On April 22, Earth Day, a day on which people are encouraged to think about and act for the planet, "Spo-GOMI," an event to enjoy picking up trash like a sport, was held at UNIQLO’s Harajuku store. Yusuke Hanai is a graphic artist and UT collaborator for this season. He was invited as a guest to this first collaborative event with the artist, Spo-GOMI X UNIQLO, where art catalyzes environmental action. The artist and customers reflected on the rich environment of our planet and acted with a shared purpose. Here is our report of that day.
Taking small steps in the city will eventually help beautify the ocean
Fascinated by American surf culture, Yusuke Hanai is an artist who loves his hometown and surfing. Yusuke’s graphic T-shirts are a hot topic in this season’s UT collection. His latest artwork is featured on fabric made from recycled polyester under the theme of One Step Forward, which represents a push to take action in our daily lives that will benefit the environment.
He said the following at the opening of the event.
“When I surf in my hometown, I can see a lot of plastic waste floating in the sea. More than 90% of it is from the city. We do beach cleanups on a regular basis, but no matter how often we do it, there is no end in sight to the garbage. The ocean will not be clean unless with pick up the trash littered about in the city. I decided to participate in this event because I want to take action in the city together with customers.”
Eighty people, including children, participated in the event and, together with Yusuke, started picking up trash. Setting out from the UNIQLO Harajuku store, they walked for about 45 minutes, stopping to pick up litter along the way.
Afterward, the total amount of garbage collected that day was weighed, and it came to about 32 kg. We asked Yusuke for his thoughts.
“This was my first time participating in Spo-GOMI and picking up trash in Harajuku, but I was so absorbed in the task that the time passed quickly. I like the sport-related element because the competitive nature adds to the fun. I would like to do it again. It’s scary to think that all the trash we picked up today could eventually end up in the ocean; it’s still not enough.”
After trash was picked up in the event, a special workshop was held. It was a unique opportunity for the participants and Yusuke to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art by attaching collected marine debris to artwork drawn by Yusuke.
“For this piece, I drew an octopus and fish that were happy because there was no more garbage. If you look at this piece with the plastic attached to it, you can get an idea of how much trash there is in the ocean. I hope this will make people hesitant to carelessly throw away garbage,” said Yusuke.
Picking up trash, learning about the earth through art, and wanting to take one step forward–Yusuke’s T-shirts were the catalyst for this invaluable event that got everyone thinking about the earth and inspired them to take action close to home.
Trash from cities that ends up in the ocean is called marine debris. Much of this debris comprises microplastics, which are tiny pieces of various objects that have gotten smaller through collisions. Trash from the city makes beaches unsightly and harms the marine ecosystem as fish eat garbage that contains harmful chemical substances. Yusuke has taken a troublesome and worrisome situation and turned it into wonderful artwork that even children can understand. Drawn especially for this event, his work is full of compassion for the planet.
Yusuke Hanai | Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1978. Influenced by the counterculture of the ‘50s and ‘60s, he is a popular graphic artist with a unique style that fuses Japanese sensibility with American retro illustrations. His works have been exhibited in the US, France, Australia, Brazil, Taiwan, and the UK. His style, which evokes both cynical and humorous stories, is expanding his audience both in Japan and overseas. His collections include “Ordinary People” and others. In addition to creating works of art, he also volunteers as an art teacher at a public elementary school in Los Angeles.
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