Kyoto has long been considered the cultural heart of Japan, and with good reason. For centuries, the city’s temples, gardens, and other scenic sights have been prompting poets and painters to move brush and pen with their serene beauty.
However, last Sunday one would-be man of culture went too far when he used a Kyoto landmark not only for inspiration for its art, but for its canvas as well. While visiting Ryoanji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was founded in 1450, Tatsuya Onishi came to the conclusion that the backside wall of the temple’s main gate (pictured above) would be the perfect place to write some graffiti. Whipping out a pen, Onishi wrote:
“I am Seiryu
Thank you Suzaku
I kept you waiting
▼ The graffiti written on Ryoanji’s gate
Seiryu, Suzaku, and Byakko are not the names of gangs, ex-girlfriends, or any other common graffiti shout-outs. Instead, they’re the names of three mythical beasts from Japanese and Chinese folklore, Seiryu being a blue dragon, Suzaku a red bird, and Byakko a white tiger. Onishi even made sure to use the blue and red ink setting on his tri-color pen for the sentences referencing Seiryu and Suzaku, respectively.
But even if there’s an understandable logic to Onishi’s choice of colors, his choice to write on the wall is far more difficult to comprehend. He was quickly spotted performing the act of vandalism, which took place in broad daylight at about 3:40 in the afternoon, with a tourist who was visiting the temple at the time calling the police, who came and took Onishi into custody. When investigators asked Onishi why he’d done what he did, the 44-year-old resident of Yokohama said: “In the future, I want to become a writer of legends and science fiction stories. My creative juices overflowed, and so I wrote on the gate.”
On the one hand, you could argue that an uncontrollable need to share your artistic vision with the rest of the world is far nobler rationalization for tagging up a wall than staking out gang territory or the twisted adrenaline rush of engaging in illegal, destructive behavior. However, it’s still not going to get you off the hook, and Onishi has been arrested on charges of property damage, though thankfully the graffiti has already been cleaned off.
Making the whole thing extra-baffling is that neither Onishi’s prose nor his penmanship exhibit much in the way of artistic merit. Seiryu, Suzaku, and Byakko (along with Genbu the black tortoise) are such a common trope/motif in today’s Japanese fantasy storytelling that they’re practically a cliche now, and the animal Onishi’s sloppily scrawled kanji characters bring to mind is a chicken, as in chicken scratch.
Source: Kyodo via Hachima Kiko
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