Crepes in the City Airstream

Last year I got asked by the lovely people at Crepes in the City to design decals for their new airstream food truck. If possible they wanted their chef mascot incorporated and something reminiscent of 1950s graphic design. 

It was my first time working on something to be printed on a 3d surface and on such a large scale. There was a lot to think about and a lot of measuring and fearing printing accidents but they came out exactly as hoped and the clients were happy. Hurray.

One personal feeling about the overall result was the images weren't as cohesive as one design overall in the end - just lots of spots as extra little requests were added on. Also I think in future I would work starting with the back because the illustrations I finished last turned out to be my favourite because by that time I'd worked out the style. 

This is what the truck looked like:

They also asked me to make the menu boards for all their trailers. Here's the ones I did especially for their trailer at Bloom.

For some reason I felt compelled to hand write everything. I think it works better with the blackboard look I suppose. So the crepes trailers have had a little tidy-up and you should go check them out if you're around Dublin or any of the festivals they're operating at this summer!

Cafe Frosch 7th Anniversary Party

It's been about six months since I've posted here. Bad form. I do have an excuse though if you're interested: I have been insanely busy. All the time. No seriously. My schedule is still jammers from here on, but I'm going to elbow in here with this little report on Cafe Frosch's party which I was heavily involved in. I made the above flyer, I was also asked to make a cake, take the photos and MC on the night. In comparison to my daily amount of tasks in general it actually didn't seem like a lot at the time... anyway. Normally I just work there three hours on Sunday talking my head off to Sumi-san the whole time.

A small introduction to Cafe Frosch. It was set-up by the Sadahisa sisters in an old machiya house in the northern Kyoto district of Nishijin. I actually wrote a rather detailed article about Frosch HERE. (This blog project was halted unfortunately so I haven't been able to talk about it as such but please do check out this article; I gave it socks.)

Next I decided we needed a cool image for the banner on the Facebook event page and got another Frosch regular with a good camera, a French student called Lili to take this frog picnic photo, making use of the substantial frog collection of the cafe. The little guy sitting on the tatami mat by himself - Sumi-san calls him the god of the cafe.

Finally on the night I had to take photos with a camera that I haven't touched since it came in to my hands. As such the results varied, but generally represented the night rather well I felt:

I will do my best to catch this blog up with other things I have done lately. Ahh where to start?

Corleggy Cheeses Port Jelly

Recently I was asked by the lovely and wonderful people at Corleggy Cheeses to design a label for their port jelly jars. The labels got printed in time for the Christmas Craft Show at the RDS in Dublin where you can buy it this week and of course every weekend at Temple Bar Food Market. 

This was a fun project as I pretty much got to do what I wanted. I wrote the words with a Japanese brush pen, trying to make the letters look tipsy but still legible and then photographed with my phone and airdropped it to my iMac and had one of those moments when you acknowledge to yourself you live in the future where technology is magic. Here's a close up of the label before we moved the important text from the top to the side of the jar.

The Escapist

As a devoted Monocle consumer I awaited my copy of The Escapist with a sense giddy anticipation, ready to bask in the “sunshine on paper” as it was described on Monocle radio, and at the same time with an inward sigh thinking that’s probably as close to a summer holiday as I might get: aspirational window shopping from my utilitarian accommodation of the kenshusei shisetsu, a world away from the Nice Things and Beautiful People usually fill the pages of a Monocle publication.

At that time I had forgotten that, in a sense I was already living The Escapist dream. I escaped the nine to five about two years ago, first getting by somehow while having all sorts of food-centered adventures in Dublin, now, I’m operating even further outside the normal framework. Indeed if I chose to I could phrase my current situation rather grandly: an aikido practitioner living in the traditional, machiya-lined northern part of Kyoto city on a intense training program to become a professional martial artist. I could curate my photo uploads to snaps of the Budo centre’s traditional-style training hall, the Kamo river, leafy temples and tasteful cafe interiors (and in fact for the most part I do). None of this really speaks anything of the financial uncertainty, the utilitarian dojo-owned share house designed by the ergonomically illiterate, or the strict training schedule which makes up the greater part of daily life. It’s living the dream, but the dream is actually tough going. Meanwhile, all that nice cultural stuff just sits in the background out of focus - Kyoto becomes a fishbowl where you just go around and round in the same circles week on week while the heat steadily rises and then remains trapped by the surrounding mountains.

