Lonely Planet Writer

Tokyo's unique shopfronts are captured in this series of beautiful watercolours

One Polish artist has immortalised Tokyo’s disappearing shopfronts in a series of watercolours.

The Tokyo shopfronts series are capturing the old buildings of the city.
The Tokyo shopfronts series are capturing the old buildings of the city. Image by Mateusz Urbanowicz

When Mateusz Urbanowicz moved to Tokyo in 2013 to begin work as an animation artist, he was surprised to see businesses still operating with very old shopfronts. “I simply love the fact that those old stores and restaurants are loved, cared for and still in use in the modern city full of high-rise buildings”, he told Lonely Planet. “I would like to see more such places brimming with history and character in everyday use!”

A print store and meat shop.
A print store and meat shop. Image by Mateusz Urbanowicz

The illustrations include a sake shop, restaurant, bicycle shop and hair salon from the city’s various districts and Mateusz has also created a series of ‘making of’ videos so you can see the work in progress.

A hair salon in the Sanbanchyo district.
A hair salon in the Sanbanchyo district. Image by Mateusz Urbanowicz

He previously lived in Kobe and despite residing in Japan for more than seven years, he continues to be fascinated by life there. “I find everyday spaces of Japan full of inspiration. I sometimes get a weird ‘nostalgic’ feeling from the most simple things and places even though I’m not Japanese. I wonder why it is and try to translate this feeling to my illustrations.”

Mateusz finds himself fascinated by the age and character of these Tokyo shopfronts.
Mateusz finds himself fascinated by the age and character of these Tokyo shopfronts. Image by Mateusz Urbanowicz

Many of Mateusz‘s other illustrations have also captured the unique architecture of Japan but he says you can apply the same lessons to anywhere you visit, or even live. “If you look around carefully and pay attention to architecture and its small details, you can get some interesting insight into the lives and culture of the people who live (or lived) there. I really like figuring out buildings; how and why they were built the way they were.

The artist details his technique and tools in a series of videos.
The artist details his technique and tools in a series of videos. Image by Mateusz Urbanowicz

“I think this is even better when you look at just everyday places rather than big touristic attractions so it broadens your experience of a city.”

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