High-rise condo building reflected in windows of a modern glass-and-steel skyscraper in Akasaka, Tokyo.
It’s time again to randomly browse our bookshelves at HQ and re-discover a forgotten coffee-table tome. Today we’ve pulled out a book on Japanese graffiti art. Its title is “RackGaki,” a modified phonetic spelling in the Roman alphabet of the Japanese word for graffiti usually written as rakugaki. Indeed this book from the 2000’s is a document of the works by dozens upon dozens of Japanese graffiti writers and artists throwing up spray-painted tags and images throughout Japan, though mostly in Tokyo and to lesser degree Osaka. The book reveals the heavy influence of early American hip-hop culture in Japan and is a testament to its global reach over the decades. One of the graffiti writers featured in the book goes by the moniker “VERY,” who we met and interviewed for a zine we were editing while living in Osaka way back in the year 2000.
The Naka-Meguro neighborhood of Tokyo has a distinct feel. It occupies one side of a steeply sloped hill and the expanse of flats bisected by a creek between Daikanyama and Meguro. It’s fashionable in a moneyed-but-hip, indie way, a place where successful creative professionals have settled and where street art is baked into the landscape around every turn.
The optics and media of Japanese political election campaigns are fascinating for their restraint and orderliness. Campaign posters for the various politicians are put up in designated places in local neighborhoods and often in clusters, like the ones pictured above in Tokyo’s fashionable Naka-Meguro area. The politicians each appear in posters that are basically all the same size and visually tame. In short, as outdoor billboard advertising goes (what ad industry people call “out of home” or OOH advertising), these election posters are a relatively unobtrusive part of the cultural landscape.
Japan has a long-established, globally recognized and highly-developed sense of aesthetics, especially when it come to design and graphic communications like advertising. This large indoor billboard poster for Coca-Cola at Ark Hills Tokyo references the Japanese summer tradition of hanabi (massive fireworks displays) as beautiful flat, abstract graphics.
It’s always great fun being back in Tokyo. It’s really a home away from home for us, and we love having the opportunity to re-connect with our Tokyo posse in person and catch up on all the recent art and design developments going on in the Japanese capital. This trip recent trip was no exception. As we head back to GGHQ in New York, we say “See ya later, Tokyo.” We’ll back again in a few months.