Anno's Journey: The World of Anno Mitsumasa Virtual Exhibition

From 22 August - 27 October 2019 Japan House presented an exhibition focusing on the prolific storytelling of award-winning picture book illustrator Anno Mitsumasa. The exhibition marked the first ever display of Anno’s work in the UK, and is now captured in this virtual exhibition. 

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  • Family friendly virtual exhibition showcases the life’s work of prolific storyteller and award-winning illustrator Anno Mitsumasa
  • Features 84 artworks and five 3D objects from watercolours, Japanese-style paintings using powder pigment on silk (Nihonga) to papercuts
  • Exhibition was curated by, and exclusively for, Japan House London in 2019 – one of the most popular exhibitions of the year attracting over 30,000 visitors
  • Launches Friday 24 April 2020 and will be a permanent online experience


Japan House London is set to launch its first virtual exhibition Anno’s Journey: The World of Anno Mitsumasa, showcasing a selection of a lifetime of work by Anno Mitsumasa, Japan’s comparable a literary figure perhaps as beloved in Japan as the illustrator Quentin Blake is in the UK. The exhibition  was curate by, and exclusively for, Japan House London from August to October 2019, and is the first in a series of permanent virtual experiences at

This family-friendly exhibition showcases a variety of works from throughout the life of prolific storyteller and award-winning illustrator, Anno Mitsumasa, who has produced picture books and imaginative paintings for over 50 years. The exhibition includes 89 artworks by Anno in a variety of media from watercolours, Japanese-style paintings using powder pigment on silk (Nihonga) to papercuts. This exhibition, the first dedicated to Anno’s work to appear in the UK, invites visitors of all ages to recall, or even discover for the first time, the exquisite joys of picture books and imaginative storytelling.

The virtual exhibition presents the artworks as if the viewer was in Japan House London, with the experience powered by 3D technology allowing visitors to zoom in on each painting and caption, moving around the space at their own pace to enjoy the 84 artworks and five 3D objects on display. Visitors can also enjoy a sensory experience and be transported to Japan, and moments in Anno’s life, from the noise of the steam train which runs through the town where he was born through to the sounds of cicadas and crickets which become ubiquitous in Japan in late summer/early autumn when the exhibition first featured at Japan House London.


From Stonehenge to Science

The full set of drawings in the section ‘Anno’s Britain’ which includes Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and the Cotswolds reflects Anno’s travels across Britain in the 1970s.

Working with ink and watercolour as well as papercuts, Anno’s stories cover a wide range of themes - from maths and science through to language and folklore. His picture books show a profound understanding of the way children’s minds work, presenting complex subjects in engaging, easily understandable ways.


Creative Curiosity

Young readers are often required to interact with his books beyond the simple act of reading, with tactile and mental puzzles requiring books to be turned around or studied intently to find specific objects within the detailed drawings. These playful forms are considered precursors to the puzzle-style books made popular by titles such as ‘Where’s Wally?’

In 1984 this sophisticated style, filled with humour and visual trickery, won him the prestigious Hans Christian Anderson award for his lasting contribution to children’s literature.

Simon Wright, Director of Programming at Japan House London said, “This was the first time that the works of Anno Mitsumasa had been shown in the UK in such detail. The works of Anno Mitsumasa mirror the Japanese social attitudes throughout the Shōwa period and are a fascinating insight into a changing world. As many Japanese people have grown up with the books of Anno Mitsumasa in their childhood homes, they are very familiar with his often humorous and playful illustrations. Despite his popularity in Japan, he is, however, little know in the UK and we thought it about time we present his genius at Japan House London.”

Anno’s Journey: The World of Anno Mitsumasa Virtual exhibition will be displayed permanently online at


Exhibition themes and flow:

Who is Anno Mitsumasa?

What is Anno’s Journey : The world of Anno Mitsumasa?

How was the virtual exhibition created?

Theme is focus: Learning letters

Theme in focus: Mysterious world

Theme in focus: Anno’s journey

Theme in focus: Papercuts

Spotlight: ‘The tale of the old man who made trees blossom’

Theme in focus: The tale of the heike picture book theme in focus: Children of the past

Theme in focus: In and around the capital

Theme in focus: Anno’s Britain

Learning and mystery

Sounds of Japan

Content suitable for all ages.

Images are available through the 'Images' tab above. Please note the credits in the title of each image. 



About Anno Mitsumasa
Since the 1960s, Anno has illustrated hundreds of books. His works have appeared in children’s publications for over 50 years and each new generation of readers in Japan has grown up intimately knowing his works as if they were a part of the family. The pieces he has created throughout his life reflect the socio-economic evolution of Japan through the Shōwa and Heisei eras. These include scenes from his childhood in rural Japan before WWII, the post-war economic miracle of the 1960s and its increasingly outward-looking perspective on the world and interaction with Europe, through to collections of paintings which predominantly explore depictions of Japan. He was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1984 for his lasting contribution to children's literature and has been designated a Person of Cultural Merit in his home country.

Creating the virtual exhibition

Creating the virtual exhibition was a challenging and highly rewarding project delivered in unique circumstances during lockdown. In 2019 when the exhibition was in situ, it was shot over the course of five hours with each individual panorama shot made up from 40 DSLR shots, making the final 360° panoramic image over 300 mega pixels in size. This has been reduced to enable the exhibition to be viewed easily and quickly online at home. Each individual 360° image took around one hour to edit and stitch, requiring a total of eight hours to create the exhibition in full.

Then, a further three days of editing was required for the images of the artworks and building the virtual exhibition experience online. The tour was shot solely on a Nikon DSLR camera with a 28mm lens and with the aid of a custom manual gimbal.

About Japan House London

Japan House London is the new cultural centre offering visitors an experience of the best and latest from Japan. Located on London’s Kensington High Street, the experience is an authentic encounter with Japan, engaging and surprising even the most knowledgeable guests. Presenting the very best of Japanese art, design, gastronomy, innovation, and technology, it deepens our appreciation of all that Japan has to offer. Part of a global initiative led by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are two other Japan Houses in Los Angeles and São Paulo.

Anno's Journey is organized and curated by Japan House London with the kind cooperation of the artist, and in collaboration with Sankei Shimbun Co., Ltd. The tour is hosted on Kuula an online 360° VR tour service.