I had a speaking engagement in West Tokyo in the first decade of the millennium and had five days before gabbing my way into people’s imagination. I had been south before so it was time to get up north. I took the train to Sapporo in the island of Hokkaido by train, which was great because I probably just paid for a couple of nights at a hotel and the rest of it was on the train.

I already took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka before and Shinkansen on this northern route only went up to Hachinohe before going on the regular line under the channel to Hokkaido. Thus, I took the milk train and gaze my time away watching the countryside on both sides of Honshu and Hokkaido.

The big surprise was Sapporo. I had always imagined the Japanese to be neat and orderly by demo of my neighbors in Honolulu, but the cement posts holding elevated highways and restraining embankments were full of graffiti of the juvenile kind. The trip was enjoyable on the tail end of winter going into spring, which led my tropical bloodline to find an excuse to wear winter clothing.

Of course, Sapporo will have to be revisited some other time and get a fuller treatment. For now, my recollection is triggered by the new loud yellow paint that workers did on the small bridges connecting pathway to dwellings and buildings from the street of Tun Joaquin Doi Rd. of Finasisu down from Apa Rd. towards the old Ladera International School campus. Equipped with standard reflecting red glares at night, the bright yellow cross bridges glowed enough that any sober driver would find the road course pleasant to drive in.

A boldly embellished OUSH graffiti sign, with variants that included an NSH, were prominent on the cross bridge walkways a few days later. Now, graffiti artists’ adrenalin rush is sustained by the length of time their handiwork stays visible until the DPW guys get around to repainting them.

While I was a 6th grade teacher at San Vicente Elementary School, graffiti vandalism was done on the wall of the first floor of the building my class occupied. The painters were clear that their work (not of quality to be greatly admired) were a sign of protest since they managed to etch the f-word along the text, so I went to maintenance and asked for a gallon of the wall paint they used on the building and painted over the graffiti, prepared to do the same again should the artist come back with another of their handiwork the day after.

I was made to understand that maintenance kept an eye on the space, and the grapevine revealed that the perpetuators were former students who had since gone up to higher grades, so it was still sad to note that graduates were defacing their old school. But when asked why I did not wait for maintenance to get around doing the job, I remember telling someone that I felt personally defeated for as long as the graffiti was visible.

The same was my response to the Tun Joaquin Doi Rd. vandalism but I did not know where to get the yellow paint. Besides, I was just starting to set up a Grade 1 room that I consented to teach at WSR since the teacher had to leave and the replacement was full of energy but too young and inexperienced that she was easily overwhelmed by the task.

It was in such quandary, my knowing that a deed needed to be done and I was ready to roll up my sleeves that I was lost on the logistics until I noticed blue shirts painting over the damage. I do not know whether they were regular DPWs but they were sporting the blue shirt of BSI who has been trying very hard to gain public support of their casino venture through their community involvement work, and they could either be DPW workers sporting BSI shirts, or BSI itself through its own workers.

In any case, OUSH is gone, and I trust, so will the other graffiti in CUC relay stations and my favorite place by the tank of Quartermaster road where the waterless toilet (not used) is a frequent target of graffiti artists.

It occurred to me that at a time when young people from 12 to 40 walk around with a smartphone like an attire accessory equipped with a camera that I thought a snap shot of a graffiti artist in the midst of his/her work is something the dailies will just be glad to print in their news pages. I think I am still on the “we can’t let the graffiti warriors win” mode.

I learned after my visit 2002 to Sapporo that the city decided to clean up after its ardent artists. I did not witness the result and it can also just be hearsay but the fact remains that graffiti is everyone’s concern. There is no “they” mandated to clear after the artists, and, yes, we have authorities with the responsibility not only to go after perpetuators but to clean up the deed so the environs do not become a field for sore eyes; the responsibility is all ours.

OUSH was a personal “Ouch!” I thank the blue shirts for doing us all a favor, and for the perpetuators, they are just a click away! Not a dare, just a statement.”Smile, you’re on candid camera!”

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at pinoypanda2031@aol.com.

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