canterbury’s own lifestyle magazine / a great local read
When Koryu Aoshima arrived in New Zealand in January 2020, COVID-19 was mere noise, a mystery illness affecting people a world away and the concept of lockdown was unimaginable. Fast-forward to 23 March when New Zealand entered Level 3, and the Japanese street artist was desperately assessing his options. Staying in a packed apartment in Christchurch, he knew he needed to find somewhere else to lodge. Fortuitously, a childhood friend from Japan owns Geraldine Motels, so Koryu caught the last bus to Geraldine.

Koryu wasn’t alone; there were thousands of travellers seeking a place to isolate. However, with the immediate threat of COVID-19 now behind us and New Zealand at Level 1, Koryu has remained in Geraldine and is gifting something unique and special back to the people and the township that sheltered him during lockdown.

Working as a graphic designer in Japan for five years, Koryu admits he was ‘a little bit bored’ by the profession. He was curious, wanted to travel and yearned to explore his passion for art. Landing in Melbourne, Koryu says he ‘didn’t have any purpose except travel and I wanted a strong purpose with my travel’. The first six months were hard but he obtained a busking permit, breakdancing for tips in the CBD, and refining his street art in Melbourne’s infamously hip Hosier Lane before later accepting commissions for his art.

A traditional rural town, Geraldine may have a bustling art scene but it isn’t known for its street art. However, Koryu is making waves and the locals are loving it. He first came to the attention of Anna and Al Bolland, owners of The Running Duck Café, when they noticed his work displayed outside Geraldine Motels on the back of a ping pong table. With a personal passion for street art, Anna and Al commissioned Koryu to paint a mural on the side of their café. It’s a large piece, vibrant and exciting, and one that sparks the imagination.

However, this was only the beginning and it seems the locals can’t get enough of Koryu. There is his stunning work at Mundell’s Café, its linear simplicity a surprise addition to the exterior walls. More work at Q Foods has just been revealed, while Jean Wilson of The Hair Boutique has also fallen for Koryu’s art. It’s not just commercial properties. A private garden in Geraldine features Koryu’s art while a garage door has also been commissioned.

Plans are afoot for Koryu to feature later this year in the Geraldine Festival, but for now he just wants to thank the people and the town who sheltered him during lockdown. ‘I appreciate my friends and Geraldine. I want to help this town.’

Words Pip Goldsbury