It’s a washi day

I have to admit that when I first learned I was going to Japan, the first thing that came to mind was not autumn foliage, Japanese culture, temples, or even sushi. I had only one thing in mind: WASHI TAPE!!!

I first came across washi tape on Etsy a couple of years ago. They’re decorative rice paper tape produced in a variety of designs and colors, used mostly for arts and crafts. Being a sucker for anything bright and colorful, I was immediately drawn to them. Unfortunately they were mostly only available in Japan where they are manufactured, and shipping cost an arm and leg. I had to content myself with just (wistfully) looking at pictures of them online.

Fast forward to November 2011, when I found myself in Shinsaibashisuji, a very long shopping street in the Osaka prefecture in Japan. Alarm bells sounded in my head and ¥ ¥ ¥ signs flashed in my eyes when I found rolls and rolls of colorful washi tape in Kawachi, a three-storey arts and crafts store just a couple of blocks away from our hotel. I (mentally) squealed! I grabbed a basket and started filling it with the tapes I liked best, although at the back of my head I knew I was probably racking up a huge bill as fast as I was filling up the basket. However, the voice of reason came through and said: HOW OFTEN ARE YOU IN JAPAN, WOMAN?! Hmm, good point.

My washi tape loot


Eye candy!


I bought other stuff too– a water brush, stamps and ink pads, and watercolor pads (buy one take one!)

I did rack up quite a bill (I regret nothing!) but I thought it was all worth it for things I loved and can’t find in the Philippines. Or so I thought.

Back in Manila three weeks after my Japan trip, I found out that home & lifestyle store Heima was bringing MT washi tape to Philippine shores! Heima invited me (upon the suggestion of Jen Horn from Punchdrunk Panda– they licensed one of my illustrations for their footwear line back in 2009) and other illustrators/designers/crafters to demonstrate the uses of washi tape for their product launch last weekend at the LRI Design Plaza in Makati.

OMGGG look at all the tape @__@


After washi tape’s popularity surged in Japan and online, a number of washi tape manufacturers have since popped up, but the original is Kamoi, an industrial tape manufacturer that started making the MT washi tapes upon the suggestion of their customers to incorporate different colors and designs (read that charming little story here).

We were provided with rolls of MT tape and other supplies to make and decorate whatever we wanted to show how washi tape can be used.

Photo from Heima’s Facebook page.


Creative chaos

After several hours in stationery and supplies heaven, our work was exhibited on the wall– Heima had an ongoing series of design discussions with several speakers (Kat Encanto, Dan Matutina, Fozzy Castro-Dayrit, Valerie Chua, Diego Mapa) that day and the place was packed.

by MJ and Rian from Heima. Cute!


Wire sculpture by Nice Buenaventura


by Valerie Chua


by Jen Horn. Self-portrait, Jen? Love the hair!


by Arlene Sy


by Andrea Cervantes


by Reese Lansangan


by Nic Lim


And by some girl (haha. me). I decorated blank kraft notebooks and pencils with MT tape and scrapbooking paper.


I thought we had a good and varied mix of different styles– really showcased what one can do with washi tape, be it for art, embellishing found objects, collage, illustration, and just about anything you can think of.

Thank you to Bong and Rossy from Heima for having me and Jen Horn for inviting me. It was great to have met fellow designers and illustrators as well (coming from a night shift work-from-home job, my social life has been dead for the past two years). It was a good day of arts & crafts, design, and illustration.

MT washi tape is available at Heima starting at P150 (single rolls) which I think is a reasonable price. No need to spend on plane tickets to Japan just to get a roll! Prior to the MT tape launch, I was limiting my use of my personal tape stash, but knowing we readily have MT tape here, I think I’ll just go ahead and use washi tape to wrap my Christmas gifts ^___^

Quirky, illustrated Japan

One thing I’m interested in apart from illustration, design, paper crafts, cats, and Flaming Hot Cheetos (that’s my one-line bio right there) is travel. I’ve traveled for a leeetle bit when I was younger, before college and work got in the way. Now that I’m back on my own time with no desk job to tie me down, I’ve been open to indulging in wanderlust when the time and opportunity arises.

Osaka, Japan

One such opportunity came up when my aunt invited me to go to Osaka, Japan with her family last month. Japan was not in my immediate/foreseeable travel plans, but they had already been to Japan numerous times and I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to tour a non-English speaking country with people who already knew how to get around the place and the language barrier.

