After basking in cherry blossom splendor and safe, clean, and efficient society in Tokyo, I said to myself: “All right, blossoms are cool, but where are all the punks in this town?”
Turns out pretty much everything in Tokyo is honorable and pristine except for electrical cabinets, which provide a habitat for thousands of unique sticker species.
Punk culture didn’t surface at all in Tokyo, at least the urban and suburban environments where I ventured. I kept looking for what might be considered a ‘bad neighborhood’ in Tokyo and did not set foot into such a place - it didn’t seem to exist. Stumbling upon a temple was easy, but finding any crassness or edge in the city was hard. At one point I took a random train to a random neighborhood in North Tokyo just for a lark, and I still found healthy food, clean streets, and nice people.
The meanest person I met in the entire trip to Tokyo was an intoxicated German lady in Shinjuku who seemed to think I was German and began yelling at me in German. So - if not for belligerent tourists, who are all these punks putting up these stickers? I have no idea who they are or what they want - they seem to be very quiet and quick and good at their sticker-slapping jobs - but I am in love with their gusto.
Stickering the electrical cabinet is a good idea - you can’t exactly paint over a steel cabinet, and it’s a pain to take the stickers off. And there are so many stickers on these things that you kind of get the idea that the police, shopkeepers, and clerks of the world are overwhelmed in a hydratic ocean of stickers. Peel one off and three more take it’s place overnight.
I was the only foreigner and the only person I saw who paused to look at these stickers. They weren’t interesting to anyone else. I’m not sure how locals experience them other than as noise in everyday life, background radiation in an already-neon-soaked environment.
Not many vending machines were stickered, but this one in Shinjuku seemed to be everyone’s favorite sticker placer. To get this photo I bought a Boss Coffee and realized that the flap to retrieve my coffee was jammed by a couple persistent stickers. After some wiggling I retrieved the Boss Coffee just fine, and thankfully, no sticker punk was evil enough to cover the coin slot with a sticker.
I’ll be the first to admit I have no idea what Satan’s School For Girls might be without Googling it, but I am 100% onboard. And who, or what, is Lone Deer Laredo?
Were these stickers for bars, clubs, brands, artists? I’m sure all are involved.
Many of the stickers in Tokyo shouted messages of self-love and forgiveness. The Stop Homophobia sticker was rare, but I saw it everywhere in Shibuya. The ‘Be Easy’ sticker hides one that is even more funny: Fuck School Do Drugs. If the most punk-ass thing you can do in America in 2019 is be kind to your friends, the most punk-ass thing you can do in Tokyo is stick up for yourself and forgive yourself in a harshly performant culture.
At the end of my journey to Tokyo, I felt a bit like the person in the sticker above - like flames were rolling off my brain and jetting out of my face. It was a trip of seeing and believing. Plastered with these stickers, even the boring nooks and crannies of Tokyo alleyways, telephone poles, and metal pipes suddenly had something extreme to say. Stunning! Smash! Unique! Satan’s School For Girls! JS One! Jaeson was here!