seems that I taught to myself to draw.



Train / A man about 50 years old / With his wife / He is interested in the woman on the opposite side of his wife / He sometimes can be effeminate. © Terry Satomi



Train / Woman / College student / Very silky hair / Brown hair / Awfully sleepy / The public’s attention is focused on her. © Terry Satomi



Train / Woman / Alone / Sniffs / Her sniffle echoes throughout the train / She calls in the train / The heels of her dirty pumps are badly damaged. © Terry Satomi



Train / An elderly man / Lily white skin / Seems to be dead / His lips sometimes have convulsions. © Terry Satomi



Train / Man / Office worker / With a man who is his colleague / He keeps a forced smile when they don’ t talk / He laughs exaggeratedly. © Terry Satomi



Train / A man about 30 years old / Alone / He is reading a manga of geek / He is grinning under the mask / Sometimes laughs out loud. © Terry Satomi



Train / A woman about 20 years old / Alone / The moisture of her lips is beyond a degree / White chiffon skirt / Her legs are open but covered with an umbrella. © Terry Satomi



Shibuya station square / A plain man in his early 20s / He sings while playing the guitar sitting on the street / There are no audiences / A woman, who probably is his mother, takes photographs. © Terry Satomi



Shibuya station square / A homeless man / A cigarette in his left chest pocket / He hunts in the trash / He is drinking a Starbucks drink from the trash © Terry Satomi



Starbucks Coffee / Shibuya Tsutaya / Girl in junior high school / With a girlfriend / Both operate their smartphones / She hold her sides with laughter. © Terry Satomi



Shibuya Tsutaya / A man about 30 years old / Alone / He is waiting for a turn in the photography session / He wears a T-shirt with a photograph of a high school girl in a uniform printed on it. © Terry Satomi



Starbucks Coffee / Shibuya Tsutaya / Girl in junior high school / With a girlfriend / Both operate their smartphones / She hold her sides with laughter. © Terry Satomi


Terry Satomi is an illustrator from Tokyo. She is a graduate of the Department of Graphic Design from the Tama Art University.

Grace Lee



When others use their sketchbooks to record people or buildings, Grace uses them as a color collection reference. She uses her color picker on the city with extreme accuracy and care.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

GL: During my first trip to Tokyo in 2007, I knew I wanted to come back for a longer period of time. At the end of 2009 I decided to do a working holiday in Japan with the intention of staying six months to a year. Five years on, I’m still here. It has become my home in a way.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

GL: Prior to moving to Tokyo, I worked as an editorial designer for an interiors magazine in Australia. Making the switch from design to illustration meant that I needed to build up a portfolio of work. I struggled at the beginning with drawing from imagination. Sometimes I still do. I started drawing packaging and daily objects and signage—I love Japanese typography. Eventually, as my confidence and skills increased, I moved onto buildings and people. This natural progression happened from trying to capture what I saw, but being able to do it with a photograph, I found that I could translate what I saw much more naturally.

MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?

GL: I’ve been working as an illustrator for about two years. I’m still learning and still can’t believe sometimes that I can do this for work. About a year ago I met up with my illustrator friend, Luis Mendo. He told me about his sketchbooks and asked me about my drawings. It was then I realized that I didn’t draw for myself. I didn’t have a love of drawing and had no desire to draw on my days off. Luis invited me to a few drawing nights with other illustrators and I began to start enjoying drawing for fun. I think joining Instagram helped too. Sharing work and being inspired by other illustrators and their love for drawing helped me immensely.

MC: What is it you tried to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?

GL: I try to capture what I can’t do in photographs. Drawings help me highlight the parts I find interesting, for example, a pattern, the way a person is standing or the way a shopfront looks on its own. Basically, I have terrible photography skills and when I want to share what I see, I prefer to do it with drawing.

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

GL: My favorite place is the nature path behind my house. It runs from Daizawa to Ikejiri Ohashi. It’s a great place for a walk, run, and for a bit of people watching.

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

GL: I’ve become a huge fan of the ladies of Instagram: Leah Goren, Julia Rothman, and Lauren Tamaki. I love the looseness in their work and the colors they use. Their fashion drawings in particular take a life of their own. I love how they draw pieces that exist but somehow make them their own.

MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?

GL: Absolutely. It has been a constant in my life, especially my Japan life. I wouldn’t say I’m at the stage of doing it religiously or everyday. Sometimes I do get sick of my own work and drawing in general, but I find I eventually can’t help but want to do a drawing just fun. Working as an illustrator also makes sure drawing is always in my life. I’m lucky, to say the least, that I’ve had and still have many opportunities to do this.



© Grace Lee


Grace Lee is a freelance illustrator from Sydney, Australia. She is currently based in Tokyo, Japan. Her work includes illustrations for Isetan, Beams, as well as Figaro, FRaU, Numero, The Ritz-Carlton and Red magazines. Prior to moving to Tokyo, she was editorial designer at Inside Out magazine. |




“I draw, all the time, wherever the place.” This honest declaration of principles honors the man who is constantly drawing others. He sometimes invents part of the scene, creating a funny moment or accentuating what is already there.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

HH: About eighteen years ago, I got a job in Tokyo and moved from Kanazawa to where I live now.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

HH: I was an art student at university, and now my job is to draw illustrations because to draw my surroundings every time is the course of nature.

MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?

HH: To draw sketches is my daily warm‐up exercise for my job.

MC: What is it you tried to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?

HH: Basically, it is only practice for me.

MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.

HH: No reason, anytime, anywhere.

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

HH: Sekaido in Shinjuku. You can see many kinds of stationary. It is the best in Japan.

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

HH: Very many. I especially love comic artists. For example (to limit the list to those outside Japan) Moebius, Mike Mignola, Nicolas de Crecy, Enki Vilal, Alex Ross, Frederic Boilet, Emmanuel Guibert, Paco Roca, Bastien Vives, and Marjane Satrapi.

MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?

HH: Drawing is my job, and my life. I can’t explain it.



© Hama-House


Hama-House is an illustrator based in Tokyo. His job is to draw illustrations for magazines, books, websites, and TV. Speed sketching is his pastime and a way of practicing. | | @hamahouse

Joey Meuross



Joey works with pixels and 3D programs to recreate a feeling of being in a place. This is Tokyo as seen through the mind of an artist and served in a magic mosaic of small squares of light.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

JM: I come from England. I first went to Tokyo in 2008. I studied there. Since then I’ve returned many times. There is a special atmosphere in Tokyo, especially at nighttime. There is something beautiful about the lights. I now live in Gunma, about one hour away from Tokyo. I’ve been here for six months.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

JM: I started making artworks and animations about Tokyo in 2008. I just wanted to capture the atmosphere and the mood. When I was home in England, I would return to the artworks to remind myself of my time in Tokyo.

MC: Do you draw professionally? If not, how do you combine drawing with your work?

JM: The artworks here are created using a combination of 3D modeling, photography, and image manipulation software. I have always been involved in some sort of artistic media, but I’ve never settled on one specific style. When I was in Tokyo, this is the method I was using.

MC: What is it you try/tried to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?

JM: My pixelated style relates back to ‘90s video games I played as a child. That visual style is very nostalgic for me. When I create artwork in this style, it’s like I’m trying to capture and preserve a special moment or feeling. So I suppose these artworks of Tokyo relate to that. I don’t want to forget my times in Tokyo; I want to remember them in a warm, nostalgic way.

MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.

JM: I chose Shibuya because walking out of Shibuya station and seeing the crossing for the first time was an unforgettable moment. I chose the Japanese convenience store because when I first arrived in Japan I was jet lagged and often visited the same convenience store at 4am, tired and lonely.

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

JM: I like the old streets in Asakusa, especially at nighttime. There’s a warm light, and the narrow streets are lined with happy people eating and drinking. I also like the masses of electricity wires overhead, when I see them I really feel like I’m in Japan.

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

JM: The strongest references for me stylistically are the 32-bit graphics of early ‘90s video games. I also love the work of David Lynch.

MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?

JM: I’ve always drawn, so it’s a difficult question. But my life would be very different if I didn’t have the ability to draw and be creative. I would be a very different person.



Shibuya was the first area of Tokyo I visited. I remember that moment, walking out of the station and seeing the famous Shibuya crossing, surrounded by the tall, futuristic buildings. It was a special moment for me, as I’d always dreamed of visiting there. Remembering that moment, I made this 3D scene of Shibuya crossing. © Joey Meuross



The first time I visited Japan was for a six-month study abroad trip. For my first few weeks I was a bit homesick and jet lagged, so at around 3am every night I’d aimlessly wander around the local convenience store marveling at all the interesting things. I made a digital 3D model of the convenience store and animated it in an attempt to re-capture the mood of those lonely nights. Here are two frames from the animation. © Joey Meuross




Joey Meuross is a game designer and digital artist based in the UK. He has worked professionally as a user-interface designer at a software development company alongside programmers, producing well-crafted interfaces for digital catalogues. His interest in Japanese culture grew largely from his love of computer games. | @joeymeuross

Shu Kuge



Shu is the Paul Auster of manga. With his deep knowledge of literature, he charges his comics with a sometimes sad and often funny look into city life.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

SK: I grew up in Tokyo and left here for the US in 1990. I loathed Tokyo during the Bubble. I began missing Tokyo around 2003, largely because I had a lot of opportunities to talk about the history of Tokyo in my college lectures. Also, I rediscovered Ozu’s movies (interestingly, through Wim Wenders); his movies ignited my love for Tokyo. My partner Jared Braiterman, a design anthropologist, and I moved to the city in 2008. 

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

SK: Actually, when I draw, I make the environment look anonymous and fictional. It may resemble Tokyo or San Francisco though. For this assignment, I had to make the cityscape recognizable as Tokyo, and at first, I thought, “What a pain.” I was in San Francisco when I got this assignment, and that added another pressure. But luckily, my partner Jared Braiterman is also a photographer and has documented his life in Tokyo for nearly six years ( Without his photos, I could not have finished this piece. 

MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?

SK: Currently, I am preparing a series of small drawings and woodcut prints for self-publishing. I love drawing plants, so every plate contains a lot of them. Each drawing is a dream-like garden, where everything is connected, fluid.  

MC: What is it you tried to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?

SK: I wanted to magnify the beauty of this city. This is my way of thanking the city. Werner Herzog once said Tokyo was deprived of any beauty, but he was wrong. This city has its own beauty that no other cities can offer. Also, this piece is dedicated to Jared, who has created this beautiful balcony garden. 

MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.

SK: This balcony is our Tokyo apartment. A little street with shops on the second page is Shin Koenji, where Coffee Amp is located. I go there everyday to draw and read. 

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

SK: Nakano Broadway, an oddly inspiring space. 

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

SK: I admire David Hockney and Jean “Moebius” Giraud. Also, old religious illustrations and antique botanical illustrations inspire me. 

MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?

SK: Drawing allows me to connect seemingly unrelated things. For example, I draw cats and paper planes on the same surface, and they are instantly connected. Literally, drawing can cut across time and space. This just amazes me.



© Shu Kuge


Shu Kuge is an artist who was born in Tokyo. After having worked at a post office for five years, he moved to the US in 1990. He has lived in NYC, Santa Barbara, Berkeley, State College, and since 2008, he and his partner have been dividing their time between Tokyo and San Francisco. From 2003 to 2007 he taught Comparative Literature at Penn State. Currently, Shu is making woodcut prints for self-publishing. Many images are inspired by Tokyo and San Francisco. | @skugecomics

Mariya Suzuki



Mariya’s innocent but critical view of her surroundings makes Tokyo look Mariya-like. All the things we know are there start to take life within the Mariya rules. Her delicate line and play with open spaces in the page make her drawings truly magical.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

MS: I moved to Tokyo in September 2014. I had visited the city a few times before, spending about a week each time.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

MS: When I used to visit friends here, I would always be amazed and overwhelmed by the ever-continuing stream of people and the forest of buildings. I like to draw complicated things, so they naturally inspired me to draw.

MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?

MS: In addition to cityscapes and people in general, I draw a lot of musicians. I illustrate flyers and books for musicians and concert venues.

MC: What is it you tried to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?

MS: Tokyo seems like a pretty crazy place, but there are also a lot of small, old streets that are very interesting. They somehow make me nostalgic. I like to draw places like that because it almost makes me feel like I become part of them.

MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.

MS: I tend to be attracted to things in repetition when it comes to choosing subject matter. So, I drew a crowd of buildings overlooked from the Mori Art Museum and from the government office in Shinjuku, and a crowd of people in Roppongi. I also drew my room and my friends hanging out in the neighborhood. I see them as footprints/snapshots of my life.

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

MS: My favorite place in Tokyo is Heiwa Shotengai near my apartment. It’s an old, rather quiet shotengai (commercial street). I like how the air it produces makes me feel like I belong there, even though I’ve never lived there before.

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

MS: I’ve always liked the beautiful work of Akira Uno. I also admire Trey Bryan’s work, who is a contemporary artist and my friend.

MC: Did drawing change your life and if it did can you explain us in what way?

MS: Drawing has always been part of my life, so I don’t feel like it changed my life . . . at least it hasn’t yet.



© Mariya Suzuki


Mariya Suzuki is a Japanese illustrator. She received her BFA in Illustration at California State University of Long Beach. After living in her hometown Nara, she decided to move to Tokyo in 2014. Now you can find her drawing in many cafes, at events, and in music venues. |

Luis Mendo



Luis uses drawing as a therapy. His lines are as imperfect and clunky as he feels at that moment. He lets them go and flow and accepts them as they are. The looser the better. He lacks the technique and knowledge of the craft, but compensates by loading his drawings with as much warmth and feeling as he can.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

LM: I came here in 2009 for the first time on a three month sabbatical treat. I completely fell in love with the city and kept coming back a couple of times a year for a while. In the summer of 2013 I finally came to live here for a year and decided to stay indefinitely.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

LM: During my sabbatical I kept a drawn diary (a comic actually) about what I encountered and learnt while in Tokyo. Once back at my home in Amsterdam, a designer friend saw the diary and asked me to make illustrations for his magazine. That was the start of my career switch from designer to illustrator.

MC: Do you draw professionally?

LM: I think I work now as an illustrator for 80% of my clients. But even when they ask me to design a logo, I will include some drawing in it, in one way or the other. I don’t see a clear division between drawing and designing really. In my work they intertwine with one another.

MC: Are there any recurring subjects in your Tokyo drawings?

LM: Probably people, because they are the easiest to draw, specially in the train or in bars/restaurants. I occasionally do drawings of cars, houses, or things. Tokyo is full of motives to draw!

MC: Do you have any special places in Tokyo?

