An illustrator who found her canvas in rice

JAPAN - Whenever Takayo Kiyota works on her makizushi sushi roll art, she can lose herself in the process - sometimes for 16 hours straight until the piece is complete.

On the day she was interviewed, she sliced thick sushi rolls she had prepared for the photo shoot named "Hanshan and Shi De," revealing two funny-looking faces. They were that of two Tang-era Chinese monks referred to in the title, often the subject of Chinese and Japanese paintings. "Since it's for a newspaper, I went with an academic subject," she says.

She uses a variety of ingredients to make her sushi rolls, which reveal images and designs when sliced open. She has rolled almost 300 works, including one inspired by Munch's "The Scream" as well as another titled "Ninja." Careful planning goes into each roll, but she says: "Nobody knows how they'll turn out until they're cut open. That's what makes it fun."

Kiyota was working as an illustrator when, around 10 years ago, she came across a stick of Kintaro ame candy, the cross-section of which reveals a face. She was inspired to try something similar with sushi rolls.

She uploaded pictures of her sushi art on her blog. This caught the eye of a publisher, and a photo collection of her artwork was published this spring.

Overseas media also started paying attention, with her rolls picked up by the likes of BBC and Reuters. In Britain, The Daily Mail carried a story describing her artwork as "Rembrandt of the rice," an homage to the 17th-century Dutch artist.

Kiyota is often inspired by her everyday experiences. "There are plenty more things in this world that I can express in my work. I'd like to carry on rolling."

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