Kabuki Eyes


Location: Outside a Lexus service garage in Minato-Ku

Description: Kabuki Eyes, appeared to be sponsored and distributed at least in part by the Tokyo Police.

Hardly anyone can walk through Tokyo without catching sight of peculiar stickers plastered around shops, schools, and various other establishments such as the Temple University Japan dormitory in Takadanobaba. They’re rectangular with red and menacing kabuki eyes on a yellow background. To me, they were the impetus for trying to focus my visual anthropology blog on signs and symbols because those menacing eyes are the epitome of a successful non-verbal communication campaign. They are significant in a couple of ways from an anthropological perspective. One, they manage to marry together a traditional (some would say quintessential) Japanese art with the contemporary prevalence of surveillance. Two, to me, they betray a certain anxiety in Japanese society that has become a global anxiety: surveillance. It must go without saying that a country as safe as Japan must have implemented a form of mass surveillance, but they’re unique in having anthropomorphized that surveillance, not unlike the posters of Big Brother from George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four. In many ways the Kabuki eyes and the anthropomorphization of concepts sets a theme for the signs (specially in regards to laws) posted around Tokyo in particular.

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