Blackpool #6 Saguragicho Street Art Article

Here is the first of many to be collaborations between the French magazine BLACKPOOL and m2c. The article I wrote is about the street art scene in Tokyo and the Yokohama street art happening. Unfortunately the article is only written in French. Enjoy the magazine.

Click here to take you to the BLACKPOOL home page.

Click here to take you to thier Blackpool myspace page.



Here is the English unedited article. Originally published by Blackpool Magazine May 2007

Saguragicho: Street Art Haven

So are you down for some super heights street art? Get your respirators on, brushes in hand, cans shaken just right and let head out to Yokohama. Street art has a vibrant subculture in Tokyo and its surrounding neighborhoods. All styles were represented from wheat pasting, stenciling, stickers and of course graff. One stop on the Kehin-Tohoku train line past Yokohama, lay a 1 km wall of graff and street art. Over a one-month period SOTW [Saguragicho On The Wall] sponsored by Kompostion, and the city of Saguragicho artist gathered and bombed the walls with colorful expression. Artist from all over Japan and the world splashed paint on the walls at the weekend jams from Feb 3rd to March 4th 2007.

Here in Japan, not only is graffiti against the law its is barely understood by the city dwellers. Some of the younger generations are hip to the street art stylings even if it is an underground subculture with in a subculture of Hip Hop. Some Tokyo neighborhoods like Shibuya, Naka Meguro Shimo-Kitazawa and Kichijyoji walls are covered in paint. Rakugaki [literally: intention less drawing], the traditional Japanese style graffiti is usually in the Akira loves Yoko fashion, or written by the Bozozoku, Motorcycle gangs who mark out their territory with drippy black Japanese characters. Good spray paint is a bit harder to come by so writers often swap caps from other kinds of spray cans in order to get the lines and spray patterns they are looking for. There is an on going battle between the local communities and the writers; some spots are buffed almost as soon as they get bombed. Other neighborhoods because there is so much graff writing the buffing is less frequent. The hippest writers scout out areas that don’t get buffed or they wait for the legal pieces. Graff in Japan was the last of the elements of Hip Hop culture to reach the streets, and still the writers are behind the pioneers in the US or Europe. It hasn’t reached a level of mastery or popularity as it has in the rest of the world.

VERY and BASK are considered to be the top writers around the city. Most of their pieces up are legal pieces, and VERY has exhibited in galleries. The writer EKYS has caught the most fame as a mad bomber with tags, throw ups and small pieces all over Tokyo. Next time you are in Tokyo you are bound to see EKYS posted up somewhere in the city. The penalties for getting caught are severe and those busted will have to reimburse private citizens for thousands of euros in damages. Most Japanese writers don’t start writing until their 20’s, where as; in the states most start off as teenagers, obsessed with the adrenaline thrill of jumping fences and doing illegal pieces. The writers I met we surprised by the youth of UK writer MIRA at age 24. Painted subway cars are pretty much unheard of here. MIRA kept asking the other writers “Do you paint trains?”?? The resounding answer was ?????NO, it is very difficult!????? they all said they were afraid of getting busted painting on trains. There were dozens of video cameras set up by the Japanese writers when they did the legal pieces. They are pretty serious about the whole documenting the process of changing a blank wall to one covered with aerosol paint.

Each artist and or group registered for space in Saguragicho and was given a 5m by 4m piece of the wall per person to do with whatever they pleased. Nike provided all the participants with nifty black SOTW windbreakers. It would have been better if Nike had provided cases of paint! In contrast to sponsored jams I’ve been to in the States, where Rustoleum or Krylon had donated cases of paint here in Saguragicho artist had to supply all their own materials.

I met a group of fresh graff writers all the way from Peru who are currently based in Yokosuka, Japan. It was a jambalaya of language because the common tongue was Japanese, spiced with a bit of English and Spanish thrown in. A big shout out to the whole Peruvian krew: KEP, EKC, BAMC and LI3.

Street art is about pure expression, uninhibited by society. A last resort to reach out to the community and make your voice heard. Whether its purely about catching fame, taking a stance on a social issue, or Questioning authority, art on the wall goes way back, and its good to see it get some props out in Yokohama.

Jacob Schere
Tokyo 2007

Leave a Reply

Copyright 2007© m2c LucidCommunication - Jacob Schere