This unseen, unglamorous daily reality is taken to extremes once the summer sets in proper: shedding litres of sweat in a tatami lined box with about twenty other people, throwing and taking falls, trying to aim your landing a few centimetres away from the visible print of someone else’s sweat drenched dogi. Any exotic thrill of living in Kyoto for martial arts is soon lost in that unforgiving heat bog of a city where temperatures sit at 35 degrees Celsius. The mere act of bowing in at the start of training produces visible beads of perspiration and in the time you’re not dragging yourself up from a pool of your own sweat after taking break falls over and over again in the dojo, your main preoccupation is laundry and the efficient rotation of dojo wear.

So when The Escapist arrived I was more than ready to be invited to feel the breeze of Beirut while lying on the floor my room underneath underneath the air conditioner. As it happened however, I got a slice of the real deal - to take my own journey that was very much in the spirit of the magazine. 

A few days after the magazine arrived, due to carelessness on my part, my travel arrangements to an eight hour aikido seminar in Odawara were voided. At first I was furious at myself for losing out on 2000 yen overnight bus hell; due to spending most of our time on unpaid training, we kenshusei are generally in a perpetual state of poverty. This rules out flashy options like the Shinkansen, but, when I talked with the others I was reminded that August is the season to buy a Seishun 18 ticket in Japan. For about 10,000 yen it can be used for five journeys on any local train. A nice feature is that multiple people can use the same ticket (each counting as one of the five journeys) so, with two of my fellow kenshusei, we bought one to take the train from Kyoto to Yugawara, a stop before Odawara, our final destination. This was due to it being cheaper to stay in Yugawara and travel forward on the day of the seminar. 

Last year I Inter-railed solo around Europe, and as such I have Passing Time on Trains down to a fine art, but I was surprised at the how fluidly seven hours passed with two travelling companions, homemade cake and a game of shiratori - though the latter was abandoned between trains after about an hour. There were many changes of trains but while they looked like an awful lot of work as a list on a timetable, in reality were very smooth and easy. 

Once we arrived in Yugawara it was already dark and most places were closed, but so delighted were we to move our legs the fifteen minute walk Google maps lead us on was very agreeable. We found ourselves at a non-descript street near the edge of town where there was a Teishoku-ya - a place to get a set Japanese style set meal for a reasonable price. Having lived in Kyoto about six months now I’d become sort of desensitised to the splendour of all the shrines and temples, though walking through this new environment, I was struck anew by the pleasure of being in a beautiful place, in this small seaside town south Tokyo of all places, somewhere I didn’t know existed until the week before. The small town atmosphere with a hint of the sea - in the air but also in the pointed reminders of the sea level at where ever you looked, the streets lined with paper lanterns for o-bon and the black shape of the mountains - totally different to Kyoto - somehow more open. 

At the Teishoku-ya we had a simple and delicious meal of rice, miso soup, grilled fish, a little salad and chawanmushi to the comfortable backdrop of mindless evening television. From there we contacted our ryokan owner who came and picked us up. What initially seemed like an exemplary gesture of Japanese hospitality was soon evidently more of a necessity as we rode the car up a steep winding hill devoid of any illumination. 

The ryokan was old, it seemed like it might be a converted care home - the layout was strange and the owners were insistent on the use of the elevator for a journey between floors of about ten seconds by stairs. It’s selling point was the ‘mikan bath’ which was literally a big Japanese style bath filled with citrus bobbing about on the surface filling the bathroom with steamy zestiness, was a new and slightly surreal experience. There was also a coveted rotemburo - outdoor bath which we were entitled to use for a half an hour. Being the unlikely trio of an Irish woman, a Japanese man and a French man, it was delicately agreed the fairest way was to divide this time into two fifteen minute slots with me going first. Rotemburo against the clock is not exactly the gently restorative experience Japanese people get dreamy-eyed over, but it wasn’t unsatisfying.  

