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.”
- Taking in the view at the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
- A visit to Happy Birthday Gallery in Omotesando.
- A day at The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art in Shibuya.
Read more on Urbis ‘ visit to Tokyo here.