My aunt wanted to go in mid-November to catch the autumn foliage. Being from a tropical country where the leaves are green all year round, I’ve never experienced fall in my life, but I was a bit more interested in all the quirks and cute stuff Japan had to offer. And Japan did not disappoint!

On our first full day, I was first alerted to how quirky Japan can be when I spotted this sign at the subway. After-work socials and drinking on Friday nights seem to be the norm for the average Japanese office worker, and drunk businessmen on the subway are not at all uncommon. This is one thing they need to watch out for– falling on the tracks while intoxicated! Hopefully the chances of that happening will be nil, thanks to this sign.

subway drunk!

We went to Minoh, a nature park that led to a waterfall. You know it’s a family-friendly park as someone took the time to commission this illustration:

Family fun!

There were also monkeys around the park though we didn’t see any. But we knew they were there by their presence on signs all around.

Falling boulders?
Smile– boulders are falling down the mountain!
Monkey meals
Scary-looking monkey

And their manhole covers– they’re not just “illustrated”, they’re also colored. Oh em gee. I dunno, am I making a big deal out of this? Where I’m from, manhole covers are plain and the color of rust… if they haven’t been carted off by some goon to sell off as scrap metal.

Kobe manhole cover
Manhole cover in Kobe


Osaka manhole cover
Colored manhole cover in Minoh Park, Osaka. This isn’t just a manhole anymore. It’s street art (literally)!

Everywhere you look, there’s something cute and quirky, whether it’s a print ad that’s not afraid to use every single color that exists on earth…

What is this sorcery?!
Jewel Pets, whatever those are

…an attention-grabbing storefront for an optical shop…

Yes, you sell glasses. We get it
If you miss seeing this, you’re as blind as a bat and may need this shop’s services

…random pandas on vending machines…

If you drink too much Coke, you get dark circles under your eyes?
So much cuteness… bordering on ridiculous!

…or a HUGE display of kawaii right on the subway station’s ceiling!

This was huge
Sorry for the blurred photo, it was rush hour and I was trying to keep pace with everyone.

Even their food is illustrated.

I haven't seen a Fanta since my elementary school days.
Yep, I totally bought the apple juice just because it was cute.


I only really see this on Tumblr
Pig and panda-shaped steamed buns (a.k.a. siopao)


Like Meiji's Hello Panda, but better
Chocolate panda cookies. These were good AND cheap.

I have to admire the Japanese for their penchant for the seemingly-trivial and inconsequential quirkiness. Take this ad, for example. We can tell they’re advertising sightseeing spots during the different seasons. The ad can stand on its own without the illustrations. However, they upped the ante (and budget) and really hired someone to add those little characters. And you have to admit, doing so is enough to warrant a second look for these ads (and in my case, an inclusion in this blog entry).


Japan is heaven for illustrators and designers. These are just a small sampling of the hundreds of cute, illustrated, and well-designed things that can be found all over the place. I’ve uploaded the photos here on this blog post plus twenty more of Japan’s quirks I saw on my trip on my Facebook page, just in case you need more cute in your life.

Oh, and the autumn foliage my aunt wanted to see? Fantastic.

Japan autumn foliage
Japan autumn foliage
Japan autumn foliage
Taken with my cameraphone.

These are some of the reasons I fell in love with Japan– enough to want to go back next year (with my family this time). I’ll just need to keep an eye out for CebuPac’s bagsak-presyo seat sales to Osaka. I also want to go back to stock up on more kawaii stationery supplies I bought there, but that’s another blog entry for another day 🙂

Oops, I did it again

Hello. I’m back!

Those who are familiar with my I-resigned-from-a-high-paying-job-to-pursue-what-I-really-want-to-do story might be surprised (or not) to know: I did it again.

I had a draft of a blog entry explaining why but on second thought, we can all do without the boring details of why I got up and left a good, dollar-paying, work-from-home fulltime design job. What’s important is I’m back on track and more focused than ever on pursuing illustration as a career path.

So excited to get back to drawing, painting, blogging, designing, crafting, and all things in between. I’ll be back tomorrow with a blog post and a little Christmas freebie– a little thank you to everyone following my RSS feed, Twitter, Google Connect thingee, Tumblr, and Facebook page 🙂