A Visual Feast: Exploring the 15 Mind-Blowing Optical Illusions by Akiyoshi Kitaoka

15 Mind-Blowing Optical Illusions by Akiyoshi Kitaoka

Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka, based at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, has dedicated over a decade to designing a remarkable collection of moving optical illusions. These optical illusions, a true testament to his profound understanding of human visual perception, demonstrate a mesmerizing interplay between shapes, colors, patterns, and motion. 

The illusions seem to defy logic, creating a sense of movement where there is none, and are a remarkable exploration of the quirks and intricacies of our visual processing system.

Since 2002, Kitaoka has immersed himself in visual perception, optical illusions, trompe l’oeil, and three-dimensional art. His resultant artworks, a fusion of these various elements, are mind-bending. One might be fooled into thinking they are staring at animated GIFs or short videos, such as the convincing illusion of movement and depth. Yet, astoundingly, these are normal, static images. 

Each piece, a testament to Kitaoka’s mastery and knowledge, challenges our understanding of visual perception and pushes the boundaries of what is possible in static imagery.

Beautiful Optical Illusions by Akiyoshi Kitaoka

Prepare to be mesmerized by Akiyoshi Kitaoka’s mind-bending optical illusions! This psychology professor from Kyoto, Japan, has mastered the art of designing still images that give the illusion of movement. Using his knowledge of visual perception, Kitaoka’s designs will leave you questioning reality.

Get ready to be truly amazed by these optical illusions, but keep your balance!

Rotating Snakes

Rotating snakes by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Rotating snakes | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

The “Rotating Snakes” illusion is a classic example of what is known as the “peripheral drift illusion”. In this illusion, concentric circles filled with circular snakes appear to rotate spontaneously in your peripheral vision. The illusion is striking, and as you move your gaze to focus on the ‘moving’ circles directly, you will observe that the rotation stops. This seemingly spontaneous movement is likely caused by unconscious rapid eye movements and blinking.

This surprising effect is a testament to the powerful influence of our peripheral vision in how we perceive movement and depth. While the image is actually static, our brain interprets the pattern of light and dark segments in the image as motion, creating the illusion of rotation. Thus, the “Rotating Snakes” illusion not only astounds the viewer, but also provides insight into the fascinating complexities of human visual perception.

Snake Conveyors

Snake Conveyors by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Snake Conveyors | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Snake Conveyors” is yet another striking example of the peripheral drift illusion. The design is arranged in such a way that the viewer perceives the snakes as moving along a conveyor belt. This illusion is enhanced by blinking, which may seemingly accelerate the movement of the snakes, thereby intensifying the overall impact of the optical illusion. The interpretation of this illusion further strengthens our understanding of how our visual perception can be tricked into perceiving motion from a static image, highlighting our brain’s remarkable yet occasionally misleadable processing abilities.

Autumn Colour Swamp

Autumn Colour Swamp y Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Autumn Colour Swamp | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Autumn Colour Swamp” is an enchanting illusion that effectively uses color and pattern to create a sense of movement. The image features an intricate array of colors and shapes that mimic the vibrant hues of autumn foliage, organized in a pattern that appears to shift and sway, resembling a turbulent swamp. The optical illusion is amplified when you interact with the image. Try moving your browser window rapidly up and down, or simply scroll for an enhanced effect. This interaction gives the illusion of the autumn colors undulating like water in a swamp. Through this illusion, Kitaoka artistically demonstrates the power of our visual perception and its potential to be manipulated by patterns, colors, and motion.


Rollers by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Rollers | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Rollers” is another masterpiece in Kitaoka’s collection, brilliantly demonstrating the illusory motion effect. At first glance, the series of cylindrical forms appears to be in a perpetual state of rotation, further magnified by the contrasting colors and strategic pattern placement within the cylinders. This illusory motion, much like the other illusions presented by Kitaoka, arises from the way our brains interpret the alternating dark and light segments. The “Rollers” illusion is an exceptional display of visual trickery, further demonstrating the remarkable capabilities of human visual perception and its susceptibility to sophisticated manipulation through static imagery.

Construction of a Subway by Rabbits

Construction of a Subway by Rabbits
Construction of a Subway by Rabbits | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Construction of a Subway by Rabbits” provides an intriguing and dynamic illusion, featuring two concentric circles populated by a bustling array of rabbits at work. In a captivating display of the peripheral drift illusion, the inner circle appears to rotate clockwise, while the outer circle moves in an anti-clockwise direction. This fascinating motion effect is most pronounced when you observe the image indirectly, rather than focusing your gaze directly on it. The counter-rotational movement, conjured purely from static imagery, underscores the impressive depth of Kitaoka’s understanding of visual perception and his ability to manipulate it for stunning effect.

Primrose Field

Primrose Field by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Primrose Field by Akiyoshi Kitaoka | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Primrose Field” presents a visually engaging illusion, featuring a checkered background interspersed with squares that appear to rhythmically undulate. This illusion is heightened when you interact with the image by moving your browser window or scrolling up and down. Through this interaction, the seemingly static squares start to pulsate, creating the effect of a living, breathing field of primroses. This intriguing illusion is a further testament to Kitaoka’s genius in manipulating static imagery to create a dynamic visual experience, challenging our brains’ perception of motion.

