Photo: Twitter/@ranran_p

Australian tourist arrested over graffiti around Kamogawa River in Kyoto


A 23-year-old Australian national was arrested in Japan on Tuesday night, when he was caught red-handed scrawling graffiti on a sign in the city of Kyoto.

According to reports, local police were tipped off to the crime following a phone call from an eyewitness, who reported that a foreigner was graffitiing on the bank of the Kamogawa River in Hiyoshicho, in Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward.

Police rushed to the scene within minutes, where they found the suspect scrawling the word “Ghost” in black ink on a sign next to the riverbank. They arrested him on suspicion of property damage at approximately 9:30 p.m.

The suspect has reportedly confessed to the crime, saying “it was art”. However, people in Japan view the situation very differently, as evidenced by this comment from a Twitter user below.

“Dear Foreigner. Graffiti like this makes everyone other than you feel gross. Do it in your homeland.  Don’t sully Kyoto."

Higashiyama police say the suspect was a tourist who had arrived in Japan on May 10. The same “Ghost” graffiti had first been spotted on the wall of a property on May 19, and since then it has been seen at a total of 36 places in the vicinity, including on signs and vending machines.

Police are currently investigating these additional instances of vandalism in relation to the case.

This incident is the latest in a string of graffiti crimes committed by Australian nationals in Japan. Just last month, a 27-year-old man was arrested in Tokyo for vandalising a subway train at a rail yard in 2018, and last year two 19-year-olds were arrested for spray-painting on buildings in Shibuya.

The Japanese judicial system is very different to overseas, and people who are arrested in Japan can expect a lengthy stay in a police detention centre. Under Japanese law, a suspect can be detained for 23 days without charge.

According to the Australian Embassy in Tokyo: "Even if charged and given a suspended sentence, or if a deportation order is made, an Australian arrested in Japan could expect up to 2-3 months detention. This can have a dramatic effect on current and future employment, family relationships and financial circumstances. Japanese police do not allow consular officers to visit outside of normal public visiting hours. Visits are not permitted on public holidays or weekends."

So if you or anyone you know is thinking of coming to Japan to scrawl graffiti as art on the streets of Japan, you’ll need to think again. Charges of property damage come with a maximum jail term of three years, and language barriers and cultural differences make dealing with the law a whole different ball game when you’re a foreigner outside of your home country.

Sources: TV Asahi, Nikkei, Australian Embassy Tokyo

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Australian arrested at Narita Airport for graffiti on Japanese train in Tokyo

-- Lame tourists’ lame excuse for spray-painting graffiti in Tokyo still gets them arrested

-- [Foreigner investigated for truck-flipping thought it’d be OK since “Japan is crazy at Halloween”](Foreigner investigated for truck-flipping thought it’d be OK since “Japan is crazy at Halloween”)

© SoraNews24

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Its starting to get embarrassing to be travelling as an Australian - that's four in a little over a month.

25 ( +26 / -1 )

What a loser. Throw the book at him. He can clean up his 'art' by being forced to remove it and then spend a couple of years in a Japanese prison. Not much omotenashi to be had or deserved.

28 ( +31 / -3 )

Those guys need to be stopped. Don't they appreciate where they are when landing in Japan ?!

His instagram is pretty disagreeable, "I’ve moved to is astoundingly beautiful! Having a beer and a smoke over the canal, sitting on the ghost in the first photo" and let's destroy it by tagging the bridge.

21 ( +21 / -0 )

I don’t get it. Is graffiti an art in Australia? Or are they in some kind competition of tagging Japan to gain reps back home with the ladies?


30 ( +30 / -0 )

By the look of his “art” not caught just red handed

10 ( +10 / -0 )

police rushed within minutes

it's amazing how police rush within minutes to arrest a foreigner doing graffiti but they don't take any actions against stalkers and "chikan"

-10 ( +10 / -20 )

“Dear Foreigner. Graffiti like this makes everyone other than you feel gross. Do it in your homeland.  Don’t sully Kyoto."

Dear Japanese, graffiti is not welcome in their homeland either.

Graffiti is the scourge of a generation. It is not art. It is vandalism and destruction of property. There is a huge difference between street art and graffiti. The main difference is, street art is commissioned. Whereas, graffiti is just illegal damage of property. I was a signwriter in Australia for twenty years prior to coming to Japan. I cannot count the amount of my work that was destroyed by these vandals, nor can I calculate the expense of cleaning it up and adding anti graffiti films to signs just because some punk thinks it's cool to tag everything. This Aussie punk needs to be put to work cleaning it up and spend a year in japanese prison to help him consider his life choices.

28 ( +29 / -1 )

It’s in their genes.

