Tokyo Street

Interview by Zarani Risjad
Photography by Shinpei Yamamori (Oyama Enrico Isamu Letter) & Kioku Keizo (Hitotzuki)

The Japanese have always been unique in their ways of perceiving, learning and adapting from other cultures. Tokyo Street is an exhibition that takes a closer look at 10 artists who have been influenced by a counter culture from the West, before translating their experience to suit the Japanese way of life.

Growing up on a diet of skateboarding, MTV and music from punk to hip hop to techno, the artists exhibit their points of view and influences in the exhibition, to surprising and refreshing effects, even for their country of origin.

We speak to exhibiting artists Oyama Enrico Isamu Letter and Hitotzuki on their take on street culture.

tokyo street graffiti skate culture

OYAMA ENRICO ISAMU LETTER 

Crafting a personal Tokyo Street signature style through new techniques.

How were you inspired by street culture growing up?

I experienced graffiti culture as a teenager in Tokyo through books and magazines. Soon, I started to notice that urban cities are full of this strong and impressive form of art, even though it was still underground. It became more accessible through the Internet after the year 2000.

Do tell us about your first piece of ‘art’. What did you make?

I do not remember my first creation in life but I have been drawing for a long time, so it must have been a drawing.

Which aspect of street culture do you prescribe to today?

Graffiti and street art, worldwide. In Japan, it is more like Otaku culture.

What inspires you to create today?

I am inspired by strong abstract visual practices, ranging from contemporary urban culture such as graffiti, to modern paintings like Abstract Expressionism or Mexican Muralism.

HITOTZUKI

The collaborative pair, Kami and Sasu, on reinterpreting their inspirations of Tokyo Street culture.

When did you create your first piece of ‘art’ and what did you make?

Kami (K): It was around 1999, at a café in Tokyo where we drew on a paper napkin. Things just escalated from there, leading to everything we do today.

How were you inspired by street/urban culture growing up?

K: Superheroes, monsters, anime and manga culture from the Showa-era. Also 80s-90s skateboarding culture, and pre-Internet street culture derived from this.

Sasu (S): Sanrio characters from the 80s, outdoor and street cultures, and fairy tales.

What inspires you to create today?

K: Beauty which you can find in moments of everyday life.

S: I like to explore between cultures. We can create our own paths through these explorations.

How does the Japanese culture inform your artistic practice?

K: I come from Kyoto, where I was influenced by the colours, shapes and atmosphere of the shrines around me.

S: I was strongly influenced by the mountains and shrines during my childhood.

Read more in The U Press N˚1 (Singapore edition).