It’s been a rough start to the new year for Japan as one disaster begets another. We are of course talking about the evolving situation at Haneda airport, as well as the Noto Peninsula. Our hearts go out to everyone affected but we also want to highlight the many heroes of the situation: the news reporters who calmly and accurately delivered life-saving information to victims of the earthquake, to the crew of commercial airliner who safely evacuated close to 400 passengers in a matter of minutes. Japan is prone to natural disaster, and it’s times like these that all the preparation and training that typically goes unnoticed and un-thanked, really shine. Japan should be proud.
As tradition goes, we’ve been putting together our favorite nengajo, or New Years cards, from Japanese artists and designers. This year’s zodiac animal is the dragon, significant in that it’s the only mythical creature of the twelve. We present to you, in no particular order, some inspiring artwork in hopes that the traits of the dragon—strength, benevolence and good luck—are with those affected by recent events.
Kyoto-based illustrator Kashiwai created this lithograph print with soft lines a subdued hues, which contrasts nicely with the ferocious dragon.
Gorgeous black & white card from illustrator Takuya Kawaguchi.
Toyama-based illustrator Shizu Kondou completely captures our vibe heading into the new year.
Known for his work influenced by video game culture and Ukiyo-e, Rokkakudo DADA created this card.
Motion graphics artist Muneone imagined a salamander-like dragon made from new years foods like kamaboko.
We came across several nengajo that reimagine cats as dragons. We love this one from Tokyo-based illustrator Mutsumi Kawazoe.
A super-cute nengajo from illustrator Tomato Market with suggestions on how to spend new years.
Our friends at Bento Graphics, noodling around with the year of the dragon.
The award for best-crafted new year’s card goes to graphic designer Mami Shimizu, who created this abstract image of a dragon in the sky using lithography and silkscreen.
Now Okamoto, a photographer who sees art in everyday objects—namely, clothespins—created this image using only his muse.
We loved illustrator Nona Miyata‘s animated greeting.
Kyoto-based illustrator Kyoko Nakamura created this retro-style card.
Graphic designer Shun Takeuchi’s manages to be minimal yet exciting!!
We love the work of Hokkaido-based illustrator Nao Sakamoto, and this card is no exception!
We’re rather fond of this black & white card from Youtuber Hayato Kagami.
Illustrator Shunsuke Satake always manages to brighten up our day.
Sapporo-based illustrator and artist Baku Maeda shows off one of his signature characters in this card.
We love the style of Kyushu-based illustrator and toy designer 0313!
Graphic designer and typography specialist Rin Takeda‘s card is a fun exercise in kanji. The year of the dragon is written as 辰 and pronounced tatsu, which is a homonym for “stand up.”
Embroidery artist Minori created this hand-made dragon.
The scariest, most-ferocious dragon we ever did see. From Hokkaido-based illustrator Tao.
Simple lines and simple colors yet such an outstanding card from illustrator Wakiko.
How fun is this imaginary world where dragons depart from the airport? We love how illustrator Masaya Mizukawa incorporated the year, as well as how the dragon is “refueling”!
It’s fitting to wrap up our picks with this card from illustrator Yuka Nishiizumi and her tribute to 2023 (shogi, basketball, WBC) passing the baton to 2024.