Art Book Reviews
Review: Tokyo Storefronts by Mateusz Urbanowicz

Review: Tokyo Storefronts by Mateusz Urbanowicz

Some artbooks are filled with just pretty pictures, others only show off the artists’ technical ability but few combine to offer both and add cultural relevance to that. That’s what Tokyo Storefronts achieves.

Who is Mateusz Urbanowicz?

Matteusz Urbanowicz may not be a familiar name to most art lovers. In fact, I would say he seems to have a niche set of followers – people who love watercolors, landscapes, and anime illustration work with a heart.

One look and it’s not difficult to see his influences. His works echoes a classic charm, reminiscent of the early days of Studio Ghibli when Hayao Miyazaki was at its helm and the studio emphasized heart over commercial success and modern techniques. Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising since Matteusz has sworn a love for Hayao Miyazaki’s and Studio Ghibli.

Originally from Poland, Matteusz moved to Japan after winning a language scholarship from Kobe University. He met his wife, Kana, (also an illustrator) and together they live in a quiet rented home in the island of Enoshima, spending their time working on their respective projects as well as doing collaborations.

Mateusz, while versatile, works mostly using watercolors and ink. He once worked for an animation studio and was invited personally by Makoto Shinkai (another huge name in the anime industry) to try out for the job. You’ll see Shinkai’s influence in his work as well, particularly in his landscapes. Matteusz, in fact, helped bring to life many of the background landscapes used in the Makoto Shinkai film, “Kimi no Nawa” or “Your Name” – a story about two teens living miles apart whose lives inexplicably intertwine. Many in fact, hail Shinkai as the successor to Miyazaki.

Eventually leaving behind ife in the animation studio in 2016, Matteusz jumped into the freelancing world and has since focused on creating personal artworks and projects.

Since then, he has created various illustration series, started and grown his YouTube Channel, began his Patreon account, directed a short animation film, Susume Carolina, and released his webcoming, Yuragi. Of course, part of this set of projects is the elaborate and beautifully crafted, Tokyo Storefronts Series.

The Making of Tokyo Storefronts

Tokyo Storefronts first began as a personal project for him. After the series caught the attention of major Internet websites and his works went viral, many wanted to find out more about the illustrator behind the project. The personal project soon evolved into the Tokyo Storefronts book you see here.

Combining his love for old world architecture, Matteusz went around Tokyo looking for unique store fronts – those that still embodied much of Japan’s old world charm. Capturing each one in beautiful watercolors, the book serves as your personal tour guide to a Japan few modern travelers get to see, let alone experience anymore.

Tokyo Storefronts first began as a personal project for him. After the series caught the attention of major Internet websites and his works went viral, many wanted to find out more about the illustrator behind the project. The personal project soon evolved into the Tokyo Storefronts book you see here.

Why This Book?

I came across Matteusz’ work after coming across an online article about Tokyo storefronts and his work immediately drew me in. I love Japan and seeing a different side of Japan through the old store fronts was enough to make me want to find out more.


Eventually, I found his YouTube channel and was hooked. He not only creates quality videos, each one is easily digestible for casual viewers and fellow artists, but he also has a great way of explaining things, providing valuable insights most artists would not dare share. This is particularly true about the art process. It’s this graciousness and dedication to achieving and doing only the best he can that sets him apart from many of the art YouTubers you find today.

I’ll be honest, he’s one of probably 2-3 art YouTubers whose content I consume without any remorse or thought that I’m wasting my time. There’s always something you will take away from his work, if not, you still get entertained just by the sheer beauty of it.

Reviewing Tokyo Storefronts here then is only natural. It’s one of my favorite artbooks for 2018 and I don’t say that lightly.

Book Structure

The book is divided into six main parts. The first five chapters are dedicated to areas around Tokyo where the storefronts are or were once located. It’s designed this way so readers can also go on a mini Tokyo hunt for the store fronts if they choose. (You can find a map on the book.) Many of the stores are featured on whole pages, with a separate page dedicated to showing the details along with some personal anecdotes from its creator.

Chapter 6, meanwhile, offers a glimpse of how the artist works. It’s his atelier. You can find a list of the products and art materials he uses as well.

The book includes both Japanese and English so it’s easier for Western audiences to read the book. Mateusz has mentioned in his Patreon that there are plans of translating the book to French and other languages although there’s no major news on when those will be released.

A Peek Inside:

Book Details:

Book Pages: 160 Pages
Year Published: 2018
Publisher: エムディエヌコーポレーション
ISBN 13: [978-4844367345]

Artist Information:

Where to Buy:

Disclaimer: I am NOT affiliated with the companies or stores mentioned and I wasn’t paid to do this review. All of the thoughts expressed here are my own. It comes from buying and using the product for myself.

1 thought on “Review: Tokyo Storefronts by Mateusz Urbanowicz

Comments are closed.