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Tokyo Metro hit by spate of train graffiti


"Why can't they nab them?" That was the headline in Nikkan Gendai (Jan 19), reporting on three incidents of graffiti on Tokyo subway cars over the past several days. Garish scrawls were found on cars on three lines, including at Yoyogi Uehara Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line (Jan 13) and Nakameguro Station on the Hibiya Line (Jan 15).

In the case of the latter, the two cars were defaced by spray paint that covered an area one meter high and 14 meters in length.

The tagging took place while the trains were parked at night, and Tokyo Metro filed a complaint with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.

"The graffiti has already been removed and the trains are back in service," a subway spokesperson is quoted as saying. "We don't make public the costs for removal."

The vandalism problem has been ongoing. Last year, along with the Tokyo Metro, taggers hit the Yokohama Municipal Subway, Sotetsu Line, JR West Japan, the Kobe Municipal Subway and others.

"The cost of removal from the cars depends to some extent on the affected area," said a railway employee. "But personnel charges take up the lion's share. Combined, in some cases it can run as much as around 500,000 yen. While hard to tolerate, we don't really want this covered by the media as we're concerned it will inspire copycats. So the railways may be grinding their teeth in frustration, but they discourage coverage."

Another annoying aspect of these acts of vandalism is that one hardly ever reads about the arrests of offenders.

"Ten years ago, there was a case when people sneaked into the Osaka subway station and vandalized a train," recalls a source inside the police department. "It turned out that they were two foreigners in their 20s, a Hungarian and a Slovakian. They were intercepted and arrested at the airport while attempting to leave Japan.

"Apparently there are groups of delinquents in the U.S. and Europe who come to Japan as tourists. They come here for about a month, and get their kicks by defacing trains; then they leave, making it especially hard to deal with. In foreign countries it's common for defaced trains to keep running, but Japanese are fastidious about such eyesores."

Penalties for vandalism in Japan include imprisonment of up to three years and fines of up to 300,000 yen, along with demands for monetary compensation to cover damages.

These are not something to be shrugged off as harmless pranks, Nikkan Gendai comments gravely.

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"Apparently there are groups of delinquents in the U.S. and Europe who come to Japan as tourists. They come here for about a month, and get their kicks by defacing trains; then they leave, making it especially hard to deal with. In foreign countries it's common for defaced trains to keep running, but Japanese are fastidious about such eyesores."

More stupid Japanese racism. What proof do they have that these crimes were committed by foreigners? By just one anecdote that happened 10 years ago? Racism

11 ( +18 / -7 )

Ok this is nonsense.

Tagging in Osaka is huge and everywhere and it is being done by gangs of, yes, my fellow JAPANESE!

13 ( +15 / -2 )

gangs of, yes, my fellow JAPANESE!

The majority of gang members are not in fact Japanese.  It was reported by police.

-20 ( +1 / -21 )

Racism in action. Anti-social and criminal behaviour must be the work of foreigners, says Japan. It's laughable that they want us to believe that groups of 'delinquents' (a word that is only used in English translations of Japanese in Japan) from across the globe plan and finance trips to Japan just to vandalise the trains. You have to be really racist or very naive about the rest of the world to believe this nonsense.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

This fellow has a real grudge against us foreigners eh? I hope I never bump into him. Must be a real piece of work.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

i don’t know whether this graffiti was done by foreigners or not. But, in Nagoya, in Naka ward,there’s an ugly graffiti - done by a person who has an also ugly calligraphy - which is from a Brazilian man I once met. He fled Japan, but his ugly work is still there

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japanese courts need more flexibility in sentencing offenders to community service. Give the aspiring artists cans of turpentine and rags and set them to non-remunerative work removing their artistic efforts from the trains and buildings they deface. There may have been proactive efforts in the past to ban sales of spray paint to minors, but if so, they certainly aren't working.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Thepersoniamnow - Thanks from an American long term resident of Japan. We know that at least one incident was, in fact, a foreigner but there is tagging going on all over the country and most of the culprits are likely young Japanese kids.

I hope Japan clamps down on this hard and prevents it from spreading otherwise the trains here will end up like in the U.S. or Europe; dirty, smelly, and vandalized

5 ( +5 / -0 )


Actually even though many would disagree with me, I don’t mind some of the tags as I think they look cool and also a lot of the small shops that have them on their shutters, it is probably deliberate.

There no doubt are foreigners who do graffiti, but it’s probably mostly those bike gangs around here. The kidz are too young to get seriously punished. Then there’s the older pros who make a point outta doing it all over and never getting caught.

In a country as rigid as here I imagine that it’s a way to let off steam. As long as it’s not someone’s property or ugly it doesn’t upset me, but obviously it has to be illegal.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

And tags won’t make a train smelly or dirty...just ghettoey :)

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Actually one incident was shown on TV. From security cameras, the people were speaking English. They sprayed a train and were walking around between a station in Tokyo one night about 3:30 a.m.

I couldn't tell if they were native English speakers or using English as a common language.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Thepersoniamnow......Thanks for your replies. I understand what you are saying about "ghettoey" however there have been many behavioral science studies that show when you allow an environment to degrade the behavior will change also (the standard expectation for behavior becomes much lower). I have personally seen this in my home country, the U.S. and I have traveled extensively in Europe and have seen some really dirty trains. Perhaps in Japan this would not happen...I do not know

I understand what you are saying (Japan is a high pressure hierarchical society) and kids should blow off steam. Maybe there are other ways to do this...but I have never been an adolescent in Japan so I am probably not one to speak on the subject.

Anyway I think this should stop and maybe I am more sensitive to it as a foreign resident because I really love the clean, safe, and reliable public transit in Japan. It is something Japan should be proud of and in my opinion it is the best in the world.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Whoever the perpetrators, I hope they are caught.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Since no one seems to get caught, then no one really knows who is doing it, local or foriegn.

I find it very hard to believe that gangs from the US and Europe travel to Japan to vandalise trains.

Maybe Japan just cannot accept that it has a number of local delinquents.

I agree with many of the above comments. Racism.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Ex Res

I think that with tagger or graffiti artists, you will find that same element of traveling for your hobby.

People travel to party, eat, see things, and taggers definately go places to tag stuff and take pics of it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tokyo Engr

Agreed, since if there was graffiti everywhere, things would be uglier.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

To those who are in disbelief that graffiti vandals would travel internationally: yes, they do this, and they even document their work (including in Japan) on YouTube: search for "The Good Fellas - Japan" by the channel "SPRAY DAILY" to witness foreigners in action defacing Japanese trains.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

For those who like to make everything about racism( esp americans with a small "a")

Yall should know that the origin of this story is based on the fact that last year when the suspects were caught they were foreign so..

Don't blame the police for suspecting them this time around too!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'd rather see grafiti than signs of "KEEP LEFT", "KEEP MANNER", "LOOK WHERE YOU GO" on laminated paper hanged everywhere!! Do city planners think those signs are a "nice" part of city beautification ?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

For those saying, "What proof do they have that these crimes were committed by foreigners"

1) They were speaking in English (yes they recorded themselves sneaking into the station and they uploaded all of that in youtube)

2) Also the culprits are UTAH & ETHER, who are drum rolls foreigners who are going around vandalizing trains around Asia right now

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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