From New York to Tokyo, Osaka-born artist recreates cities entirely out of paper


Japanese artist Inco Matsui creates mini cities using paper and glue. 

Inco Matsui uses paper in imaginative ways. Since 2006, the Osaka-born Japanese artist has worked with paper as a medium to recreate world famous cities, in the miniature. Her version of Tokyo, is just a few inches tall.

Cutting meticulously away, she spends weeks and sometimes months assembling little shops, restaurants, and skyscrapers.

Matsui says she chooses to work with paper and glue because it's easily accessible and, at the time when she began her practice, few were using it.

"There were so many different and great miniature artists at the time, so I decided to choose something different. Paper provides a gentle and warm atmosphere to work with," Matsui explains.

Prior to building the works, she spends months at a time, researching the visuals of each city to accurately depict them. Her Tokyo project took half a year to complete.

An emotional journey

Matsui created Tokyo based on memories from her youth, growing up in the city during the 1980s.

"I chose a nostalgic approach in order to share the experience with those who have not visited Tokyo in the past. This way, I'm able to share the good memories of someone who knows the city."

While Matsui is most known for recreating Tokyo, her favorite is her hometown Osaka, the first paper city she created.

"I really missed my family, so it allowed me to feel closer to them," she explains.


Now that she lives in New York, she creates mini worlds from her adopted city, including Coney Island. Her paper metropolises have appeared in exhibitions around the world.

Moving beyond cities, Matsui has incorporated dreamier themes into her work. Scroll through the gallery above to see highlights from Matsui's body of work.  


More photos after the cut...


Her paper architecture includes dramatic views of the city's skyline, but also provides an intimate look at smaller details, like shop signs and traffic stops. Her miniature version of Tokyo is actually from the past, and captures her nostalgic feelings about growing up in the city.


Before she assembles each scene, she thoroughly researches the time period and gathers visual references. It took her 6 months to complete Tokyo.  

Despite the patience required to create these miniature cities, Matsui considers the minor details to be the most exciting part of her art. Although Matsui's Tokyo project is one of her most well known, it is her recreation of Osaka that she considers to be a personal highlight.


Matsui was born in Osaka, and felt that recreating the city in paper form would allow her to feel closer to her hometown.  

Matsui is currently based in New York, and has recreated several American landmarks, like the amusement park, Coney Island. Although these works are built of her memories from the past, Matsui often spends months researching visuals in order to provide an accurate depiction.

When Matsui began working with miniature art, she says she elected to work with paper and glue because it was easily accessible, and because -- at the time -- few were using it.  

Besides creating cities, Matsui has ventured into making mystical worlds. These imaginative works often incorporate nature.

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