Kazuo Oga Background Art Exhibition

Posted By yonghow on July 23rd, 2007

One of the perks of living in a big metropolis like Tokyo must be the wide and wonderful choice of art exhibitions. Over my 3 years of stay here I have been fortuitous enough to attend some truly breathtaking ones like Mucha and Pixar’s 20 Years of Animation, certainly not exhibitions that strut by your house everyday.

Kazuo Oga’s exhibition at the Tokyo Museum of Comtemporary Art, which I visited with Ros yesterday, is the latest addition to that fine list.

Kazuo Oga Background Art Exhibition & Art Book

Kazuo Oga, as the exhibition poster succinctly states, is “The guy who painted Totoro’s forest.” – a formidable credit to any background artist’s name; only he is much, much more. Kazuo-san has been involved in most of Miyazaki’s best works like Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and my personal favourite Princess Mononoke. Now that’s only the short list. This exhibtion is the first ( and probably the only ) time that one can get to view Kazuo-san’s entire body of background illustration works, both Ghibli and personal, numbering about 600 pieces in all.

Kazuo-san’s background art is the soul to every successful Ghibli animation film. Words can do little justice to the sublime beauty of his work, and no, its not quite the same as looking at the pictures from any of his published artbooks – this one you really need to see the original works up-close to truly appreciate their technical and aesthestic brilliance, right down to every deftly applied brush-stroke.

Kazuo Oga Background Art Exhibition & Art Book
Kazuo Oga Background Art Exhibition & Art Book

Ghibli fan or not, if you are lucky enough to be in Japan right now, or are planning to come within the next 2 months, ( it runs till the end of September ), this is one event you simply cannot miss; it might very well turn out to be the best highlight of your entire Japan trip.

The prints you are looking at are some samples from the special collectible book released only for this exhibition, containing all of the 600 pieces on display. No photography is allowed within the artwork gallery section, so these prints are the next best thing I can show.

Availability of book – You can purchase a copy from Amazon Japan.

I also highly recommend the “making of” dvd/blu-ray documentary from Amazon Japan, which contains digital scans of all 600+ pieces of Kazuo Oga’s works shown at the exhibition – Read my review of the dvd on this post.

You might also be interested in these items :

How To Order From Amazon Japan - Detailed Buying Guide

Buying From Amazon Japan FAQ


26 Responses to “Kazuo Oga Background Art Exhibition”


Oh man! I saw a copy of an ad for this in a Gedo Senki DVD and was so dying to go for it. I’m quite envious… Glad to see it was nice though. You are right on about how it’s different seeing the art in books, and seeing the actual art itself. It says a lot more when you can scrutinize the textures and individual brushstrokes.

Erik Westlund

Ok, count me in the ‘envious’ category.

How furtunate you are to have the oportunity to attend this exhibit in person. Would you happen to know if the collectible book is likely to be avialable in the US? Or is it only avaible to those who attend the show? Even if it doesn’t compare to seeing the work in person at least having a reproduction is something.

tragic comedy

oh noes.

i wish i was there too. lets hope theres good things in december..

Louie del Carmen

That book just made me salivate…. How can I get one?!!


Do check out the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art in Kawasaki city. I was blown away by that place.


W – Kazuo-san also did some background pieces for Gedo Senki, its been displayed at the exhibition too. Is Gedo Senki showing in Singapore theatres ?

Erik and Louie – As far as I know the book is only available for sale at the exhibition, I’ll be sure to let you guys know if there’s another way to purchase it, maybe online or something.

Tragic Comedy – What’s happening in December ? :]

Zero – I’ll be sure to take note of that. How’s your trip coming along ? :]


Well, he is one of Ghibli’s most relied-upon background artists, so I guess it’s not surprising that it’s there. There’s been no news though, AFAIK, of Gedo Senki coming to Singapore. I like how one of my teachers was so excited to see it but left a little disappointed after I lent him the DVD, but was completely bowled over by Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo when I recommended it to him and he thought it’d be terrible.

