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All illustration images © John Shelley, not to be used without permission scribblatosis(at)gmail(dot)com

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Tokyo Sketchbook Part 1

Here’s some train journey portraits from our recent trip back to Japan.. I’ve been a bit slow to share these sketches, mainly because there’s been so much going on since our return, work, personal and of course on the world front. What a month it’s turning out to be!

But anyway, here’s what I got up to in my little pocket sketchbook, better late than never!

It was only a two week trip, and I was down with a very bad cold for most of it, but I was on the Denentoshi line into Tokyo a lot. It’s about a half-hour journey from northern Yokohama across the Tama river and into Tokyo, getting off or changing trains at Shibuya or Omotesando. Most of these sketches were drawn on this train line, sitting down whenever I could, but sometimes standing all the way….

Usually I travel back to Tokyo in the summer, and in much better health! We weren’t expecting much in the way of Christmas cheer in Tokyo, it’s just an ordinary working day (apart from retail promotions), but I hadn’t expected to be quarantined in bed. Boxing day was actually the first day I was well enough to travel into the city.

Though my virus was picked up in the UK and hammered me throughout the whole trip, I wasn’t the only one with a cold. I’ve not been back in the winter for several years and was really struck by the sheer number of people with face masks, either to contain viruses, or perhaps to prevent catching one.



I don’t colour my train observation drawings, partly because there’s not enough time on a train journey, but also it would be a dead giveaway of what I was up to. Just drawing, quietly, without being noticed…. pen drawing is both surreptitious and what I really love doing the most.


These were all very rapid sketches, there’s never quite enough time on commuter trains, but sometimes having to curtail a sketch gives it a certain power of it’s own…





It wasn’t particularly wintery during our visit, apart from a few chilly evenings it was an unseasonably warm New Year, however there were more clothes to draw than the summer, it was great to get to grips with the way passengers wrapped up. Everyone has a dress policy in Tokyo.


More sketches to follow!

#sketch #sketchbook #tokyo #trainsketches

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