The Library


Ryo Sanda & Suridh Hassan

Laurence King Publishing
Studio Rarekwai

Graffiti is the most honest art form on the planet, fact. It’s a culture that stretches all across the globe, from Europe to the States, South America to Australia and Asia. Most people may think of the early days of New York writing or the burgeoning Scandinavian scene which houses Europe’s most impressive artists, but now, thanks to this amazing book, the reader can get a glimpse into the Japanese scene, which has been growing both in number and originality since the last 1980s.

From the off, this book stands out amongst it’s peers with its hardback cover, beautifully filled out with an Esow piece, an anthropomorphic volcano on the front cover and a worried writer on the back. With a nice foreword from renowned Japanese writer Kress, the book is cut up into 3 parts.

The first part is a short introduction on the tools of the trade, with Zen One explaining how he was able to change the Japanese caps to help them become more usable for pieces. Explaining that Japan didn’t stock the NY style FAT caps, he had to make his own cap to fit on the top of the can, a scotch cap, which is now one of the premier tools in the Asian graffiti world.

Next comes the bulk of the book, the chapter on the writers. What impressed me most about the pieces in this book was how energised the lettering was, whether it was in the western alphabet or the Asian style lettering [as with Sklawl‘s Hiragana and Suiko‘s kanji]. There are so many different styles in the book and this serves to prove just how varied and vibrant the Japanese scene has become.

SCA Crew‘s enormous murals which cover half a building stands out in terms of effort and sheer workload with ESOW’s characters standing out amongst the impressive tags and lettering. It also highlighted Zys and his super groggy tagging as well as his “Spin Tags” which, though a simple idea, are the most original way to bomb I’ve seen in a long time. Wrapping his tag in swift circular strokes, it seems as though the tag itself is moving, a brilliant sight without a doubt.

The final part of the book shows some of the main spots around Japan which is an interesting mix of surroundings, from bridges to deserted hospitals. The most impressive of them all is Sakuragi-Cho, a railway underpass in Yokohama which serves as a veritable hall of fame for Japanese writers and even writers from abroad.

A bonus when buying this book is the DVD which comes with it. A few select interviews are featured with some of the artists from the book as well as many showcases of the spots mentioned all to a brilliant downtempo hip hop soundtrack.

The Japanese scene is truly inspiring and so, like Kress says in his introduction:

“If you’re thinking of inviting Japenese writers to your country for a show or a jam you might already be too late.”