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'Australia and Sydney have changed the way I live completely.'

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Feature by Michael Canning

Kentaro Yoshida is a Japanese born artist who relocated to Australia aged 18 and has called Sydney his home for more than a decade. Inspired by manga and skateboard art, he soon found his doodling could be a career rather than just a creative outlet.


Today, he’s a regularly exhibiting artist, and his work has been commissioned by international brands including Converse, Mambo, Billabong, Fanta and Hurley, to name but a few. Kentaro's experience of life abroad is a popular theme in his work, so we spoke to Kentaro about how Australia influences his creativity.


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On where you’re from

I’m from a little fisherman town in Toyama, the middle north part of the main island in Japan.


On where you live in Sydney

I live in Manly, part of the northern beaches of Sydney; I actually have lived in this area since I moved to Sydney. I live slightly up the hill, where you can find more houses than units or apartments, so most of my neighbours are family and pretty chilled out. It’s easy to find street parking too.


On where you’ve lived around the world

I have only lived in Sydney or my home town in Japan. That’s why I feel Sydney is my second home.


Kentaro working on artwork for 'Rumble', a collaborative exhibition by himself and Ben Brown.

On first arriving in Sydney

It was completely fresh. From the people to road signs, everything I could see, was something I had never seen. And I remember I was in the mix of a curiosity and fear feeling.


On how Sydney inspires you

I have found my lifestyle and what I like through the experience of living in Sydney. This reflects and becomes the base of my artwork so it means a lot to me. 


On current art projects

I have been working on a few personal projects besides freelance commercial works. One of them is to make an Aussie slang English picture book from my perspective. Basically, I have been illustrating Aussie slang I collected from daily conversation, from A-Z to make a simple funny picture book. It’s almost halfway through so I cannot wait to get it done.


'From the people to road signs, everything I could see was something I had never seen.'

On a favorite collaboration recently

I did collab dual art show with Sydney-based artist Ben Brown. He was one of my heroes when I studied at university. Also he is a local legend artist from the Northern Beaches, so it was one of my dreams to have a show together, and it came true. 


On the art community in Sydney

I was quite late to appear in the industry and I thought I wouldn’t be able to join in. But everyone was friendly and it was easy for me to join and get to know people. I think it is because of multiculturalism too; it seems everyone doesn’t care about what my background is, how I speak English etc.


On differences in work culture between Australia and Japan

It seems a lot more chilled out in Australia compared to Japan. I recently went back to Japan for a month and caught up with my friends there. Some of them seem to overwork and feel under pressure, unfortunately. I prefer to have a balanced life in Australia at the moment, for my family and myself.


Artwork for Yoshida Studio and personal work 'Floating Skull'.

On your perception of Sydney after moving there

As I learned the language and culture more, I could adapt to the city and environment more. At the same time, Sydney itself has been changing and refining to be more modern and contemporary in last 10 years, in my opinion. 


On your favorite thing about living abroad

You can make friends literally around the world, so that you can go anywhere and find friends to hang out, and I find that’s the greatest thing. There’s a lot of influence for my visual work too, as my work often represents myself and my lifestyle in Sydney. Australia and Sydney have changed the way I live completely. Also there is a learning practice in the everyday; as you get better in language or work, your life will be easier and more comfortable. It’s like playing an RPG game in real life. You gain new skills and the ability to strengthen yourself to survive in a new world. I find it is really interesting. 


'It's like playing an RPG game in real life. You gain new skills and the ability to strengthen yourself to survive in a new world.'

On the best new phrase you’ve heard in Australia

‘Cool bananas’ made me laugh so much, and gave me a big question too. Such a weird expression (laughs).


On one thing people should do when they arrive

Definitely go to the pub near a beach, like The Steyne in Manly, and have a couple of pints during the daytime. It’s way more chill and good vibes there in the daytime.


On being prepared for Sydney

The weather is pretty good and it doesn’t get as cold as Japan or London, so you can bring lighter clothes and jackets then you figure it out once moving to Sydney. 


On where you go for creative inspiration

I go outside to talk to friends or observe random people at the pub. Also going to many art shows, regardless if it’s a friend’s one or not. Then meet new people and environments. It’s a fun thing too.


Personal work inspired by everyday life in Sydney. 'Coin Laundry' and 'Drink Glass'.

On a must-have item

In general, a notepad and pen to do doodling and weird sketches. And an iPad to do digital illustration anywhere. And tinnies at night.


On where to get good coffee

Unfortunately I cannot drink coffee and I always rely on energy drinks. I would like to change this bad habit next year.


On something Japanese you like to find

I used to miss everything from my hometown back in 2004. But now you can get most of the stuff here. There are really good Japanese restaurants around Sydney and you can find decent ramen here, too. Now you can buy everything from miso to Kewpie mayonnaise at supermarkets too. Things have been changing in a good way and become more convenient for sure. The only thing I cannot find easily in Sydney is my family in Japan. I realise how much I love them and miss them as I get older and more mature. It’s a nature thing.


'My work often represents myself and my lifestyle in Sydney. Australia and Sydney have changed the way I live completely.

On something you wish you’d been told

Surfing is such a fun practice, both physically and culturally. I started surfing here when I was 18, and I met many hardcore surfers at my home town in Japan in the last few years. There is a sick river-mouth break in my hometown which I didn’t know till I met them. I wish I had met them before I came to Australia and I could have been a slightly better surfer by now (laughs).


On any final thoughts

As I said before, Australia gave me a huge influence to my life choice, and changed the direction of my life completely. Because of that, I could choose to have a simpler life and take stuff I like to do as a job. I cannot complain, and am having a good time here at the moment. Thanks, Australia, for having me in town.


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