Since the late 1990s, Japan's major cities have witnessed massive growth of their population in urban areas – particularly in Tokyo. While many buildings in these areas escaped the effects of the ensuing development and retain their traditional façades, continual growth indicates that it won’t be for much longer. In response to this, artist Mateusz Urbanowicz began creating illustrations that immortalise these remaining spaces.
Born and raised in Silesia, Poland, Urbanowicz moved to Tokyo more than three years ago to study animation and comics at the Kobe Design University. Upon his arrival, he spent much of his time perusing the city streets, photographing the scenes that attracted his attention. Surprised by the number of old buildings still occupied by tenants and captivated by their traditional features, he began to sketch what would become his Tokyo Storefront series.
“Whenever I was walking somewhere searching for references, I often saw these shops, apartments and small houses, and slowly I became really fascinated by them, by their small details, their signs of long use, of modification and…old age basically,” Urbanowicz told Designboom.
“Especially in Tokyo, there a lot of these buildings that survived somehow, and it’s really fun to look for them, find them and make these photos and make these sketches. I know from my experience that in even a few months these buildings can be gone.”
Bursting with life, history and colour, Urbanowicz’s uses watercolours and an ink pen, to charmingly construct the simple yet highly detailed illustrations. From bicycle stores and ramen shops to sushi joints and hair salons, all of his renderings capture the charm of old Tokyo.
For each illustration, Urbanowicz records his artistic process and uploads them to YouTube as a ‘Making of’ piece. You can watch the artist in action here.