Japanese art is, when you delve deep, a lot more than just big-hitting superstars like Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami and Nobuyoshi Araki. The multifarious art scenes within Japan and the spectrum of disciplines they encompass are thriving and ever growing. Here, we put together a small list of artists who could be considered slightly under-the-radar and should be marked in your list of artists to look out for.  

Kai Fusayoshi

The oldest artist on this list, Kai Fusayoshi is one of Japan’s greatest and most severely underrated photographic heroes. A prolific documenter of his home city of Kyoto, he has been shooting on the former capital’s streets for decades often returning to certain areas to see how time has etched itself onto the people and landmarks of various districts. Powerful, playful and inspirational, Fusayoshi is obsessed with his artform and can still be seen on the streets of Kyoto with a camera around his neck shooting everything and anyone that catches his eye. If you’ve ever read Italo Calvino’s seminal short story “The Adventure of a Photographer,” you’ll understand the obsession and drive that Fusayoshi embodies.



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Maya Makino

Channeling indigo and an introspective and underlying moroseness, Kanagawa-native Maya Makino is emerging as one of Japan’s most lauded and intriguing artists. Makino’s oeuvre appears to be paying homage to Japan’s long history of working with indigo seen in the tradition of aizome or indigo dyeing. Makino’s brooding collection of works are in some ways reminiscent of the great Abstract Expressionists but she stands out with a distinctive and certain spirituality imbued throughout her work.



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Yousuke Kinoshita

If you’re a fan of Japanese fashion magazine Popeye, then you’ll probably have seen the majestic illustrations of Yousuke Kinoshita. Effortlessly mixing surrealism with emotion, his quirky work is both eye-catching and profound. His illustrations have graced the covers of magazines, been seen in advertisements, commercials, books and videos. Kinoshita’s body of work is both beautiful and distinctive, with his own, very much-defined aesthetic. It’s definitely worth catching Kinoshita’s upcoming exhibition Just want to swim me which is being held concurrently at two Kichijoji vintage book stores — 100 Years and One Day from July 13-24. 


Jörgen Axelvall

Swedish, Tokyo-based photographer and artist, Jörgen Axelvall should be no stranger to regular readers of Tokyo Weekender. His most recent exhibition and limited-edition monograph titled Looking Up, which focuses on airplanes seen through the lens of the pandemic, was covered here. Axelvall’s decades-spanning work photographed in Sweden, New York and Tokyo strives to celebrate the male form and through obfuscation and deliberate exploration of framing and the use of space in his photography, elevates his stunning work to a higher and more profound plane. 



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Mariya Suzuki

The second illustrator on this list, Suzuki has made a name for herself through her unique freewheeling and free-spirited drawing style. Based in Tokyo after studying illustration in California, her work can be seen in several books and magazines in addition to her collaborative ventures with interior designers on her series of murals. You can often catch Suzuki sitting or standing in the capital’s multitude of coffee shops with her sketch pad and pencils scribbling away. The end results are always glorious and proudly idiosyncratic.