drawing Japan | Jeanette Budgett

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Students from Unitec’s landscape and architecture programmes visited Japan in September 2018. Architecture lecturer Jeanette Budgett teamed up with Hikoi Garden Tours (Penny Cliffin and Ian Henderson) to offer an immersive cultural experience during, what turned out to be, Japan’s ‘extreme weather’ month of the year. The group successfully negotiated Japan’s lingering summer heat wave, Typhoon Jebi, and were luckily some distance from a 6.6 magnitude earthquake in Hokkaido.

Drawing at every site/sight, students were eventually drawn into a critical engagement with the Japanese built environment. They encountered architecture and urbanism, studied streetscape and delighted in exquisite gardens. Through drawing in a variety of projections students developed field study skills for more structured observation and critical reflection. Great natural ability in drawing wasn’t necessary to participate. Drawing can be learned - it’s a skill - and a valuable form of extended observation. Spatial and visual analysis was sharpened and expanded by this close observation.


Critical engagement with Japan occurred both actively and passively. Travelling on subways and trains, cycling and walking provided direct experience with Japan’s extraordinary culture of convenience. Mobile phone etiquette revealed a society with extreme consideration for others in crowded public spaces. Staying in a Tokyo capsule hotel gave insightful glimpses of the Japanese respect for the floor - shoes for outside, shoes for inside, shoes for toileting…

While based in Kyoto, students were encouraged to engage on their own terms with Japan. Weekends provided opportunities for personal forays. Some made pilgrimages to special places, Tadao Ando’s Church of Light for example. Others went no less than three times to Osaka from Kyoto for the evening (by subway, bullet train, subway –no small effort) to eat the perfect bowl of ramen noodle!

 Murin-An, Three Tiered Waterfall, Kerryann Romero

Murin-An, Three Tiered Waterfall, Kerryann Romero

 Manisha Kachhia, Alleyway between Kawaramachi Dori and Kiya Machi Dori

Manisha Kachhia, Alleyway between Kawaramachi Dori and Kiya Machi Dori

 Manisha Kachhia, Elevation North of alleyway between Kawaramachi Dori and Kiya Machi Dori

Manisha Kachhia, Elevation North of alleyway between Kawaramachi Dori and Kiya Machi Dori

 Manisha Kachhia, Elevation South of alleyway between Kawaramachi Dori and Kiya Machi Dori

Manisha Kachhia, Elevation South of alleyway between Kawaramachi Dori and Kiya Machi Dori

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Left: Myint San Aung, Kyoto Pagoda

Below: Myint San Aung, Murin-an Garden

Jordan Draffin, Shigemori Mirei Residence

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