Tracking down the identity of the mysterious “LivLA” graffiti seen all over Japan!
Is it a lone amusing criminal? A code for a mysterious organization? On telephone poles downtown and guardrails deep in the mountains...... What is the identity of the meaningful letters that are found all over Japan?
Have you ever heard of LivLA?
It is mainly called “LivLA,” and its range of appearance is wide, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, and graffiti has been found in forests, downtown areas, and everywhere. There are various theories as to its true identity, such as “a signature of an artist” or “a symbol indicating the territory of a motorcycle gang. Mr. Y, a Tokyo-based libramania who posts on SNS every time he finds a libra, says, “It was more than 10 years ago when its existence was first confirmed. But we don’t know what it means, who draws it and for what purpose – nothing is known,” he laments.
I have received messages saying, ‘So you are LivLA,’ but it wasn’t me (laughs). The word ‘LivLA’ is said to be a coined word meaning ‘fuel,’ but that is just a rumor. In the Kanto region, there are many such places in Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture. There is a theory that Kawasaki is where it originated.”
When new reporter Kawakami headed to Kabukicho, Shinjuku, he suddenly found Libra by a tavern! When he looked closely, he found libras everywhere, including on utility poles next to love hotels and on guardrails. When we asked around, the owner of the izakaya, the cleaning guy, and the cabaret girls all said that they didn’t pay attention to every single one of them.” In Kabukicho, the “town that never sleeps,” it seems that graffiti is not an issue. After regaining his composure, Kawakami headed for Kawasaki.
As soon as he got off at JR Kawasaki Station and walked down Nakamise-dori, Libra immediately jumped into view. It was spray-painted colorfully on utility poles, outdoor units of air conditioners, and parking lot walls. I found more than 20 of them in just a short walk along the street. It was an unusual amount if one person was painting them. Suddenly, my eyes met those of a man who was putting stickers on the wall. Oh, Libra,” he said. It’s famous because it’s everywhere, but I don’t know who draws it. He says there are so many of them in Fukuoka. ……”
Unable to fly to Fukuoka, I visited the “Graffiti Busters,” a graffiti cleanup group in Ota Ward, Tokyo.
The graffiti is written in different handwriting and in different ways, and sometimes it is spelled incorrectly. Even we, who fight graffiti every day, have no idea what it is. But what is definitely different from other graffiti at …… is that it keeps growing no matter how much we erase it. The culprit may be lurking nearby.”
Shigeo Kobayashi, a professor at Tokyo City University who has been studying the graffiti problem, said, “The graffiti problem originated in New York City.
It is a type of graffiti culture that originated in New York. I think it was originally started by a single person for marking and self-expression. Once a certain amount of graffiti is drawn, copycats appear and the scope of the graffiti expands rapidly. As far as I can see, the person who started drawing the libra is someone who is quite familiar with graffiti. It could have been someone from overseas.
It seems that we can’t make fun of graffiti on the side of the road. Wait for further news.
From the September 23, 2022 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Takeshi Kinugawa