Sandra Apperloo (3/4)

This month, blogger Sandra Apperloo (from ArtisticMoods) shares pictures by her favorite artists with Flow, and tells us about her encounters with some of them in Japan.

It’s quite remarkable that many of the illustrators I admire are from Japan. And so, because I had been thinking about traveling to this amazing country for a long time, I decided last spring that it was time to make the journey over. I visited Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, and met my favorite illustrators while there. I drank tea with them, ate delicious Japanese cuisine, visited exhibitions and studios, and even went to an illustration party. It was an unforgettable trip! Here are some of my most special encounters:

Breakfast with Hatsuki Miyahara

1.Hatsuki Miyahara

I fell in love with Hatsuki Miyahara’s illustrations years ago. And now I was going to meet her in real life. In her home in Japan. Wow! Hatsuki had invited me over for breakfast; we drank Ocha (tea) together and ate Hatsuki’s homemade Onigiri (rice balls).

During our breakfast, Hatsuki told about her career as an illustrator. She has always had a passion for drawing, but she only began her training at a school for illustration when she was 30. “I’m not exactly sure why, but I somehow lost sight of my dream to become an artist. I studied economics and worked in an office for several years. But it just didn’t feel right, and then I remembered my childhood dream. I realized it was time to listen to that dream, and I’m so glad I did. Being an illustrator has brought me so much. I am so grateful that I am able to earn my bread (and Onigiri!) while following my dream.”


2.Hatsuki Miyahara

What I especially like about Hatsuki’s work is that she paints in layers of color, which creates depth. It gives her work a very unique character.

3.Hatsuki Miyahara

Lunch with Yuki Kitazumi & Fumi Koike

4.Yuki Kitazumi&Fumi Koike&Sandra Apperloo

An important lesson that I learned in Japan: thanks to the public transport system in Tokyo, you can get from one place to another in the blink of an eye. As long as you plan your journey well. Which I, unfortunately, hadn’t. So as I was wandering around lost among the trains and commuters, the illustrators Yuki Kitazumi and Fumi Koike were waiting for me. For a long time. And that made me feel really bad, as in Japan, punctuality is a big thing. So when I finally arrived, I apologized about a hundred times, but luckily both ladies were not so bothered.

What I didn’t know beforehand was that Yuki and Fumi are good friends. Before I set off for Japan, I had asked both illustrators separately to meet me and now, here we were, the three of us, eating a delicious meal together! We chatted about anything and everything, including the MJ Illustration School in Tokyo, where Yuki and Fumi met. For Fumi, the school was a follow-up to her previous education at the Musashino Art University in Tokyo. For Yuki, who already had several years’ experience as an illustrator on the other hand, it helped her to look at things in a new way. “You could say that the course gave me new eyes. As an illustrator, I am now able to see the things that I want to draw from a new perspective.”


6.Fumi Koike

Fumi Koike brought this piece of work with her to the lunch.

7.Yuki Kitazumi

One of my favorite illustrations by Yuki Kitazumi.

Aiko Fukawa’s exhibition

8.Aiko Fukawa

I can’t think of anyone else who makes as many wonderful animal illustrations as Aiko Fukawa (you’ve probably come across her work in Flow Magazine). I was so happy when I heard that my trip to Japan coincided with an exhibition she was holding in the Keibunsha bookstore in Kyoto. Of course I’d have to go that!

Aiko’s illustrations hung everywhere. They transformed the bookshop into a small colorful zoo. She was also there, and I must admit I felt rather shy when I shook her hand. But it turned out that I didn’t need to feel that way: ​​it was so nice to chat with Aiko! We giggled, chatted about her career as an illustrator and about life in the Netherlands. She also talked about her visit from Flow, which you can watch via this lovely little film here.

11.Aiko Fukawa

Tea with Kosuke Ajiro

12.Kosuke Ajiro

Kosuke Ajiro is also an illustrator who I have admired for years. So it was very special to be invited by him and his wife for tea in their lovely apartment in the east of Tokyo. And that was followed by a visit to his studio, where I got to hold illustrations that I had admired for so long on his blog in my hands. Wow!

14.Kosuke Ajiro
I find Kosuke’s paintings so magical, and I often stare at them for a little longer than usual, as they seem to tell stories. Many of his works are full of wonderful touches such as plants, animals and other creatures…

Yakitori lunch with Naomi Okubo

16.Naomi Okubo&Sandra Apperloo

The talented Naomi Okubo graduated from Tokyo’s Musashino Art University in 2011. Since then, she has taken part in several exhibitions and for the past few years, has been appearing more and more often outside of Japan, such as in the Christoffer Egelund Gallery in Copenhagen and at the Affordable Art Fair in Hong Kong (both of which were this year).

And as incredibly impressive as that may be, Naomi is one of the most humble and nicest women I got to know in Japan. We met at the Inokashira Park, and walked among the blossom trees, ate Yakitori chicken, drank biru (beer) and visited the candy market, where I got to taste a range of delicious Japanese delicacies. What a wonderful afternoon that was!


18.Naomi Okubo

Afterwards, we visited Naomi’s lovely studio, which is not far from the Inokashira Park. She showed me some of her work, including some paintings she had just finished. It soon became clear that Naomi spends a lot of time in her studio. “Sometimes when I have a deadline, I paint here from early morning until late in the evening. I admit they are long days, but I still love what I do. As long as there are also periods of time that are less hectic, then it’s good to be so busy.”

19.Naomi Okubo

Naomi has created a lot of wonderful work. This is my favorite.

Embroidery workshop with Mari Kamio


It was a case of love at first sight when I came across Mari Kamio’s embroidery. So how lucky was I that she was holding a workshop in Shibuya, Tokyo, during my trip! I was definitely going to sign up for that and learn something from her.

24.Mari Kamio Workshop

The location of the workshop alone—a lovely little gallery called Goen C—was worth attending the event for. Together with five Japanese ladies, three glasses of lemonade and a whole load of thread, we embroidered some lovely colorful brooches. The ladies didn’t speak much English, which meant that I had to put to use the little Japanese that I had learned so far. Yup, now I really felt like I was traveling.

25.Mari Kamio&Sandra Apperloo

The results! With Mari Kamio.

Illustration Party in Kyoto

26.Illustration Party Kyoto

28.Illustration Party Kyoto

When Hatsuki Miyahara heard that I had come to Japan, not only did she invite me to her house for breakfast, she also drummed up a few good friends from the illustration world. She organized a get-together with six other great illustrators in a beautiful, traditional eatery in Kyoto. It was an evening to remember: we spent hours talking about drawing, painting and life as an illustrator. We leafed through the workbooks and portfolios of everyone there. No illustration went unsurveyed. I am so grateful to Hatsuki for organizing the party!

29.Shuku Nishi

30.Shuku Nishi

I was particularly charmed by the work of Shuku Nishi, who makes her illustrations using colored pieces of paper. They have a gentle, cheerful feel to them, and are often slightly magical. But the work of the other illustrators also made a great impression on me. If you’d like to read more about the illustrators I met during the get-together, you can do so on here.