Bringing Street Painting to Tokyo

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — Despite an impending storm, the Street Painting Festival Shimokitazawa was held as planned on Sunday. The event pulled in a sizable crowd as people of all ages joined in on the fun.

The event was organized by Kenneth Miller of Island Travel Specialists. Miller has been involved with street art for ten years and has been in Japan for four years, originating from south Florida. In the past, he was fortunate enough to be invited to create art at the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival in his home state. This event has been ongoing for the past 26 years and boasts over 500 artists and 100,000 visitors each year.

Miller wants to bring this street art tradition over to Japan. He explains, “I think Japan is extremely creative, and it’s something I have not seen too much of in Japan. I know it’s in Italy, America, and different places. I’m sure it’s here somewhere… There are amazing artists here.”

Miller explains, “This event was for anybody: kids, great artists to amateurs.” The festival is simply for “creating art; watching art emerge.”

He contrasts it to traditional art galleries, which he says “are about selling things.” Street art, on the other hand, “is about just creating art for people to enjoy.”

There are a few reasons why street art is not as popular in Japan as it may be in some other countries. Miller talks about these challenges as he notes, “things that are different, or changes, are difficult in Japan sometimes… Many people are not comfortable doing something they are not familiar with, especially in Japan, people want to do something and do it really well, instead of just coming for the fun of it.”

Despite these challenges, and the poor weather on Sunday, the event seemed to be a success. More artists showed up than anticipated and the tape roll used to designate canvas spots ran out. One artist was overheard saying, “I feel like a kid again.”

Besides just feeling like a kid, children also joined the artists, adding their own chalk designs to the bare concrete.

When the rain finally brought an end to the proceedings, it did not dampen the mood at all. Rather, the feelings of togetherness were heightened as groups of artists huddled together to take shelter.

“Even when it rains, you still get a family of artists together as you watch your drawings melt into the concrete,” Miller observed.

The Street Painting Festival Shimokitazawa provided a break from the isolation of the pandemic era. One participating artist commented, “this was the first time since Covid we had a chance to go out and do something.”

Miller shared a similar sentiment: The “main thing is bringing people together especially during these crazy times in the world, and sharing art, and sharing life.”

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