Tokyo Weekender’s series TW Creatives features various works by Japan-based writers, photographers, videographers, illustrators and other creatives in a bid to provide one additional platform for them to exhibit their talent. The works submitted here belong entirely to the creators. TW only takes pride in being one of their most passionate supporters. This time, we introduce Chaykov, an illustrator and artist famous and beloved for his detailed Tokyo panoramas featuring a giant cat.
Since childhood, Chaykov only ever had one path in mind: becoming an artist. A sickly child, he would spend extended periods at home, away from school, but immersed himself in creation and creativity. His moniker dates back to elementary school, given to him by a teacher and it stuck to this day. It’s a take on Tchaikovsky, the Russian composer, and it hints at Chaykov’s overall interest in music, art and culture, even as a child. It’s the only name he creates under.
Paired with his excellent English and an online presence that is only art and no personal details, many assume he’s a Russian artist living in Japan. He’s actually a Japanese artist with international work and life experience.
As a product designer, he has created artwork for various companies, from the automobile industry to labels for drinks. His biggest passion, however, lies in drawing vast and incredibly detailed panoramas of the sprawling Tokyo metropolis.
The longer you explore Chaykov’s urban scenes the more rewards you find. It’s like “Where’s Waldo?” or rather “Where is Chaykov?” Not the artist himself, but the imaginative magical changes that he incorporates so craftily into the cityscape. If you look more closely, some skyscrapers bear his name or proclaim the season (whether in Japanese or English). Other times, the moon is a cat or the signs and logos become more cat-like.
“I love drawing details,” Chaykov tells me, zooming in to show me some of the hidden gems in his new drawing. “Even though, at first, clients tell me I don’t need to go into so much detail, they end up appreciating it.”
It’s no surprise that one drawing takes him at least a month or two. As well as having an artist’s brain, he also has an engineer’s one.
“I’ve always loved to build with Legos and I have a good 3D sense of space,” he explains. “From ground level to the sky, I can see everything.”
Chaykov’s in awe of Tokyo and this is expressed in his works. He spent most of his childhood in his grandmother’s house in central Tokyo, near Tokyo Tower.
“Seeing Tokyo Tower and playing in Shiba Koen is one of the most nostalgic views for me,” he remembers.
His parents moved around a lot, but his grandmother stayed near Tokyo Tower, the most constant home he’s known. Another nostalgic childhood view is the one from the top of Tokyo Tower.
“I remember going there for the first time,” he says. “The city looked like a sea of buildings.”
Ever since then, that view was what he always wanted to draw. If you look closely at Chaykov’s signature, which looks like a mini-Tokyo panorama with Mount Fuji in the distance, you can spot the A playing the role of Tokyo Tower.
The Real (Giant) Cat
Riru, the cat of Chaykov and his wife, is the model and inspiration behind the illustrations that won the hearts of netizens. Chaykov used to draw characters from pop culture as giants in his Tokyo cityscape, but Riru became his biggest muse. The artist admits that he feels like he forced Riru to be an indoor solo cat, so he wanted to at least give his pet all of Tokyo as a playground through art.
Chaykov found inspiration and fun in his furry companion, learning from the cat’s movements.
“What he’s doing in the illustrations, is exactly what he did in my room,” says Chaykov. “Destroying and swiping off toys, jumping on top of cupboards, sleeping, and so on. So I just imagined him doing that on Roppongi Hills or Shibuya Scramble Crossing. It’s probably how my grandma looked at me, playing around Tokyo and on top of Tokyo Tower.”
He tells me that he hopes his grandmother and Riru will meet in the afterlife. Riru lived a long life of 19 years before passing away in December 2021. The vet told Chaykov that Riru was probably nearing the end of his lifespan back in 2020. Chaykov is happy he was drawing the cat in his last year, preserving his pet’s life through his art.
On Being an Artist in the Japanese Entertainment Industry
Chaykov’s illustrations on Instagram grabbed the attention of some people in the entertainment industry and he started getting high-profile commissions. He now has an exclusive contract with Production I.G, a revered anime studio behind cult titles such as Ghost in the Shell and Psycho-Pass.
There is a dark side to that profession, though. After incidents such as the Kyoto Animation Studio arson attack, anime and manga companies take threats even more seriously and try to protect the identity of their artists. Many anime and manga studios in Japan are housed in inconspicuous apartments, the front door locked. Chaykov keeps his life private for that reason and at the behest of his company.
Furthermore, as soon as you enter the professional world, your art is under more scrutiny. Drawing other copyrighted characters, even as a hobby, becomes a trickier business. But on the other side, Chaykov is delighted at the opportunity to collaborate with other artists and creators through the anime studio.
He has been posting less of his original art recently, but he doesn’t want his fans to worry. He explains that’s due to working on exciting projects and commissions. Hopefully, he’ll post one of his detailed Tokyo cityscapes soon.
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