mateusz urbanowicz's charming watercolors document the disappearing storefronts of tokyo

mateusz urbanowicz's charming watercolors document the disappearing storefronts of tokyo


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

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    art news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    491,188 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample