(Right) Japanese school graffiti lizard (CLICK ON PIX TO EXPAND)
There isn't much that is more universal than graffiti. It's something that seems to be as natural to every culture as eating or putting on clothes. Japan with its famously politically docile population and respect for public order might not be expected to have graffiti, but it is about as much as 'problem' here as anywhere. Just as each culture wears clothes and eats food its own way, Japanese graffiti also has its special characteristics.
(Left) Japanese school graffiti street
Japanese graffiti is, unsurprisingly, very evocative of manga, the art of cartoonistry, that, like almost any art in Japan, is taken to its highest form.
(Right) Japanese school graffiti 'Kamikaze' motorbike
After class was over the other day, I took my camera and, during the break, took a few shots of the artwork that, as term progressed, had become noticeably more prolific - no doubt waiting the new school year in April when it will all be scrubbed off for a new round.
(Left) Japanese school graffiti dragons
Graffiti is not only about style, however, it is also about content - and a survey of it reveals a variety of sources. Then there is the hi-tech side of Japanese life that finds expression in the paraphernalia of war, transport and leisure. Shown here are examples of
(Right) Japanese school graffiti pachinko
motorbikes and pachinko machines. There is the old lore of Japan that finds its way in with images of ghosts, dragons, and demons. Superheros are an interesting halfway house between the old and the new, sharing something with both the old gods and the newer fantasies of science.
(Left) Japan school graffiti head caricature
There is caricature, that staple of Japanese manga. Shown left is a head of someone who looks decidedly more like a loved or not so loved teacher than a student. There are also the icons of pop culture, like the decades old but ever popular 'Hello Kitty'. The icons that fill the minds of Japanese students are not only homegrown. There are the icons of both good and evil imported from the West, a latter example here being the caricature of Hitler giving a stiff armed salute and saying in Japanese katakana script 'Ha-i-lu Hi-to-la!'.
(Left) Japanese school graffiti Hello Kitty
(Right) Japanese school graffiti 'Heil Hitler!'
And then there's that thing that makes the world go round: love. The most intricate and carefully thought out example of graffiti was the minutely written discourse pictured below. It is the agonized recollections of a male student regarding the three years he spent with a fellow female student throughout high school. 'You spoke to me first' 'I don't know why, but I responded coldly' - the quintessential male in a relationship that ends with him totally devoted to the woman and ruing the relationship's (apparently albeit civil) demise.
(Left) Japanese school graffiti love story.