Remembering Illustrator Makoto Wada (1936 – 2019)

Japanese illustrator Makoto Wada passed away on October 7, 2019 due to pneumonia. He was 83 years old. The Osaka-born artist graduated from Tama Art University in 1959 and entered the advertising industry where we quickly made a name for himself. He became in independent illustrator in 1968.

Wada was a fan of the arts. Film and music, especially jazz, were some of his passions and this shows through in his work, which often took on a simple, caricature-esque look. He was perhaps most well-known for his minimal illustrations for the covers of weekly tabloid Shukan Bunshun, which contrasted sharply with the magazine’s salacious scoops.

Flipping through Wada’s work is not only enjoyable for its artistic value, but it also offers a glimpse into Japan during the 60s and 70s as the country rapidly modernized and rose to become a technological leader.

one of Wada’s ealier works from 1960 for NTT, advertising the change in telephone number area codes from 2 digits to 3 digits

Having grown up in the 80s and 90s in Japan, I remember gathering around the television on Saturday nights for “Golden Foreign Film Theater.” This was the opening sequence, illustrated by Wada, that would play before the movie started.

Shukan Bunshun cover from 2009
1960 design for cigarette brand hi-lite. Although we never smoked, this stands out as an example of Showa-era design
1965 ad for Canon
1993 ad for KFC. Colonel Sanders has never looked more chill.
here we have 2 illustrations he did of Tokyo in 1995 for a TIS (Tokyo Illustrators Society) exhibition
a caricature of Toshiro Mifune. Wada illustrated numerous caricatures, mostly of film stars, directors and authors
Shukan Bunshun cover from 2017
one of Wada’s most recent works: an ad for the 1997 Tokyo International Film Festival

1 Comment

  1. こんにちは。your article was so interesting. one error, it is “Colonel” not “Kernal”! the caption was funny, though. 頑張れ!

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