Aikido Kyoto Tenugui

Recently it was Yoko-sensei's 60th birthday and I got to design the commemorative tenugui for Aikido Kyoto. It's inspired by the choju giga scrolls which are very famous, and much loved in Kyoto. 

I didn't actually see it until the day of the seminar. It was a relief to see it came out pretty much as I designed it. All the members got one, and Yoko-sensei also sent some to all dojos we have a relationship so they've gone to Europe and America too. The remaining tenugui will be on sale for 1000 yen each. 



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. 

Aikido Doodles

I can`t remember why but I was doing aikido drawings for some reason. As Aikido consumes more and more of my life these will likely become more frequent, as well short comics about things that amused me. Also hakama are fun to draw. They`re also amazing pieces of clothing if you examine how they`re made. In general Japanese clothing is ingenius imo, It`s generally quite practical, comfortable and looks great. 

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.


Interrail: Hamburg, June 2014

I interrailed Europe last year and saw all sorts of interesting stuff. This June, (exactly one year later) bits of that trip would randomly flash through my head, like "ah, this day last year I was on a train to so and so or this day I went to that little market there". I also found my photos from that trip and, feeling like I need practise some colouring and what not anyway, I`m working through those photos to process some of the experiences. Hopefully there`ll be some evolution in style too and I figure out how some things.


Kenshusei Life: Saturday | 研修生ライフ(土)

Finally we get to the last day of the training week. There's a zazen at 8:20 which some people go to, then class with Chris-sensei starts at the agreeable time of 10AM. Saturday is always a good day because, being a day off a lot of sempai are able to come and it's fun to train with them and you learn a lot. With so many people who have been training together for a long time, there's a good atmosphere. The format is for Chris to go through some techniques, basic stuff that people need to know for gradings and end with randori, which is also tested. Randori is where the tori starts at one end of the mat and the uke, usually about three people are at the end of the end. At the call of "hajime!" the uke go to grab the tori who has to throw them. It's a test of timing and judgement, that you go through the attackers and strategically throw them so they stay spaced out and you don't end up crowded. It's a lot harder than it looks.

Last class of the week is another weapons class, this time with Chris-sensei. Like on Friday it can be bokken or jo. Chris and Yoko have different styles of teaching. Chris is more likely to get annoyed at us for not being able to do what he's showing, which manifests itself in jovial insults. I guess it's that Irish blood. 

When that's over kenshusei do our weekly appointed dojo cleaning and then that's it till Monday. So there you have it. One week in kenshusei life. There are other things that kenshusei have to do, such as keeping the inside and outside of the dojo tidy which involve the unexciting tasks of sweeping up leaves and toilet cleaning. On golden week we had to repaint the dojo, Hasegawa has the added task of fielding all e-mail that comes in, with the help of Pierre, if it's in French. Pierre is in charge of dojo maintenance, us newbies are in charge of dealing with guests when Paul isn't there. So far I haven't been as on ball with this I need to be- one moment of hesitation where you wonder if this person is a stranger, or just a member you haven't seen before is the moment you are judged in the eagle eye of one of the more experienced members to be not doing your job at all and at warp speed they appear beside the visitor, pamphlet and newsletter in one hand and zabuton in the other. Just another thing to work on. Three years, people.

I've tried to give a clear account of the week without being exhaustively detailed and boring people but if you have any questions or would otherwise like to express your thoughts having read this series of posts, feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for reading!

Kenshusei Life: Friday | 研修生ライフ(金)

Friday training is unique in that it's the only day that happens at the Budo Centre. That sounds cool, and in fact there is a really gorgeous old style Japanese building on the grounds that's used as a training space. For our usual weekly visit however we train in basically a generic sports facility. We have to put down the mats before class and take them up afterwards which is a bit of pain but the Budo Centre is only 30 mins by bike which is more than reasonable considering the Hirakata journey on Wednesday. We will get to use the traditional building soon though for our upcoming international seminar so that will be something to look forward to. 

The nice thing is that the space is quite big compared to Nishijin so even if there's a lot of people it's comfortable. 

This class is an hour and a half, then there's a short break and then there's weapons class. This is separate to regular training and you have to apply to be in it because due to the obvious fact that it's a lot of people swinging weapons around, space is limited. This class can be either bokken which is a wooden sword or a jo which is a wooden pole. You've seen them in a martial arts film at some stage surely. 

Weapons class is difficult. There's a certain amount of transferrable knowledge but it really is a different beast. I speak from the point of view of a person who never did weapons until I came to Kyoto. Many dojos don't really go in to them too much.  

So we bash away at that for another hour. Usually some basic movements, some drills then some exercises and then maybe, just maybe we might do something that, well, looks cool I guess. I'm not sure what weapons mean to me yet so I'm quite happy to do the static exercises while I figure out if it, as head of animation in college, Keith Foran used to say; informs some other part of my training. Right now all it does is give my arms a serious workout, though it is getting more fun as I no longer have to think too hard about holding the bloody thing the right way or not drop it or something like that.

And then that's it for Friday. Then I usually get home pumped to do stuff then run out of energy right after I put my dogi in the washing machine and just lie on the floor instead. One more day to go!