Japan,  Travel

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 🙂