Count me in as interested if you find out any way to get the book; I know a certain person who’ll definitely pay even a handsome price just to get his hands on it.


thanks for the info! now i know his name… i can look his stuff up.
so jealous of you owning that book. i’m a bibliophile.



i was going to send u a msg earlier after the first time u commented, but was abit caught up with the application heh.. its so strange that u managed to find me cos before that i read about u in the papers and actually visited your blog a couple of times too haha..

i can see u’re really enjoying yourself over there, hope i can get the scholarship too. do you get a 3 year grace period to work there after your studies? or do u have to come back immediately after you graduate?

i bet the experience of working at sunrise is like no other.. congrats on getting in! i haven’t had the chance to catch freedom project yet, but i will soon.

hang in there

ps:kazuo oga is quite amazing, i always liked background artwork although its time consuming and only lasts afew seconds. i was watching abit of gendo senki too, the bg is fantastic though the settings and story didn’t appeal to me. i am more of the spirited away/ totoro type. speaking of bg artists.. makoto shinkai is also quite killer..


W – There is still a very high chance that the distributors will bring in Gedo Senki I think, considering the draw of Ghibli’s branding and that Miyazaki’s past 2 films have also been screened. Gedo Senki wasn’t very well received here in Japan ( cinema performance notwithstanding ), so I didn’t give myself too high expectations when watching it either.

Tessar – I’ll be sure to inform you if the book is available for sale online.

John – Thanks for dropping by. Starting with the 2005 batch the scholarship bond was changed such that it allows you to stay in Japan and work even after you have graduated. I didn’t fall under this new system so I had to contact NAC and ask for permission to continue work here, which I am doing now.

Speaking of Shinkai Makoto, I gotta check out his new film soon. :]


Howl’s Moving Castle is one of my favourite from Ghibli animation film…
i wish i was there….=D


Hey Designani, I think you would have enjoyed the exhibition very much too ! :]


That’s why I’d love to live in Japan…I couldn’t miss this one! Thank you Yonghow!!


Hello Stefania and thanks for visiting !


Hi! I found it this post thanks to a link in Nicola’s blog. I knew about this exhibition because I had seen the advertisements while I was in Tokyo but I came back to Italy on 15th and so I unfortunately missed it T_T I have some friend there, though, who could buy the book for me. Can I just ask you how much it was?


hey, yes, the exhibition was amazing! and i was soon infected with motivation to draw of at least try it out! it was sooo great.
i found your site because i searched for the proper name of the gallery. your text about oga’s art is so good. i like the way how you described it.
tokyo is great.


Hello Nagano, thanks for visiting. The exhibition was amazing wasn’t it ? I’m so tempted to visit it again but alas I don’t think I have the time…残念だ。

Przemek Petryszyn

Hi evrybody , my name is Przemek Im CEO in RDF studio ( cartoon films production ) Im lloking for some background artist from Japan
or other countries that wouold like to work at our ne feture movie,
called QUO VADIS all is in old Roma. If you got some propositions of names or you are interesed please write me on my mail : p.petryszyn@rdf.com.pl

Best Regards


I was lucky enough to be in Tokyo when this exhibition was on, and it was breathtaking. Kazuo’s watercolours are the best I have ever seen. I like to paint with watercolours, but his technique leaves me scratching my head. I bought the book ,toys, poster and badges. I will never forget my trip. I wish I could live in tokyo.

phil j

I am from Scotland and I was very lucky enough to time my visit to Tokyo with the exhibition of Kazuo Oga’s work. I will never forget the beauty of his art, and to be able to share it with so many enthusiastic Japanese children really meant a lot to me.


hi everyone!
I see I’m a late visitor on this topic 🙂
What a beautfull blog!! Already learned a few new titles that I will sure try to watch.

Just watched a few Ghibli movies again, and again I’m so enthousiastic about the themes, the symbolism, the values in teh stories and the beauty and dedication with which they have been made. Wow!
Only now I read about this exhibition and a catalogue I would die for!
Anybody have a hint on how to get my hands on one? – live in The Netherlands.



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