Tokyo: Kanako Ogawa

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Illustrator Kanako Ogawa on her street in the suburbs of Tokyo.

Illustrator Kanako Ogawa on her street in the suburbs of Tokyo. Image: Simon Devitt

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Painting a book cover.

Painting a book cover. Image: Simon Devitt

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One of Ogawa's recent works.

One of Ogawa’s recent works. Image: Simon Devitt

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Ogawa's latest book cover for a novel about five Japanese women's lives post earthquake.

Ogawa’s latest book cover for a novel about five Japanese women’s lives post earthquake. Image: Simon Devitt

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Ogawa's studio space.

Ogawa’s studio space. Image: Simon Devitt

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Completed books and pieces of inspiration.

Completed books and pieces of inspiration. Image: Simon Devitt

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Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade. Image: Simon Devitt

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Kanako Ogawa became an artist relatively late in life. “Until I was 30, I was an office lady. I drew as a hobby but I didn’t think that I would be able to be an illustrator,” says the 38-year-old. “Then I saw a competition and told myself to try. And in 2008, I won the award.”

That award was the Grand Prix in the Tokyo Illustrators Society’s annual drawing competition. It led to Ogawa giving up her day job to draw full time; now she works creating book covers, writing and illustrating children’s books and working for magazines and commercial clients. She has also had three solo exhibitions of her work in Tokyo.

“In our industry, it takes a long time. My stories are sometimes published two years later,” explains Ogawa, who has a naïve style. “It’s hard in Japan. There are many, many illustrators who want to exhibit their work and more Manga and comic artists doing book covers now.”

Ogawa works at home, mostly late at night, in a studio in the apartment she shares with her husband and nine-month-old daughter in the suburbs of Tokyo. She grew up in Meguro, a neighbourhood on the west side of the city, but moved further out three years ago. “I wanted to live somewhere else; the rent is cheaper and Meguro is not good for children. But I will return in the future,” says Ogawa.

Meanwhile, she visits the CBD often to meet with editors and to eat Tokyo’s excellent cuisine. “I recommend any visitor eat a lot of food!” she says. “Not expensive food because, in Japan, it’s always safe and good but eat as much as you can of soba noodles, sushi and raw fish.”

Ogawa recommends:

Read more on Urbis ‘ visit to Tokyo here.

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