LM: Tons of them. From the beautiful parks like Happoen to the izakayas and the narrow backstreets. I love Kagurazaka, but also Yanaka and most of Shibuya but really, even jumping in any train and get comfy, it will give you a great inspiration source to draw.

MC: Do you have any references for your work or anyone you particularly admire?

LM: Many, of course. From the loos style of French comic author Joann Sfar to the wonderful journalistic approach by Robert Weaver. The colors of Dong Kingman and the talent of Adrian Hogan.

MC: Why is drawing important for you?

LM: Drawing changed my life in many ways. There was a time when I hated my drawings for not being good. One day I realized I wasn’t accepting myself and if I wanted to become a happy person, I must first accept my drawings as they are part of me. You can say drawing is for me a therapy. It helps me accept what I am.

Drawing gives you the time to concentrate on something while thinking on something else. It combines feeling and representation. It flows and it also speaks volumes, drawing is what we all could do before we could write or even walk, but we’ve unlearned to do it. Unfortunately, people tend to think drawing well means to be able to represent real objects well. I think drawing well means to put on paper that which is flying around in your heart.



Sketchbook page with some train views and a Ginza restaurant comment. © Luis Mendo



Omotesando crossing. © Luis Mendo



View of the temple in front of our house. © Luis Mendo



Waiting for a friend, I drew vehicles passing in front of the window. © Luis Mendo



A girl in the train, using an iPhone with a smashed screen. I suffered for her fingertips. © Luis Mendo



Train commuters. © Luis Mendo



Shibuya from the Freeman Cafe. © Luis Mendo



Waiting for Kagari. © Luis Mendo



Retailing excels in Tokyo. © Luis Mendo



Writing New Year thoughts with old style brushes and ink. © Luis Mendo



© Luis Mendo



Izakaya guests. © Luis Mendo



Teahouse with tatami floor and Japanese garden. © Luis Mendo



Old telephone cell (there are still several standing around the city) in a windy evening. © Luis Mendo


Luis Mendo is an editorial designer converted into an illustrator. He worked for twenty years in Spain and The Netherlands as a successful magazine and graphic designer until 2013, when he moved to Tokyo and started drawing on a regular basis, rediscovering the joy of the craft, and developing a career as an illustrator and artist along with his design work. | | @luismendo

Adrian Hogan



Adrian Hogan has walked the streets of Tokyo for more than a year now. Everyday he sharpens his eye and pencils to record places, people, and objects that catch his attention. He publishes most of those glimpses in his Instagram feed, @adehogan.


MC: What is your relationship to Tokyo?

AC: I have been based in Tokyo since 2013. I lived in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture for a year in 2009 but have always wanted to work in Tokyo as it is the center of the illustration industry in Japan. It is also a melting pot for the creative community in Japan, drawing some of the most talented designers and artists from around the world together.

MC: When and why did you start drawing the city?

AH: I began drawing almost as soon as I was off the airplane from Australia. Drawing always helps me maintain my creativity and makes me aware of what is going on around me and attune to small details. The energy of Tokyo itself, the millions of people who live here, good food, and culture always inspires me to pay attention and think about how to capture the things I see around me in visual form.
Tokyo is visually different from Australia and the flatness of the city was disorientating at first. During my first few weeks in the city, I would go to the top floor of many office buildings to draw the landscape around me to learn the layout of the city.

MC: How do you combine drawing with your work?

AH: I work as an illustrator so drawing is essential to my everyday practice. Most of my professional work is finished digitally but I always start by drawing with pen or pencil on paper.
Drawing is such an expansive topic and there are so many approaches, techniques, methods, and thought processes for one to navigate and explore or even completely disregard and do in your own way. It’s a never-ending journey.

MC: What is it you try to achieve with your drawings of Tokyo?

AH: I strive to capture my impression and record people, objects, and memories. I tend not to take many photos so this forces me to make sure the drawing communicates what I felt or saw. By posting some of these drawings on my website and Instagram, I hope that I can highlight moments of everyday life in a personal way that would otherwise be overlooked by people.

MC: Tell us about the place that you have selected.

AH: These drawings are of different residential and shop fronts in my local area. Tokyo has an image of being a very glamorous and glitzy city but I have always been attracted to the older, run down parts of the city. I also now enjoy the flatness of the buildings and the lack of depth and perspective in the streets. My approach to drawing is very influenced by western methods so it is an interesting challenge to apply them to a different environment.

MC: What’s your favorite Tokyo place?

AH: I enjoy walking along the Meguro River between Nakameguro Station and my office in Aobadai. The river is lined with trees and in the summer, you can often see curtains of light pouring through the leaves. In the spring, the cherry blossom turns into full bloom and creates a beautiful, surreal atmosphere.

MC: Who is a reference for your work or is there someone whose work you particularly admire?