The room was somewhat more equipped than your average European budget hotel, what’s considered the essentials in hospitality and how it varies from place to place is always interesting. Here, it seems one cannot get by without a hot water dispenser, lacquer box with full Japanese tea set, low table with big plush zabuton, in addition to the tv and hairdryer. Our futons were laid out already on the immaculate tatami. A huge window faced down on the town towards the mountain and though it wasn’t visible at the given hour, in the morning we woke to a spectacular vista, which is just what you want when you wake up in a strange place.

In the morning we had a leisurely stroll along the citrus tree lined mountain road, then took another quick soak in the baths before getting ready for an intense weekend of sweating it out on the tatami. Sitting in the wooden lined bath by myself at seven a.m. facing an unfamiliar mountain range which was vibrant in the August morning sunshine, I perused an article about Perth and felt a deep sense of pleasure at how I had come to be here, a how happy coincidence and lack of both money and expectations opened the door to an overall richer experience than the most obvious travel option. To recall the actual seminar only draws up a hazy blur of people, litres Pocari Sweat and even more actual sweat, it's the memory of the unexpected journey with two unlikely companions that lingers sweetly: sunlight citrus and the sea, and will remain something to treasure.


To all my coffee friends*: Announcing MUGS FOR BEANS: a monthly bit of fun where in exchange for a bag of delicious coffee I will draw a little portrait shot of you.

*You don't have to be my friend for real but you should be into coffee to take part.


  • First, if you don't already you'll need to follow me on instagram (@merryko).
  • When you see #mugsforbeans post a comment with your coffee on offer: 
  • [Roaster + Coffee Details] is the format.
  • After twenty four hours from the point of posting the competition is closed and I chose a winner.
  • You send me your mug to be drawn (doesn't have to be your own) and I'll send you the postal address. When your coffee gets to me, you'll get your portrait.

 Here's some examples of what you can expect:

Le Cool Feature + website news


At the start of the year there was a call for submissions for covers for le cool Dublin. I thought I might as well and hashed out the above then locked my laptop into my room and went off to mainland Europe for ten days forgetting to actually send the file before I left. In the time I was away the deadline day passed and being up in a sleepy corner of Sweden I was painfully aware there was nothing I could do about it. After that I just had to get over it and move on. 

Then a few weeks ago I was contacted my le cool asking if I would do TWO covers for them and an interview. It's amazing how that happens sometimes. I have the lovely people at to thank for that. Kyoto Through Coffee has done a lot to put me on the radar as an illustrator as well as a food person. So this week was the first of the two covers. You can see article on le cool HERE.

It's a bit artifacty and naff due to the requested jpeg format BUT!! A very nice limited edition print of it will be available on my soon-to-be-open webshop. You can expect to be able to preorder it from early next month. 

Inter rail: Prague #1

Another instalment of drawings from my inter rail trip. This time Prague.


That bridge that passed over buildings that were four or more stories high was pretty impressive. As is all the red roofs making up the city scape, broken up by the river and thick clumps of greenery. Beautiful city.

Second drawing is of one of the vendors in the main square making a traditional pastry called a trdelnik. Very tasty.



Still getting to grips with new Photoshop and new Wacom. The Intuos 3 had no surface resistance whatsoever so I`m finding that weird with the Intuos pro. Not only that but the pro has different nibs some for creating even more paper like- experience. I draw with ball points on newsprint a lot so I`m not super keen on that tbh but I suppose I`ll get used to it.

I`ve been trying to create a routine and to keep drawing away every day until something happens. That`s a challenge with the heat we have here in Kyoto at the moment. Basically drenched in sweat all day. And then maybe the heavens will suddenly open on you when you go out for some air and then you`re just drenched in general and it`s hard to tell if that`s better or worse. 

So anyway here are two quick things from today. A friendly deer and a guy with many cats.

Hopefully in doing these little bits and pieces some development will be evident. I feel like I`ve said that before. Anyway. Happy Sunday.