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  • Writer's pictureFrancesco Lo Iacono

JAPAN: AN ILLUSTRATED JOURNEY


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I have just returned from what is possibly the most amazing adventure of my life: a whole month travelling in Japan from one region to another!


Still slightly jetlagged, it's not that easy to unpack the emotional, cultural and beautiful baggage I've been carrying for about 30 days. One month where I explored different areas and sides of Japan including the Kansai, Shikoku and its capital, of course.


When I was younger, mostly as a student, I carried many sketchbooks when travelling and always filled them with lots of watercolours, notes, colours and words.


Quick sketches made in Takamatsu and Kyoto

I have to admit that this is a habit that I have lost a bit over the years, for several reasons, but this time, knowing that I would have stayed a month in Japan, I promised myself to create a series of sketches.


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Now, looking back at those sketches I'm so happy I took this decision, as these are memories that I will keep for the rest of my life, memories that I've already cherished as unique.


I often sketched on the Shinkansen, quiet moments while travelling from one place to another, or in crowded bars, with people politely peeking into my sketchbook. 


But the moments I will cherish the most are the ones when I sketched directly from life, as it's really a different feeling.





Sketches of the Rengejo-in temple in Koyasan

That was the case in Koyasan, a large temple settlement in Wakayama prefecture, not far from the vibrant city of Osaka, but having a much quiet and spiritual vibe. 


In Koyasan, I spent a couple of nights in the Rengejo-in Buddhist temple and I took the chance to create two quick sketches, one of the main entrance and another one based on the internal garden. 


That's also where a young monk approached me to find out more about my work and I showed some of my previous watercolours made in Japan, mostly in Kyoto and Takamatsu.



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Tokyo was the last stop of my journey and also a very special one. I visited Tokyo a couple of times before, but this was a long time ago, so I was very happy and excited to rediscover this amazing city. 


On the last day of my trip, I had a stroll in Ueno Park and decided to sketch from life there.


It was sunny and beautiful, with a lovely light hitting the lake and everything around. It was such a special way to finish my trip!





During my whole trip, as you can imagine, I took a lot of pictures, so I feel like more illustrations inspired by Japan may come soon!


Some of these pictures were also used as a backdrop for a series of animated gifs I posted on my social networks, throughout my whole journey, to keep track of some of the stops I did and beautiful things I've seen.


All the silhouettes, created ahead of my trip, feature pieces from some of the most interesting Japanese fashion brands right now, including Auralee, Faccies, Yuki Hashimoto, Nanamica, Elephant Tribal Fabrics, Odakha and LEH.





If just like me, you are deeply fascinated by this country, please feel free to look at my Instagram feed, as I've shared more bits of my amazing trip, and thank you to those who reached out to me while I was in Japan on Instagram or X to share tips or show appreciation. Till next time!


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