Skip to navigationSkip to content

An artist’s panoramic coffee cup illustrations are a better introduction to Japan than any guidebook

Adrian Hogan
A scene observed.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The prettiest coffee cups in Japan do not hold any coffee. Instead the serve as one-of-a-kind canvases for finely-observed panoramic scenes of Japanese street life by the Tokyo-based illustrator Adrian Hogan.

First created for an exhibition about coffee culture in Tokyo, Hogan’s impressive cylindrical sketches cleverly match the moving streetscape when twirled around—a delightful feat of draftsmanship by the Australian expatriate.

“The coffee cups have been a great way for me to look around again and be open to fresh inspiration.”

“When I first arrived in Tokyo, my drawings were focused on the city and objects,” Hogan tells Quartz. “Lately, I’ve focused more on my friends and the people I encounter here. The coffee cups have been a great way for me to look around again and be open to fresh inspiration.”

Drawing on paper cups is just the latest experiment in Hogan’s daily sketching regimen. A fairly recent transplant from Melbourne, Hogan, who illustrates for Elle, Vogue and the French fashion label Comptoir des Cotonniers, has been exploring the circuitous streets of his new city, with sketchbook in tow. With a pencil, a pen, an ink brush or watercolor paints, he captures quiet scenes of urban life, portraits of strangers reading in café, playing with their smart phones, and even salary men snoozing in Tokyo’s subway.

Adrian Hogan

Hogan first fell in love with Japan as a young English teacher in the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, in the city of Hachinohe in northern Japan. Knowing little Japanese then, he turned to sketching portraits of his students as an icebreaker and a bridge when words failed. “They didn’t speak good English, and at that time my Japanese wasn’t that great either,” Hogan has said. “We used drawing as a way to communicate beyond verbal language.”

Adrian Hogan
Kyuushoku or the school lunch period is an ideal time for sketching because the students would sit still for once, according to Hogan.

“I still use drawing as a way of getting to know people better, often clients in meetings, friends, even strangers,” says Hogan. “A couple of times while I have been drawing in restaurants and cafés, people were so pleased to have their picture made that they bought the drawing and paid for my meal on the spot!”

“The reason why I chose drawing over photography is that there’s this immediacy that happens with drawing,” explained Hogan in a Pecha Kucha presentation in 2013. “I can look back now at some of these images and I can remember what it feels like to be in that room. There’s something about hand to paper that brings you back to that time.”

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.