[The original Japanese version was published on February 23, 2023]
To the supporters of Akira Yoshida and all those concerned.
Thank you very much for your continued support of our artist, Akira Yoshida.
Today, for the first time, we refer to the series of damages caused to Akira Yoshida’s work Shibuya Neko Hariko including copyright infringement, the public display of the work that had been altered without authorization to appear entirely different, and the removal of the altered work without the artist’s permission.Left: Shibuya Neko Hariko, Akira Yoshida, created in 2020
This work was installed within SOAK, a bar on the top floor of sequence MIYASHITA PARK which is a hotel owned by Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd. It was created specifically for this bar. At the time of production and installation, the establishment’s management company was Bakeru Co., Ltd. (Photo by Taro Tanaka)
Right: Yoshida’s entire work and the pedestal with the nameplate showing the artist's name and the name of the work was covered with wrapping film and altered without permission.
The film was custom made for a graphic designer, while the adhesive used was not for temporary wrapping, but 3M DI-NOC Primer which is used for permanent bonding.
The bar's current management company is MOTHER Entertainment Inc. (Photo by Akira Yoshida)
Description of Shibuya Neko Hariko before unauthorized alteration
Akira Yoshida, Shibuya Neko Hariko, created in 2020
H130 W91.8 D91.5cm Fiberglass reinforced plastic, stainless steel reinforcement, brass water nozzle, urethane paint, PVC film
By combining traditional Japanese motifs with contemporary forms, I created this work with the aim of making it a new symbol of Shibuya. I created a new Neko Hariko character by taking the maneki neko (beckoning cat) motif and crossing it with the Inu Hariko.
The shape of the beckoning cat is abstracted while the curved surfaces are smoothly joined together to create a contemporary form. Shibuya already has a much-loved symbol, the Hachiko statue. In creating this work, I chose a cat as the motif in the hope that this would form a pair with the Hachiko statue.
The front of the work uses white as the base color, to create a pattern inspired by the symbol of Japan, the Hinomaru flag. It is also possible to change the impression of the work through the manipulation of lighting. The back has been decorated with motifs of a yokozuna’s rope and kesho mawashi (ceremonial apron). The knot is based on the Shiranui style, forming a bolo-tie-like accent.
I produced this work with the aspiration that not only tourists visiting Japan from overseas, but also Japanese people will discover a new sense of modern Japanese-ness through the combination of traditional motifs and contemporary forms.
In August 2019, I was commissioned by Bakeru Co., Ltd. (then known as Tokyo Pistol Co., Ltd.) to create a work to be installed in SOAK within sequence MIYASHITA PARK, a hotel scheduled to open the following year as part of the Shibuya Shin Miyashita Park development project.
I became involved in this project and installed the work in April 2020. The author, Akira Yoshida, retains both the copyright and moral rights to the work even after its delivery. Consequently, any changes to the work must obtain my prior approval.
The bar was opened in November 2020, later than originally planned due to the declaration of emergency in the wake of COVID. Following this, Akira Yoshida’s Shibuya Neko Hariko was frequently utilized in promoting the bar, including many interviews from the media.
Sample article:Left: Maidonanews
Right: Casa BURUTUS
On September 2, 2022, our staff discovered in a post on SOAK’s Instagram account that Akira Yoshida's work was on display with drastic changes to its form.
Additionally, we encountered numerous photographs taken by this establishment’s personnel and business partners, as well as by ordinary customers.
However, upon checking the homepage of the bar's website, the Shibuya Neko Hariko was displayed in its original, unaltered state along with Akira Yoshida’s head shot and bio as before.
Unable to understand what was going on, we contacted Bakeru Co., Ltd. ("BAKERU") and were abruptly notified that they no longer manage SOAK and had transferred the business to MOTHER Entertainment Inc. ("MOTHER Entertainment").
However, Bakeru Co., Ltd. has been the only contact point between the artist and SOAK, both before and after the work was installed.
We therefore requested—via BAKERU—Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd. ("Mitsui Fudosan”) which is the owner of sequence MIYASHITA PARK where the work was installed, and MOTHER Entertainment, to confirm the following:
1. How the work was altered
2. The method of alteration and whether the work could be restored to its original state
Despite the urgency of the matter, there was no reply.
After 14 days, our company engaged a lawyer specializing in copyright.
