I met with Adrian Hogan at Midoriso, a ramshackle old building hidden beneath a blanket of green vines. It seemed a peaceful, symbiotic relationship between nature and artificial construction—it was also the shared workplace Adrian called his studio.
Adrian told me he draws all the time. He carries a small bag of pens, markers, and other assorted tools wherever he goes. He said this was how he first got to know the city of Tokyo.
“If you look at a map of Tokyo,” he said, “everything is very chaotic; everything sort of grows out from the center of the imperial palace. So there’s this feeling that it has no sense of horizon, it’s just endless buildings. And so what I used to do was go to tall buildings where there was an observation deck, and draw from there, to kind of get a sense of geometry and where things were.”
For Adrian, drawing is a way to observe the world. In this sense, Tokyo’s appeal lies in the fact that there’s always something going on. There’s always something to watch, observe, and draw.
“There’s so much density in Tokyo that just walking here you find something interesting, like every ten meters or so,” he said. “I mean, there’s so many people living here it’s really hard not to find something appealing.”
As we wandered from Midoriso towards Nakameguro, I was surprised by the quiet. It was disarming—we were no more than ten minutes from the bustle of Shibuya central; from the business people, the shoppers, the tourists, and the students. The traffic. The noise. But there wasn’t a sense of any of that here.
When I asked Adrian about it, he said, “I think one thing that I find really interesting about Tokyo is that there’s this sort of condenseness of nature and man-made objects. And so in this area in particular you have the river and the sakura trees around it, and then all these tall buildings behind them, and that scenery is really interesting to me; that you can have so much going on in a cramped, small space, but there’s a peacefulness, too, that you find here.”
And this, it seemed, was an image Adrian wanted to capture—the quiet landscapes that sat before a background of buildings teasing at big city life. It was also the essence of Nakameguro, a mix of nature and architecture in which independent boutiques, bookshops, and cafes nestled into a mish-mash of small buildings hidden behind the trees.
His sketches captured details of place and person in a way that felt somehow light and free. Relaxed was the word for it. He said he feels a sense of the nostalgic in his style—hand drawn with a dash of warmth.
It felt like the right style for a more relaxed part of town. The right style for a more relaxed look at life in Tokyo. And as I watched Adrian work, I felt like there were all these parts of the city I’d never really noticed.
“There’s so many details in Japan that drawing is a really good way to discover,” Adrian said. “The things you wouldn’t ordinarily notice or recognize.”