Get Artsy: 5 Tokyo Activities That Spark Your Inner Creative
Your one-stop guide to finding artistic inspiration in the city
Are you a creative looking to delve into Tokyo’s underground art scene? From scoring hard-to-find art supplies to sketch meetups, find inspiration to get your creative juices flowing.
With various online publications touting the next-best Tokyo event and influencers on TikTok and Instagram sharing trending cafes and restaurants, the freedom to explore Tokyo’s many highlights has never been easier. While general gatherings are a great way to socialize and network, finding resources and activities that are more art-focused has proved to be more difficult for those with specific creative hobbies.
Luckily, this writer and artist has scoured the streets of Tokyo in search of the best activities and resources to pull inspiration from for your next artistic endeavor, whatever that may be.
1. Shop for art supplies
Prior to moving to Tokyo, I heavily relied on ordering art supplies from Amazon or picking up colored pencils and markers on rare trips back home during the holidays. It wasn’t until I ventured out to Shinjuku in search of a proper watercolor sketchbook, did I find Sekaido.
Sekaido is truly Tokyo’s mecca of art supply shops. Shinjuku’s flagship multi-story store is dedicated to serving artists from any level in their creative careers. Each floor is dedicated to a specific type of art or craft and one can spend endless amounts of time browsing through their massive selection.
At Sekaido you’ll find items such as:
- Acrylic, oil and gouache paints
- Watercolor paper, paints and pencils
- Paint brushes of all types including Japanese calligraphy brushes
- Pre-stretched and primed canvas in varying sizes
- Assorted sketchbooks and paper types
- Pencils, charcoal, erasers, sharpeners and shading products
- Manga and comic inking supplies
- Markers, soft pastels, chalk pastels, crayons and crafting clay
For artists who aren’t fussed over specific supplies and are looking for something basic, I recommend stationery staples like Muji, Loft or Tokyu Hands. These shops make it easy to find grab-and-go products such as markers, notebooks, craft paper as well as other basic art supplies.
2. Take a trip to an art exhibition
One of the best ways to get the ballpoint pen rolling is to venture into urban Tokyo and visit an art exhibition. I often enjoy taking a solo trip to one when I’m stuck on a concept for a painting or drawing.
One spot I frequent is the National Art Center, Tokyo or NACT. Here you’ll find a fast-rotating schedule of art installations surrounded by dreamy architecture that one can’t help but pull inspiration from. Currently, 73 paintings chosen from the Louvre Museum are now on display in NACT’s Painting Love in the Louvre Collection, available for viewing until June 12th, 2023.
With exhibitions like this one, and many more shared biweekly in Savvy’s very own Tokyo Art Scene articles, you’ll be filled to the brim with ideas for your next project.
3. Share your work through competitions
Although somewhat intimidating, sharing your work is a great way to showcase your art whilst connecting with others who share the same interests. If you’re a competitive person and are itching to display your creations, I suggest looking into the many competitions offered both in Japan and internationally.
Listed below are a few upcoming contests and events that are holding open calls for submissions:
- Kyoto Writing Competition (English Application, deadline March 31, 2023)
- Tokyo Midtown Award Art Competition 2023 (Japanese Application, deadline May 15, 2023)
- Canon Graphgate Photo Contest (Japanese application & language required, deadline June 30, 2023)
- Boit! International Illustration Contest (English Application, deadline May 15, 2023)
- Ploughshares Emerging Writers Contest (English Application, deadline May 15, 2023)
Savvy is also accepting submissions for their very own SavvyTokyo Sakura Photo Contest until April 24, 2023. Anyone in any Japanese prefecture can apply so get those shots in before the cherry blossoms are gone for good!
4. Attend an art event or sketch meetup
If a competition isn’t up your alley but you still want to share your work, an art event or sketch meetup is a great way to collaborate, create and socialize!
I recently attended a live sketching event through a Meetup group called Art Jammers. At their most recent event, I had the opportunity to sketch surrounding nature and city architecture while making friends with people who share my interest in drawing. At the end of our session, we shared our work and highlighted things we liked in each other’s pieces.
I walked away from that event with newfound motivation and even pocketed useful tips from advanced sketchers to help me with my drawing skills!
Artdely Tokyo’s monthly meetups are also a great resource for those looking to connect with Tokyo’s creatives in a more casual setting. Not only that but Artdely helps connect artists and photographers with cafe exhibitions at a low cost. If you’re looking for a way to display your art, this is worth looking into.
5. Participate in an art class
Classes are perfect for budding artists who prefer learning under the watchful eye of an instructor. Even advanced artists can benefit from classes when learning a new medium, say transitioning from acrylic to oil paints. Add a little alcohol to the mix, and you’ve got ArtBar.
Artbar is Tokyo’s first “paint & sip” studio that offers classes on varying styles, such as paint pouring, gold accents, impressionism and re-creating famous works of art like Monet’s famous water lilies. Many of Artbar’s instructors are also fluent in English and classes are offered frequently for those with busy schedules.
For those interested in delving into figure drawing with a live model, consider attending Wednesday Night Sketch Club hosted at Bna Hotel in Nihonbashi. Co-founder Keigo Fukugaki is fully bilingual and welcomes artists from all walks of life and levels. Ticket prices include a drink, supplies and model fees.
Tokyo might shy from showing its artistic side initially, but those who search for it will always eventually find their way into the creative world when ready and willing.