Tokyo Travel Sketchbook: Kawaii Culture, Wabi Sabi Design, Female Samurais and Other Obsessions

Tuttle. Mar. 2020. 192p. ISBN 9784805315361. pap. $19.99. TRAV
Spanish illustrator and graphic designer Arrazola spent a month in Tokyo on an artist-in-residence program, and produced a sketch a day about her trip. She added more drawings to produce this volume, a charming and singular view of contemporary culture in the city. The Japanese concept of kawaii focuses on cuteness and is all about chubby, adorable, pastel-colored characters such as Hello Kitty and Pikachu. Even government offices and official signs use these cartoon-like characters. Arrazola also considers wabi sabi, the tenet of Japanese aesthetics that celebrates the beauty of imperfect things. Her pencil and watercolor drawings present everyday objects such as bathrooms, alcohol, and Kit Kat candy bars, and muses briefly about their place in society. Architecture, Noh and Kabuki theater, religion, and traditional woodblock prints are also illustrated through the artist’s eyes.
VERDICT Readers interested in Japanese culture, especially kawaii, will delight in Arrazola’s fresh look at everyday life in Tokyo. Young adults, fans of graphic novels, and armchair travelers of all types and ages will enjoy this colorful and amusing cultural worldview.

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