Needless to say, 2020 is a year that many of us won’t forget for a while.

The pandemic reared its ugly head causing things like loss of jobs, financial instability, and in some dire cases, even the loss of a friend or loved one due to the virus. We’ve come into a new year, and although the effects of the pandemic are still being felt today, it can be good to reflect on what 2020 brought us. After all, the pandemic affected millions of lives across the globe, and despite everything negative that happened, we can look at the past year as a uniting point for our shared experiences.

One Japanese artist that’s using their creativity and talent to illustrate some of these shared experiences is Zenjidō Yamada. They are known for creating light-hearted and often humorous art that brings a modern spin to the traditional Japanese art of ukiyo-e, or woodblock prints. Their work often depicts a man that appears to have come straight from Japan’s Edo period (1603-1868) in a variety of situations — situations that are altogether very human in nature.

Yamada has almost a million followers on Instagram (@y_haiku) and even when it comes to their social media posts, they keep the feudal Japan fantasy by using a classical Japanese style of writing for the captions.

Reproduced with permission from Zenjidō Yamada (IG: y_haiku)

Although Yamada’s original 2020-themed post presented a few topics that are Japan-centric, some illustrations highlight the thoughts and struggles that many of us have had no matter where we are in the world. Two good examples of this are illustrations that address the “new normal” that many of us had to adapt to last year.

The image on the left has the Edo-period man expressing a quick “Ah!” of surprise, with the text translating to, “It feels like I’m going out naked when I forget my mask.” Yamada depicts another prevention measure on the right. As the man in the image blurts out, “It stings!”, the caption explains to us his thoughts: “I’ve been sanitizing my hands too much that they’ve turned red.”

Reproduced with permission from Zenjidō Yamada (IG: y_haiku)

This next pair of images finds the Edo man in a typical Japanese ‘salaryman’ suit on the left, thinking, “Everyone is going to work like normal, to the point that I wonder if telework is even a thing.”

To prevent the spread of the pandemic, companies across the world found themselves switching to a teleworking style. However, this wasn’t the case for everybody — in Japan, for example, images of city train stations during rush hour still showed thousands of employees commuting to work every day. Through his illustration, Yamada perfectly captures what most definitely would’ve been a common feeling among those employees.

On the right, the Edo man is back in his normal attire, but this time, he’s expressing some worries about getting sick during the pandemic. He seems to be deep in his thoughts, and the text gives us a glimpse of that: “There’s so much pressure to not get sick right now. It’s going to be troublesome if I catch a cold now...”

Reproduced with permission from Zenjidō Yamada (IG: y_haiku)

You can view the original post on Instagram here. For the images that focused on experiences in Japan, Yamada covered things like Amabie, the anti-plague demon that became a popular symbol for fighting off the coronavirus, and the prevalence of Demon Slayer products everywhere in Japan.

You can view the rest of Zenjidō Yamada’s illustrations on their Instagram. They also run a blog and a Twitter page, all of which are entirely in Japanese.


By - Jen Santelices.