Thursday, June 26, 2008


Originally uploaded by 神酒 Coal
For those not in the know, Shuetsu Sato is a JR station staff member who has become a minor celebrity based on his reputation for putting up very creative and aesthetically pleasing temporary signs made from duct tape to help guide passengers through re-routes during station renovations. Most notable is sans-serif font he designed which has come to be known simply as Shuetsu. As he predominantly works in Nippori and formally Shinjuku stations, both of which are in the northern part of Tokyo, I never had the pleasure of seeing his work until this morning when I discovered a mural size sign outside a station I pass on the way to work each morning. It even has his signature duct-taped in on the left.

What makes this sign particularly noteworthy is that this is not a JR station, and the information it gives has been true for many many years. It's therefore highly unlikely that this was put up in any kind of official capacity. What I think is more likely is that he had occasion to pass by the station, noticed a huge, blank, temporary wall, and just got on with it. Either way, several hours of labour has clearly gone into this piece of what could only be described as street art, and I think it was time well spent.

I emailed Mr Sato to enquire as to this. If he honours me with a response, I will report back.


Got a nice detailed mail back from a Mr Takahashi on Sato's behalf. Apparently the construction company responsible for the renovations of Keikyu-Kamata station directly requested that he make a sign for them. As it wasn't strictly speaking his job, this meant heading down on his day off and spending a full working day on it. He then returned the following weekend, again on request, to add more lettering and generally make it nicer. Apparently he's very surprised at all the positive media attention he's been getting, as his motivation comes purely from a genuine desire to perform a useful public service. This fits well with my own general opinion that art should embrace utility.

One minor errata. Apparently he doesn't work directly for JR. He's actually a contractual guard hired by construction companies to assist in directing the public around works. In other words, one of the people you'd normally see swinging a lightsaber. He's currently assigned to reconstruction works at JR Nippori, and before that JR Shinjuku, hence the misunderstanding.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Month for Cracking Down on Illegal Foreign Workers

It's June, and the banners are back up in Shinagawa Station again, just as they are every year. One side reads "Month for cracking down on illegal foreign workers" and the other "Internationalisation within the rules". I don't think any explanation is required as to why putting these banners up is a poor reflection of the immigration authorities judgement and both rude and dangerous to the vast majority of foreign residents who have their paperwork in order.

Q. No, I believe further explanation is required. Please furnish said information forthwith.

A. In addition to ignoring that Japan has done very little to combat its international image as a human trafficker and in such circumstances this banner encourages people to effectively blame the victims, it gives the impression to the countless commuters that pass through the station every day that anyone who looks foreign should be treated with suspicion and reported. Visa statuses are private matters solely between the individual and immigration authorities (and in some cases, employers). They are not for the speculative amusement of everyday folk. As with the failed snitch site campaign of a few years ago, this creates a very dangerous tendency.

It's not only the Immigration authorities to blame for this. Shinagawa Station must also share in the responsibility. So in response to this, I would strongly recommend boycotting all businesses that have branches operating within Shinagawa Station, and making sure the businesses know why. This should start with Starbucks, which actually directly overlooks this xenophobic claptrap, so everyone with even a vaguely foreign looking face can feel discriminated against as they enjoy a latte in the rolled up newspaper Starbucks call cups (I'm already boycotting Starbucks for other reasons, namely their policy of putting drinks in paper cups by default, and the absolute suckitude of their coffee du jour aka the weakest link. I'll boycott them even more now). Also if anybody fancies getting arrested, June might be a good month to start patrolling Shinagawa Station with a sandwich board displaying any pet conspiracy theories you fancy, such as "BEWARE OF PEDOPHILIAC SALARYMAN GROPERS" or "JR STAFF ATE MY BABY" or whatever. If anybody official approaches you, simply point to the banner as precedent.


See the rest of the photoset here.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Kichijoji Koen

Originally uploaded by 神酒 Coal
A very fun place to be on a Sunday afternoon armed with a Speedlite and a fishy.

See photos. 写真はここです。