AH: One of the best parts about living in Japan is discovering new artists. My favorites at the moment are Settai Komura, Shohei Morimoto, and Makoto Wada. When I began to draw everyday, I was particularly inspired by the prolific output of work by Katsuya Terada. He has a book called Rakugaking that contains 1000 of his sketchbook pages. That book gave me a visible example of the amount of work that one needs to do to improve. Drawing, like any discipline, requires constant practice to maintain and improve your skill level.

MC: Did drawing change your life?

AH: Drawing in public here in Japan has led to some fantastic experiences. I’ve learned that sometimes, just by blindly doing the thing you love and then sharing it with others, the opportunities you want will present themselves to you. A lot of my work in Tokyo initially came to me just by drawing the right people at the right time.For example, one day I was at Shibuya train station and drew a woman standing on the platform, when I got on the train she appeared beside me and asked to see it. We exchanged business cards, and I learned that she was the director of PR at a popular clothing brand here. Eventually I was commissioned to draw portraits of customers at their head boutique store in Aoyama during Vogue’s Fashion Night Out event in 2014. I have also met some of my closest friends in Japan while drawing and being able to meet and share our passion has encouraged me to keep going.



© Adrian Hogan


Okura’s Soul

This September another architectural landmark will be lost. The main building of Tokyo’s iconic 1960s Hotel Okura will be torn down and rebuilt as a bigger and taller hotel. Built in 1962, two years ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, the Hotel Okura has remained unchanged, maintaining intact its modern, clean, and elegant design. Designed by architects Yoshiro Taniguchi and Hideo Kosaka along with folk artist Shiko Munakata and potter Kenkichi Tomimoto, it is a masterpiece impossible to replicate. Adrian Hogan visited it with his sketchbook to capture the place’s soul before it gets demolished.



Hotel Okura, Tokyo, 2014 © Adrian Hogan


Adrian Hogan has been drawing and illustrating professionally for clients around the world since 2009. His style range is wide and serves different client needs. Drawing is his life and he often does it while walking. He has been based in Tokyo since 2013. | | @adehogan

Place-making in Kōenji
(Re)Invented Spaces and Traditions


Awa Dance festival, 2003 © Christian Dimmer


Short essay by Christian Dimmer


Located west of the Shinjuku subcenter, along Tokyo’s central Chuō line, Kōenji is a place that seems to reinvent itself constantly. A cluster of residential houses and a large variety of vintage and book shops appear to be result of autocatalytic place-becoming processes rather than conscious place-making. Even the neighborhood’s biggest attraction, the yearly Awa Dance festival seems to be rooted in age-old traditions, not mundane politics of place.

Every year, during last weekend of August, hundreds of thousand of spectators squeeze through the narrow streets and alleys of Kōenji. The area is drenched in an intense atmosphere, created by nearly two hundred groups frantically performing the Awa Dance in endless processions, the rhythmic sounds of the percussion instruments and flutes, and the smell of festival snacks.

The crowding is most intense where the dance groups press through the eight meter-narrow PAL shopping street; with the sound and the tension of the masses caught between the facades of some hundred stores, underneath a two hundred fifty meter-long glass arcade.

Indeed, here one gets a sense of how dramatic traditional public spectacles like the famous massive fireworks and the cherry blossom viewing, or huge shrine festivals must have felt in Edo, as Tokyo was called in pre-modern times.

But what appears as legacy of vernacular folk culture is not old at all and is, however, the result of careful branding efforts: though inspired by a sixteenth-century dance from the distant island of Shikoku, the festival debuted only in the summer of 1957. It was conceived as a conscious response by young local shopkeepers, who felt challenged by the new summer festival of a neighboring shopping street that was attracting visitor crowds. In the absence of a central festival square, conventional event formats could not take place and, therefore, the place-makers embraced the Awa Dance, as it proceeds in long lines, able to fit the narrow streets.

Moreover, Japan’s seemingly archetypical shopping street, or Shotengai—central scene of the spectacle—is another place-making invention. Only in the early twentieth century Japan’s Shotengais emerged as a joint response of small shopkeepers to compete with the dawning department store shopping culture and to create safe and controlled retail environments in the rapidly industrializing, sprawling metropolis. In their sophisticated organizational structure and management, Shotengais are an early forerunner of today’s business improvement districts.

A proliferation of suburban shopping malls and ubiquitous convenience stores, along with a greying of Japan’s society, has caused a decline of these shopping streets, with shutters pulled down for good, or individual mom-and-pop stores replaced by chain stores. Kōenji is no exception.

As a reaction, a new generation of young shopkeepers have banded together and since 2011 host the much humbler Koenji Festival—a small, decentralized art, food, and performance festival, much more in tune with a new post-growth zeitgeist. The decline of established shops has also opened up new inexpensive opportunities for young socially engaged entrepreneurs, who are now experimenting with alternative economic models and community outreach projects.

It is not clear if these new place-making efforts will be sufficient to turn the tide, but they do show that the fine-grained Japanese city is versatile enough to adapt to new challenges.


Christian Dimmer PhD is assistant professor for urban design at the University of Tokyo. As an adjunct professor for urban studies he also teaches courses in Sustainable Urbanism, Planning Theory, Theories of Public Space, and Global Urbanism at Waseda University and Sophia University. Christian is a partner of the architectural practice Frontoffice Tokyo and co-founder of the civil society organization Tohoku Planning Forum that is mapping emergent social innovations and new urban commons. | | @cityrenaissance@remmid@publicspacelab

Sheibu Ad Campaign


Seibu Ad Campaign, Tokyo, 1991 © Chip Lord


Short essay by Chip Lord


In 1991 I lived in Tokyo for six months on a US – Japan Friendship Fellowship. At the time, Japan had a booming economy and the bubble had not yet burst. US companies were sending their executives over to study the “Japanese way.” I lived in a neighborhood two stops outside the metro loop and my transfer station was Ikebukuro. There, above the subway station, was a Seibu Department Store. In early 1991 they mounted an ad campaign, “The Fashion Zone,” to announce that fashion had come to Ikebukuro, an apparently bland neighborhood. The ad featured a western model, probably European, but possibly American, who was wearing a chic business suit. There was a TV spot which showed her strolling into an architectural model of the public space in front of the Seibu store, and she stood about nine stories tall in relation to the façade of Seibu. Godzilla seemed to be the primary reference, though her walk was definitely from the runway. On the actual façade of Seibu was posted a close-up shot of her face, about fifty feet tall, so that she stared out at passersby, a haute couture version of Big Brother. The campaign continued in the subway below Seibu, where a poster version showed a video still image. No one could miss this Fashion Zone statement.
I had a friend in Tokyo who was able to arrange a meeting with the creative director of the ad agency that had produced this campaign. It turned out to be a “lost in translation” meeting. He didn’t understand why I was interested to see the architectural model, and besides it was in storage and not available. And he couldn’t explain the creative source of this image or why a western model was chosen as the face of fashion. When I returned to the US, I built my own version of the architectural model, as an interactive video installation that viewers could enter and experience themselves at the size of Godzilla. This piece was shown at the Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco in 1992 and also at the New Museum, New York later that same year.


Chip Lord was trained as an architect and was a founding member of the experimental art and architecture collective Ant Farm (1968-1978). Following his involvement with Ant Farm, Lord continued to work in video and produced single channel tapes and installations, often collaborating with other artists. Lord has taught at the University of California, San Diego and the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he is Professor Emeritus in Film & Digital Media. |

I am a Japanese Urban Explorer (haikyo) Living in Tokyo


Seikaryo dormitory, Tokyo, 2013 © neji_maki_dori


Short essay by neji_maki_dori


Tokyo can be considered a tough city for urban exploration. The life of an abandoned building is quite short due to the high price of land. However, some abandoned buildings can live a long life. “Seikaryo dormitory,” a three-story building located in a quiet residential area in Tokyo, was one of them.

The history of this building is quite long. Built by the Governor-General of Taiwan in 1927, the building was originally used as a dormitory for overseas students from Taiwan. After World War II, Taiwan was no longer under Japanese sovereignty and the dormitory’s ownership and management became unclear. However, residents continued to live in the building during the following decades.

In 2007, after leading a checkered life, this building suffered a calamity: a fire took the lives of two women and seven other people were injured. The building was severely damaged, although parts of the upper floors remained intact. Most likely, this accident accelerated the implementation of a legal framework for the building and, in 2013, it was torn down. A building gone all too soon.


neji_maki_dori is a Tokyo-based photographer who has been exploring abandoned buildings in Japan ever since his first visit to the ruins of a sulfur mine in 2006. He sources locations from printed materials about abandoned sites and from the collective. |

The Future that Never Happened


© fala


Short essay by fala (Filipe Magalhães and Ana Luisa Soares)


1) The Future that Never Happened
In 1972 the Nakagin Capsule Tower was advertised in the media to signal “the dawn of the capsule age.” The building was a sum of individual plug-in capsules promoting exchangeability and modifications to the structure over time, theoretically improving its capacity to adjust to the rapidly changing conditions of the post-industrial society. The tower represented the future of housing. The irony presented by the story of the Nakagin Capsule Tower is the fact that it became the last architecture of its kind to be completed in the world. Today it stands as a poignant reminder of a path ultimately not taken.

2) A New Urban Condition
Forty years ago the fallen hero was the tallest building in the neighborhood. It was visible from far away and with a sci-fi look it seemed to be a strange machine from the future. Today the tower is blocked, hidden in the shadow of other skyscrapers. It looks old and abandoned. Contrary to what the project predicted, the capsules were never replaced. Materials didn’t resist as time passed, because they were not supposed to, and the problems increased: leaks, rust, and corrosion are everywhere. There is no maintenance and the building was recently covered with a safety net because small parts started falling. It is crumbling. The few capsules that light up at night reveal the few people who still live here. Tourists try to visit the building everyday.

