Japanese Artist Has Drawn Every Meal He’s Eaten for 32 Years: Behold the Delicious Illustrations of Itsuo Kobayashi

Since the 1980s, Itsuo Kobayashi has drawn a pic­ture of every sin­gle meal he eats. How­ev­er notable we find this prac­tice now, it would sure­ly have struck us as down­right eccen­tric back then. Kobayashi began draw­ing his food before the arrival of inex­pen­sive dig­i­tal cam­eras and cell­phones, and well before the smart­phone com­bined the two into the sin­gle pack­age we now keep close at hand. We all know peo­ple who take cam­era-phone pic­tures of their meals, some of them with the reg­u­lar­i­ty and solem­ni­ty of prayer, but how many of them could pro­duce life­like ren­der­ings of the food placed before them with only pen and paper?

“The Japan­ese out­sider artist and pro­fes­sion­al cook, born in 1962, first began keep­ing food diaries as a teenag­er,” Art­net’s Sarah Cas­cone writes of Kobayashi. “In his 20s, he began adding illus­tra­tions of the dish­es he made at work, and those he ate while din­ing out.” When, at the age of 46, a “debil­i­tat­ing neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der made it dif­fi­cult for him to walk, leav­ing him large­ly con­fined to his home,” Kobayashi began to focus on his food diaries even more intense­ly.

His sub­jects are now most­ly “food deliv­er­ies — some­times from restau­rants, some­times from his moth­er. And though his day-to-day exis­tence rarely varies, he’s been push­ing his prac­tice in a new direc­tion, cre­at­ing a new series of pop-up paint­ings.”

After 32 years of mak­ing increas­ing­ly detailed and real­is­tic over­head draw­ings of his every meal — includ­ing such infor­ma­tion as names, prices, fla­vor notes, and faith­ful­ly repli­cat­ed restau­rant logos — Kobayashi’s work has caught the atten­tion of the Amer­i­can art world. The Fukuya­ma-based gallery Kushi­no Ter­race “gave Kobayashi his US debut in Jan­u­ary, at New York’s Out­sider Art Fair,” Cas­cone writes. “His works sell for between $500 and $3,000.” That makes for quite a step up in pres­tige from his old job cook­ing at a soba restau­rant, though his copi­ous expe­ri­ence with that dish shows when­ev­er it appears in his diary.

But then, after decade upon decade of dai­ly prac­tice, every­thing Kobayashi draws looks good enough to eat, from bowls of ramen to plates of cur­ry to ben­to box­es filled with all man­ner of delights from land and sea. Though hard­ly fan­cy, espe­cial­ly by the advanced stan­dards of Japan­ese food cul­ture, these are the kind of meals you want to savor, the ones to which you feel you should pay appre­cia­tive atten­tion rather than just scarf­ing down. Or at least they look that way under Kobayashi’s gaze, which even the most ardent 21st-cen­tu­ry food-pho­tograph­ing hob­by­ist must envy. Many of us wish to eat more con­scious­ly, and the work of this cook-turned-artist shows us how: put down the phone, and pick up the sketch­book.

via Art­net

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Tee­ny Tiny Japan­ese Meals Get Made in a Minia­ture Kitchen: The Joy of Cook­ing Mini Tem­pu­ra, Sashi­mi, Cur­ry, Okonomiya­ki & More

Wagashi: Peruse a Dig­i­tized, Cen­turies-Old Cat­a­logue of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Can­dies

Cook­pad, the Largest Recipe Site in Japan, Launch­es New Site in Eng­lish

How to Make Sushi: Free Video Lessons from a Mas­ter Sushi Chef

How the Aston­ish­ing Sushi Scene in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Was Ani­mat­ed: A Time-Lapse of the Month-Long Shoot

The Prop­er Way to Eat Ramen: A Med­i­ta­tion from the Clas­sic Japan­ese Com­e­dy Tam­popo (1985)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.