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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogThis Japanese Chef Is Taking the Art of Food to a Whole New Dimension

This Japanese Chef Is Taking the Art of Food to a Whole New Dimension

Tanner SchroederTanner Schroeder
Published Time
Posted on 
July 20, 2020
Modified Time
Updated last 
June 21, 2022

This Japanese Chef Is Taking the Art of Food to a Whole New Level

Have you ever heard the old saying that “you eat with your eyes first”? 

Well, we’re all pretty serious about our Japanese food here at TokyoTreat – and as dedicated Japan foodies, we love documenting all the delicious food Tokyo has to offer on our instagram almost as much as we enjoy eating it! 

It’s the least we can do to show our appreciation for the culinary art we experience daily, but of course, there’s always someone out there who takes things to the next level. 

Long before the age of the ‘gram, Japanese chef Itsuo Kobayashi has been documenting his culinary journey in a beautiful way – no smartphone, camera or internet required! In a style that invokes the same mouth watering magic of a studio ghibli film, Itsuo Kobayashi has been creating detailed illustrations of everything he eats for the past 32 years! 

Kobayashi has always had a knack for illustration, and sometime in his late teens decided to begin documenting meals he particularly enjoyed with an illustration in his journal.

 By the time he turned 20, Kobayashi had become a successful soba chef, and later, moved on to feeding school-children at a cafeteria, spreading the love of his art and craft for a living. All told, to this day Kobayashi has produced over 1,000 illustrations of Japanese food! 

Overtime, like any talented artist, Kobayashi has developed his own unique style that really captures the essence and personality of his subjects – or, in his case, his meals! Much like Japanese-style cooking, his illustrations are as simple as they are detailed, with focus and precision helping to convey the unique experience of a Japanese bento, bowl of ramen, or tempura rice bowl. 

In fact his art is so wonderfully appetizing it almost reminds us of the quirky plastic food models that most Japanese restaurants use to show passerbys a little taste of what they can expect inside! Pretty cute, huh? 

Unfortunately, Kobayashi’s career as a Chef was cut short when he developed chronic neuritis, a debilitating and often-painful neurological disorder that significantly reduces the mobility of it’s victims. 

As a result of all this, most of Kobayashi’s time is spent indoors, and while we used to cook many of the meals he illustrated, he now primarily relies on delivery as well as his mother’s cooking to both fuel himself and his artistic projects! 

For some, being confined to your own home may halt any creative inspiration, but for Kobayashi, there’s always an endless amount of new culinary experiences to try. 

This spirit of always trying something new has carried over into his artwork, as well! For decades Kobayashi’s artwork has primarily been focused on 2D illustration, collage and text, but now he’s taking things to a whole new dimension with these awesome 3D pop-up pieces! 

While Kobayashi’s home is also his art studio – his illustrations have managed to travel all over the globe, becoming famous worldwide! Just like the Japanese food he illustrates, Kobayashi’s art has become highly desirable in the United States. 

Last January, his unique artwork sold for $3,000 at New York’s Outsider Art Fair. Not a bad deal, wouldn’t you say? 

Man, looking at all of these delicious drawings is making us hungry! Are you ready to bring some of these home? Let us know in the comment below!

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more news straight from Japan!

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