3) Common Spaces, Common Problems
It is usual for the habitants to use the common spaces as extensions of their capsules. Down the stairs it’s easy to find clotheslines, shoe lockers, or boxes filled with books and personal objects. The original pipes were never replaced and eventually became unusable. New pipes (only for cold water) were placed in the corridors and the doors of the capsules were sawn to bring them inside. There is no hot water and for some years a common shower on the entrance floor was the only thing mitigating the problem. Cracks and humidity can be seen everywhere.

The atrium serves the two towers and sometimes is used as meeting room by those who use the capsules as offices. The doorman is there during the day although at night the door is left open. The elevators still work.

4) Different Habitants, Different Opinions
Few people inhabit the tower and the vast majority of the units are abandoned. The corridors are quiet. The few residents who still resist have different opinions regarding the future of the building: some believe in rehabilitation, others want the demolition; some even talk of the replacement of the capsules with new ones. The lack of consensus is probably the main reason for the current condition of the building. Several capsules rotted from the inside and are now covered with moss and mildew; the inhabited capsules are still in a good condition. Most of the owners performed all kinds of interventions in their units; maybe that’s something that the metabolists would be proud of. Some residents live in other cities and just use the building for the weekend; others live and work there full-time. Overall, everyone is worried about the future of the former icon, but while talking with the habitants it’s easy to understand the different opinions.

5) A Capsule as a House
Time proved that the perfection of the typology was disturbed by the unrealistic idea of replacing the capsules every twenty years. Although it has led to the futuristic look that distinguishes the building, this mutant condition proved to be fatal. The capsules are small (8 sq. m.) but the space is enough and adjusted to the needs of the day-to-day life. Every detail of the original project contributes to the success of the interior: the versatile and integrated furniture, the ergonomic bathroom, the large window. Living in the capsule alters the perception of scale of the habitant but the typology is the perfect answer for Tokyo. More than forty years after the opening of the building, no doubts remain that the lifestyle of the city and the local culture continue to prove that space to be an ideal solution: today, while living inside one of the capsules, it easy to understand that.



© fala

fala is an architecture practice based in Porto founded by Filipe Magalhães and Ana Luisa Soares. Filipe Magalhães graduated in architecture at Faculdade de Arquitectura do Porto and at Fakulteta za Arhitekturo in Ljubljana. He has worked at Harry Gugger in Basel, and SANAA and Sou Fujimoto in Tokyo. Ana Luisa Soares graduated in architecture at Faculdade de Arquitectura do Porto and at Tokyo University. She has worked at Harry Gugger in Basel and Toyo Ito in Tokyo.

Being Small, Living in Tokyo, and Being Unique


Natural Ellipse House, Tokyo, 2002 © EDH Endoh Design House


Short essay by Masaki Endoh


A different point of view of Tokyo is offered from that which can be seen from an observation deck of a skyscraper built as part of a large development project. A generation ago, the typical house development was a 200 m2 plot of land with a two-story wooden building and a persimmon tree in the yard. After the Japanese economic bubble burst, plots were divided and sold for not more than 60 m2, which is too small to live in.

To build a house on that kind of plot requires an extraordinary amount of energy and effort. Because the plot is physically small, one cannot build windows freely due to the closeness of the houses next door, and because the cost of the plot is so expensive, it is necessary to be innovative in ways of raising money even for a small house. The total cost of living in the city center exceeds what most ordinary people can borrow from the bank. Therefore (and in my own experience), it becomes necessary to think about financial means other than just living, such as running a shop or subletting a room. Only after these issues are resolved is it possible to live comfortably in the city center.

We have reached an era where living in the city center is not only about finding a peaceful residence for the family, but about considering how to make design interact with society and the city. That means that houses are no longer built by developers as they were previously done, but by people’s own ideas and designs.

This is the same for architects. It has become necessary for them to change the energy spent on the design of buildings in the city center. The narrow solution needed for a particular plot of land will not produce architecture that can be considered infrastructure. Therefore, problems that cannot be solved by the architect’s individual capacity—for example, new ways of using less energy, ideas for new materials, and visions of new social styles, etc.—need to be addressed by society and cities at large.

As a result, Tokyo keeps on building itself as a dynamic and heterogeneous city, divided by personal identity. Even as we speak, at the center of Tokyo, at the bottom of the towering skyscrapers, things like this are happening.


Masaki Endoh is a Tokyo-born architect who established EDH (Endoh Design House) in 1994. Major works of the studio include “Natural Shelter,” “Natural Illuminance,” “Natural Slats,” “Natural Ellipse,” “Natural Wedge,” and “Natural Strata.” He has received many awards, including the Design Vanguard 2004 by Architectural Record, JIA Rookie of the Year 2003 for “Natural Ellipse,” and the Yoshioka Award for “Natural Shelter” in 2000.

A Work of Art


Smiling Sushi Roll book by Tama-chan, 2014 © Little more Co., Ltd


Short essay by Tama-chan (Takayo Kiyota)


I was born and raised in Shinjuku, Tokyo. I create sushi rolls that Japanese people consider modern art. I respect Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins as their architecture is also a work of art.