Subsequent investigation led both Mitsui Fudosan and MOTHER Entertainment to respond that the work was altered by the new management company, MOTHER Entertainment, with the permission of Mitsui Fudosan.
We also learned that the alterations were made by applying wrapping film to cover the work (signed by the artist on the back) and the entire pedestal where the nameplate with the artist’s name and the name of the work was located. We understand that the adhesive used was 3M DI-NOC Primer, which is a strong adhesive for more permanent use, rather than for temporary wrapping that is designed to be removed.
Social media posts by the graphic designer who designed the wrapping film also revealed that the design was elaborate and almost entirely hand-drawn, rather than using commercial off-the-shelf wrapping film. The words "MIYASHITA PARK" were also included in the graffiti-like design.The words “MIYASHITA PARK” are visible in the areas marked with a red circle. (Photo by Akira Yoshida)
After we contacted MOTHER Entertainment, they removed the original image of Shibuya Neko Hariko and Akira Yoshida’s head shot and bio from SOAK’s website. However, they posted an image of the altered work on its homepage instead. Multiple examples of the altered work also appeared on Instagram and Facebook, as well as in a downloadable PDF file of the facility guide.Homepage of SOAK’s official website with the altered work
(the image has now been removed)
From the facility guide PDF on the SOAK’s official website, where an image of the altered work was used (the image has now been removed)
The above three screenshots are from SOAK’s official website: https://soaks.tokyo/
Unauthorized alteration of a work is itself an act that damages the work and the artist. Moreover, it is astonishing to see that the intention was to continue exhibiting the altered work.
After our request, the images of the altered work have mostly been removed from SOAK’s website and social media. But there are some that are still being used. Photographs taken by the public (including the bar’s personnel), of course, continue to be published on the internet.
Furthermore, Mitsui Fudosan removed the work from the site and moved it to a warehouse on the outskirts of Tokyo without the artist's consent. We were shocked and asked for photos of the work to get a better idea of its condition and found that it had been placed haphazardly and left isolated in a place unsuitable for handling artwork. We believe the work continues to be hidden in the same warehouse in its altered state.
The concept presented by sequence MIYASHITA PARK is, "sequence MIYASHITA PARK has captured the existing essence of a hotel, but also fosters heartfelt connections between art and the world, and between art and people.” It is still hard to believe that the desecration of artwork and an artist took place in broad daylight in such a place.
We have not received a prompt and sincere response to this urgent matter from the beginning of the incident to the present. There has absolutely been no sense of respect for the artwork, the artist or an understanding of culture. We feel powerless and worthless.
Through this exchange, we have become keenly aware of how vulnerable the victim is and how powerless an individual artist or a very small company like ours is in the face of a large corporation. Each day has been an excruciating struggle for the past six months. Six months have passed since the incident and we have reached the limit of mental exhaustion.
For many years, Akira Yoshida has been creating works with the theme of revealing the darkness, contradictions, and problems that lurk in contemporary society through his work. As we believe it is the artist’s mission to speak out about this incident, we have decided to refer to this for the first time, six months after the incident.
The reasons for the delay are that we wanted to find a solution as amicably as possible with the other party; we did not want to draw public attention to this disgraceful matter; and most of all, we did not want to cause any inconvenience or concern to all of you who support us. Akira Yoshida's works have been exhibited as public art in Japan and overseas, capturing the hearts of many, while numerous other works are held by private collectors. We sincerely apologize to everyone and hope you can understand the difficult situation we are in.
Our goal now is to recover, restore, and revive the damaged work. And to donate the work to a new owner who appreciates culture, loves art, and will conscientiously look after and exhibit the work. There may be a long journey ahead of us. Nevertheless, we will continue to do everything in our power so that as many people as possible will be able to see and enjoy the revived Shibuya Neko Hariko as soon as possible.
We would be grateful if you could stay informed and engaged on this matter.
Akira Yoshida, Artist
Yukari Mitsuma, Representitive/Director, YUKARI ART
Appendix We have started our petition to request Mitsui Fudosan, the owner of the work, to undertake the following actions:
・Promptly return the work to the author.
・Return the ownership of the work—that has been stored in the owner’s warehouse with its unauthorized alterations and has become a worthless artefact—to the author.
Please sign our petition at Change.org from here.
We appreciate your generous cooperation on this matter.