-12 ( +4 / -16 )

No sympathy for this loser for whatever happens to him in the J-legal system. On a recent trip back to Melbourne I was reminded again what an eyesore lowlives like him have created on private and public property. For all Japan's faults, I like the low tolerance this country has for graffiti.

21 ( +21 / -0 )

In related news, the Bansky graffiti is still being celebrated by Yuriko Koike and the city government.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

“Dear Foreigner. Graffiti like this makes everyone other than you feel gross. Do it in your homeland.  Don’t sully Kyoto."

Kyoto sullies itself just fine through the extremely arrogant people there, but hey, let me finish eating my "Kyo-yasai" before I end my comment. And lots of Japanese spray paint and write graffiti, too, including in Tokyo.

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

Why would someone in his age do this childish thing?? i mean if he's a teenager i would say maybe but he's over 20 and on top of that writing on a signs? this guy should be paying a lot of money for what he have done on top of that they should force him to clean up what he have done then put him in prison so he might learn his lesson which i doubt he will.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

I don't encourage this kind of art.

But what bothers me here, is to insist on the fact that the guy was australian, not japanese.

In other media around the world, other suspect's traits would come first.

-9 ( +8 / -17 )

I hope some hardened convict makes you his little pet as well.

Aside from the lack of graffiti another nice thing about Japan is that they don't allow prisoners to rape each other. And certainly nobody would cheer such a thing on.

12 ( +14 / -2 )


another nice thing about Japan is that they don't allow prisoners to rape each other. 

How do u know, have you been inside.?

1 ( +8 / -7 )

Aren't there more important things that need to be on the news?

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

That's not art, that's a sloppy scrawl.

Banksy is an artist. There are graffiti and mural artists who can make a street more beautiful. What we see in the photos above is a mess.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

Yeah... I can just read his mind when he was spraying his "GHOST" graffitti... 'people will be wondering for years who or what is this "GHOST" is about.... and I was the guy that did it'. He had small dreams of grandeur... but his small mind and him being just a stupid idiot... did him in. Maximum Sentence please.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

He certainly chose a bad place to commit his act of foolishness. Kamogawa is somewhat of a holy river. He might as well have chosen the Vatican.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Personally I think Graffiti looks blinking awful, it lowers the tone of an area, I don't won't to sound a snob, but its not nice, as for punishment, arrest him chuck him in a detention centre, get a company in who will remover this mess, give him the bill for it, then arrest him again on the next street sign and so on give him the bill for all of the cleaning up and then fine him on top, then kick him out of the country, as set/make an example of him.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I sincerely hope he will be NOT given suspended sentence but hard labor for couple years, would be a lovely deterrent to future vandals .. and no his tag aint art , just fart at best..

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

He actually call that art? Clearly he had never seen what art really is. He just made it more ugly to look at and damage property. Such a attention seeker. A few days of doing some cleaning as punishment will cure his boredom.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

And lots of Japanese spray paint and write graffiti, too, including in Tokyo.

When I was in Japan, I saw lots of roller doors of those shops in Harajuku were vandalised with graffiti. One of the pedestrian bridge in the area has stickers all over it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I don’t get it. Is graffiti an art in Australia? Or are they in some kind competition of tagging Japan to gain reps back home with the ladies?

It is all about bragging on social media. Graffitis cause city councils and train companies millions to clean up every year in Australia.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

In no way is that 'art.'

It's called tagging and it's an eyesore and vandalism.

And any other country would do the same in highlighting criminal acts committed by non-natives.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Generally speaking, The Australian is the new culturally insensitive, loud, rude, American tourist.

Americans still hold the crown on the Aussies. But the Aussies make a good go at it sometimes.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

*Generally speaking,** The Australian is the new culturally insensitive, loud, rude, American tourist.*

Do not tar others with the same brush. My wife and I are always on our best behaviour when we are in Japan.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Its starting to get embarrassing to be travelling as an Australian - that's four in a little over a month.

Agreed. We have too many of these worthless bogan twats here in Australia.

They're usually the first to harp about "how ethnics need to adhere to Aussie values here" but when in trouble they !@# and whine about how "unfair" it is, and "get over it" and "it's your fault you're so easily offended" and so on.

Make a complete example out of this idiot and imprison him at least long enough for this to become a permanent stain on his future employment prospects.

This is the age of very freely available information about ones' actions in public. He'll pay for it more than just getting banned and deported from Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Art or rubbish, regardless; I object to "graffitiing". Graffiti is not a verb.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Graffiti is a crime no matter how good people think the art is. It is vandalism and destruction of property. Graffiti is graffiti and art is art. They are not one in the same.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

If you want to do Graffiti at least be creative and "fuse" it with the background, not some scrawl like you're a 2 year-old. I hope they force this guy to clean up and barred him from entering Japan for 10 years.

