polish artist mateusz urbanowicz moved to japan to study animation and comics at the kobe design university. while exploring the city, urbanowicz was surprised to see the perseverance of older, more traditional architectures in spite of the city’s rapidly changing face and its international reputation as a sprawling metropolis. knowing all too well how quickly these buildings could be replaced with more modern counterparts, the artist set about illustrating the endearing buildings in a series rich with color, personality, and history. 

#10 noike: sushi restaurant from yanaka district
all images courtesy of mateusz urbanowicz



‘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,’ explains mateusz urbanowicz‘there are some that are completely derelict which no one uses anymore, but there are also some that are still in use, and cute, and loved, and cared for.’


(left) #04 chinese food restaurant from around the takadanobaba district 
(right) #05 miyake bicycle shop based on shops from kagurazaka and kichijyouji




realized in characterful watercolors, urbanowitz captures the intricate detail of each building, freezing in time the subtle qualities of form and temperament that make each of the buildings unique. a diverse palette and choice use of lines cut out a snap shot of a city in constant flux, revealing and immortalizing the quieter, secretive histories of the japanese capital.

#03 kobayashi hair salon from sanbanchyo district



‘especially in tokyo there a lot of these kind of buildings that survived somehow, and it’s really fun to look for them, find them and make these photos and make these sketches’, continues urbanowitz. ‘I know from my experience that in even a few months these buildings can be gone.’ for more information on the project, as well as series of ‘making of’ videos, check out urbanowitz’s youtube channel

(left) #08 nakashimaya japanese sake shop from mejiro district  
(right) #09 kitchen kuku restaurant from kichijyouji district

(left) #06 isetatsu traditional color woodblock print store from yanaka district
(right) #07 ootoya meat shop from koujimachi district