PF contributor; Chris Martin recently brought us these images from Tokyo. Aside from the normal curiosities we Americans associate with the Far East such as the foods, signage, and fashion, a noticeable stand-out is the prevalence of traditional graffiti styles and sticker art.
It speaks volumes of how small our world can be sometimes when you look beyond the surface of what some citizens consider an eyesore. Taking letter forms from a language they do not speak, Japanese writers provide an often unique take on an alphabet that is not their own. Our standard letter shapes provide a stark contrast to the elegant calligraphic style of traditional Japanese writing yet they have curated a form that although clearly inspired by Stateside writers, remains regional in it’s subtle details.
Often appearing in more organized compositions, tagged walls in Japan often mimic a grid pattern. This is quite the inverse of a tagged wall in New York City or Philadelphia, where nom de guerre’s sprawl out in every possible direction becoming a feeding frenzy for available space.
Though it may or may not be known as a trend-setter in the world of graffiti, Japan has unknowingly changed the graff game forever by the heavy reliance of stickers by writers and artists. Notably, people like BNE have shown the power of a simple well placed communication tool, and it’s dizzying effect on civilians. Enough so, that the worldwide news media caught wind of it. What was once an afterthought for those focused on crushing the city, has in recent times become a viable alternative to tags and throw-ups. Not only do you need to have your marker and paint game on lock, but the most prolific writers are also pouring out hand drawn and printed sticker by the literal thousands. Varying from the classic tagged postal or name labels to screen printed imagery or clean block letters against solid backgrounds, they seem to almost outweigh Tokyo’s population of over 13 Million in their staggering numbers. Everywhere across the city, wether it’s a back alley or main street cafe, writers and artists leave remnants of them selves on shiny metal surfaces.
We will continue the article in our next installment, and take a glance at Tokyo street culture and nightlife.