3 ( +3 / -0 )


Actually, it is.....

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

comanteer: "Aside from the lack of graffiti another nice thing about Japan is that they don't allow prisoners to rape each other."

And you know this because...? The samurai were doing it to little boys acting in Kabuki ages ago, so I've no doubt if someone in prison wants to do it, they are "allowed".

Kenji Fujimori: "Australia was a penal colony for the British, so what do you expect."

Less racism from a person born into a culture that pretends to be superior.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Tagging is not art. In fact, his tags look similar to many of the other tags you see in the US and throughout Europe. Not art, not original, just vandalism. It should be stopped everywhere.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Banksy's art ... is art.

This guy is just tagging and clearly has a very weird of sense of art.

I think, he should be detained in the Country and forced to clean up these "tags" - that way doing some good, before being booted out of the Country.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Compare his "Tag" version of "art!" to "Street art" as illustrated here:

I guess apart from the difference in the level of intelligence put into those items, the artists obtained prior permission from the (wall)space owners.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Kenji Fujimori - yes, you are correct, but that's also like saying the Japanese Military are also eyeing an opportunity to return to their Imperialistic background. The former can be viewed as a lighthearted joke, the latter... is a current worry for the Region.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It is 'tagging' and it is rubbish in Australia and it is rubbish here. Keep him locked up as long as Japanese law allows, then charge him and teach him a lesson, because sadly Australian laws are letting twits like him get away with it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I saw a sign that said something to the effect, "3,000 yen fine for littering, regardless of nationality."

I'm always telling people how clean Japan is and then I read about this low life from Australia.

I would love for this guy to get the Singapore whip.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This type of vandal should be made to pay for the damage he has caused, and for full remediation of the property damaged.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

i think people in this comments section,are taking too seriously what happened to this guy. it’s just a dumb boy,who did something stupid and got caught,and you people coming out, with “prison”,which probably you don’t know that he will pay a fine and maybe clean it,like in most of the cases,so probably is gonna learn something.

graffiti it is art,even if you don’t understand it or supporting it ,the only difference between graffiti and street art,is the way to paint,and they come from the same culture and time,after world war 2, this arts talks on walls,about what’s happening in the world and the history.

tagging is not art

So please if you don’t understand something,and you talking about something you don’t even know,it’s better you talk something you know or just don’t talk.

because that guy is guilty 100%

but you people guilty for no sense.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Just a couple of observations. First, there's graffiti all over Tokyo, Kyoto and every major Japanese city. While I do not support what this guy did and do not consider it art, a big deal is being made because he's a foreigner. There's no way you're going to convince me that the majority of the graffiti I see on a daily basis is done by anyone but Japanese. Second, legalities aside, there is graffiti that is truly artistic. This guy's does not qualify. Third, isn't Japan the same country that was recently trying to claim some graffiti near the Hinode monorail was done by Banksy and was therefore a "gift" to Tokyo.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Mr. NoidallMay 23  08:33 pm JST

*Generally speaking,** The Australian is the new culturally insensitive, loud, rude, American tourist.*

Are you trying to suggest there was a time when Australians were not culturally insensitive, loud and rude? (~_^)

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I seem to recall that some years ago the statue at Kamakura was defaced by paint. I cannot remember if anybody was ever arrested, charged and sentenced, but this Australian should be given the same punishment.

Japans constitutional clauses state "all persons".

3 ( +3 / -0 )

That's not ART that's just some stupid idiot destroying property. Writing the word GHOST is Graffiti not art.

Years ago In New York City the graffiti problem was so bad that anyone caught would have to clean buildings and the city trains to remove the graffiti plus pay a large fine and sometimes do jail time. He should have to clean all the locations he graffiti his name and spend some time in jail then get deported. When you visit a foreign country leave your Bad Habits in your country and respect the country your visiting.  At 23 years of age and he's doing this .... Not much of a respectable future in front of this guy. LOSER

6 ( +7 / -1 )

In the past I've seen plenty of Japanese graffiti on Tokyo street maps, although the perpetrators were polite enough to draw only on the outer edges so as not to cover important information.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My advice - Put him in a japanese prison for a year and give him painting supplies. If he can’t produce proper art like the Mona Lisa, then give him another year.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This act was disrespectful. This individual not be allowed to enter Japan for the rest of his life.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

A 23 year old man comes to Kyoto all the way from Australia to showoff his spray painting skills?


3 ( +3 / -0 )

Sentence him to 1 year cleaning up graffiti. Trash a$$ human.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

And thanks to this news article and the Instagram link, we now know who Ghost is in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He was tagging all over the place in Saigon before he left for Japan. I hope he "returns".

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Throw him in a box for half a decade. Society doesn't need garbage like that running around defiling public and private places.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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