Their project “The Reversible Destiny Lofts MITAKA” is located in Mitaka, Tokyo. Not only can you make a field trip to the place, but you can also stay and live there. It might seem flamboyant, but Arakawa said “we create nature by art.” The design of the interior is also unique. The floor is rough, irregular, and it slopes. There is even a door on the ceiling. When I stay there, it is very exciting and it feels different from my daily life. It felt strange the first time but, little by little, it has become comfortable.

We cannot live without being influenced by the environment. I think it is the best method to be in sympathy with people all over the world.



The Reversible Destiny Lofts MITAKA, Mitaka, Tokyo © Tama-chaN


Tama-chan (Takayo Kiyota) was born in Shinjuku, Tokyo. After graduating from the Setsu Mode Seminar she started to work in advertisement, magazines, and books as a freelance illustrator. Since 2005, she has called herself the sushi roll artist “Tama-chan.” Through workshops she has been introducing the importance of food culture, food education, as well as the joy of making things with her maki-sushi. In 2013, she won the second prize on “the longest scream in the world” sponsored by Innovation Norway. In 2014, Little More Co. published Smiling Sushi Roll, the first anthology of her work. |

Life Cycles
A Tokyo Bike Story


© Lee Basford


Story and photography by Lee Basford


If you lock your bike in the wrong place for too long in any Japanese city you’re probably going to get a ticket slapped on it informing you that it will be removed at a later date. For the unfortunate, once they’re taken any unclaimed bicycles will only be kept for a limited time before being recycled or worse, destroyed. About 85% of Japanese own bikes so there’s a lot of them around and a constant supply for the bike police.



© Lee Basford


I’d heard about Japan’s bicycle recycling program through a friend who knew I was looking for a less precious daily alternative to my road bike. In Tokyo these places are specific to the area of the city that you live in, ours is an un-signposted, unglamorous grey council building that feels like an abandoned school. The Minato-ku Bicycle Recycling Department is made up of a team of three bike lovers, all part of the cities Silver Human Resources, an organisation made up of retirees who love what they do and want to continue sharing their knowledge and experience, whether its with bikes or anything else. This team is led by Tomita-san who began the project by himself fifteen years ago–to date they’ve recycled over 4,000 bikes that would have otherwise been destroyed.

In the workshop, they’re surrounded by the most amazing stacks of replacement parts spanning two rooms: there’s a table overflowing with saddles, underneath it seat posts, a corner with rows of wheels, brake cables hanging in bunches from the ceiling waiting to be reanimated. The place itself is very organized as are most things in a country where space comes at a premium, the tools are neatly arranged next to a selection of tubs filled with valve caps, cable adjusters, and other small salvaged parts most wouldn’t think twice about keeping. They sort through the confiscated bikes available to them, making a limited selection of a hundred or so that will be sold on the second Sunday of each month, dialing them in using parts from other re-claimed bikes. Here everything is recycled, they take pride in the fact that they are self sufficient and never have to buy anything new.



© Lee Basford


Tomita-san took me through the process where they completely strip the bike, replacing broken or damaged parts, often respraying individual pieces in a makeshift multipurpose booth (made from an old bicycle basket, wheels, mudguards a chain and various other bits and pieces) mixing paint to match the original color and finally reassembling it as if it were new. Prices range from ¥7,400 to ¥8,900 for standard mama-chari bikes which form the bulk of what they recycle, the workhorse of daily life here whether its carrying heavy shopping or balancing up to three children to and from school. Everything else is deemed non-standard (road, suspension, folding) which they usually select a handful of and auction them in a game of Jan-ken-pon (rock, paper scissors) for roughly the same price, but with these there’s no guarantee if anything goes wrong. If you’re fortunate enough to go there at the right time, in theory you could get a very expensive road bike for next to nothing.



© Lee Basford


In my hunt for a daily bike I spotted a very nice, almost new track bike they were going to strip for parts, exactly what I needed for getting around on and realistically the only bike there I had any interest in. It had a fixed gear and therefore illegal to use on the roads, so they couldn’t sell it in the auction. I knew it was a simple job to convert and tried to persuade them to sell it to me. Initially they refused–they’re a government supported organisation and could get shut down for selling a bike like that if there was ever an accident (bikes here have an ID number tying them to a registered owner)–but I was persistent and went back a couple of times to chat and prove that I was serious and loved bikes as much as they did. It took time and patience but eventually after making the relevant calls they agreed to trust me and let me have the bike: no guarantees, no stripping and rebuilding, it was all down to me with this one. I wouldn’t have it any other way though, there’s a rare pleasure in building a bike yourself, something I’ve enjoyed since I was very young. I think they sensed that which is maybe why they invited me back again anytime I needed spare parts or advice.



© Lee Basford


Lee Basford is a graphic designer, artist, and photographer working in and around the overlap of art and design, blending these disciplines to create work for arts, film, fashion, video games, and music companies that include Sony, UNIQLO, Nike, Rapha, Capcom, Sega, EMI, Parlophone, Saatchi, and Artificial Eye. |

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