Button Yokai

Button Yokai by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Button Yokai | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Button Yokai” is a fascinating illusion in Kitaoka’s collection that plays with our perception of size. At first glance, you see a field of uniform buttons. However, as you move your eyes around the picture, a startling phenomenon occurs: the buttons appear to expand. Despite each button being of the same size, your brain is tricked into believing that they are growing in size. This illusion challenges our understanding of static size perception, showing how easily our brains can be deceived by cleverly constructed visual cues. So, get ready to enter a world where static buttons grow before your eyes, further proving Kitaoka’s unparalleled ability to manipulate visual perception.


Irrigation by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Irrigation | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Irrigation” is another intriguing optical illusion by Kitaoka that plays with our perception of motion. Composed of a central channel flanked by parallel lines, the viewer is tricked into perceiving a slow, steady upward movement within the central channel, much like water in an irrigation canal. However, the image is entirely static! This illusion is a perfect illustration of how our minds can be fooled into interpreting motion where there is none, simply through the strategic use of static lines and patterns. Through “Irrigation”, Kitaoka continues to astound us with his deep understanding and masterful manipulation of human visual perception.

Swimming Rings

Swimming Rings by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Swimming Rings | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Swimming Rings” is another entrancing illusion crafted by Kitaoka. In this illusion, various concentric circles filled with alternating contrasting colors give the impression of motion. These circles, bearing a resemblance to swimming rings, seem to approach each other and move apart, creating an illusion of pulsation. Although the image is static, our brains interpret the changes in contrasting colors as movement, making the rings appear to inflate and deflate alternately. This illusion again underlines how our perception can be deceived into seeing motion where there is none, showcasing Kitaoka’s skill in toying with our visual perception.

Leaf Wave

Leaf Wave by Akisyoshi Kitaoka
Leaf Wave | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Leaf Wave” is a potent optical illusion that presents a series of leaves organized in a wave-like pattern. The contrasting colors and the strategic arrangement of the leaves induce a powerful visual effect, making the leaves appear to ripple and undulate like a wave. This image’s impact is exceptionally robust and could potentially cause feelings of dizziness or nausea in some individuals. If you are starting to feel unwell, please consider closing this page or scrolling down to avoid further discomfort. Kitaoka’s “Leaf Wave” is yet another testament to his remarkable ability to manipulate static imagery to create an almost tangible sense of motion, pushing the boundaries of our visual perception.

Illusory Blue Dots

Illusory Blue Dots by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Illusory Blue Dots | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Illusory Blue Dots” is a captivating variant of the Hermann grid illusion, masterfully crafted by Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka. In this illusion, illusory blue dots seemingly appear in the white circles at the intersections of squares. This phenomenon traces back to 1870, credited to the German physiologist Ludimar Hermann. The illusion is such that the blue dots cannot be observed when focused directly on one of the white circles. Instead, they appear in the peripheral circles that are not the focus of your gaze. While it’s certainly not recommended, one could theoretically move their gaze around the grid, perpetually “chasing” these elusive blue dots. This illusion effectively highlights how our visual perception can be manipulated to perceive things that are not present, adding another intriguing dimension to Kitaoka’s effectual illusionary repertoire.


Algae by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Algae | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Algae” is an intriguing optical illusion by Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka. It features six thin strips within a circle that appear to tilt alternately, creating a sense of dynamism and motion. Despite the perceived slant, each strip is perfectly straight and parallel to one another. This might seem counterintuitive given the illusion, but placing a straight edge alongside each strip will confirm their parallelism. This illusion is yet another example of Kitaoka’s mastery in manipulating visual perception, making static elements appear dynamic and challenging the viewer’s comprehension of spatial orientation.


Tick by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Tick | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Tick” is a remarkable motion illusion, crafted by Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka in 2010. At first glance, the illusion presents itself as a simple collection of differently colored square outlines. But the magic happens when you interact with it; as you use the scroll bar to move the image up and down, you’ll notice a fascinating phenomenon. The central square insert starts to move in alternating directions, creating a captivating sense of motion. Despite the image itself being static, your brain is deceived into perceiving motion, showcasing Kitaoka’s ingenious ability to manipulate our visual perception.

Moving Arrows

Moving Arrows by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Moving Arrows | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Moving Arrows” is an exceptional illusion created by Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a renowned psychologist at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. This striking image comprises yellow arrows set against a vibrant purple background. Remarkably, the arrows appear to move independently to the left and the right, especially in the top and bottom rows. If initially, you find the arrows remain stubbornly static, attempt to move your eyes around different parts of the image. This strategy should induce a sensation of motion, transforming the static arrows into a dynamic display sliding from side to side. Kitaoka’s “Moving Arrows” illusion serves as yet another astonishing demonstration of his ability to challenge and manipulate our visual perception.

Rotating Cherries

Rotating cherries by Akiyoshi Kitaoka
Rotating Cherries | Courtesy of Akiyoshi Kitaoka

“Rotating Cherries” is another mesmerizing optical illusion by the talented Akiyoshi Kitaoka. In this illusion, Kitaoka constructs an image of rings fashioned from cherries that appear to rotate in a clockwise direction. Intriguingly, under dark illumination or in a printed version of the image, the same cherries seem to change their direction of rotation to counterclockwise. This illusion is a striking example of how lighting and medium can alter our visual perception, yet again showcasing Kitaoka’s mastery in the creation of dynamic illusions from static imagery.

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Ali Kaya


Ali Kaya

This is Ali. Bespectacled and mustachioed father, math blogger, and soccer player. I also do consult for global math and science startups.