Yoyogi’s Yukinko Akira

Mike Grist Heaven Artists, Japan 11 Comments

Yukinko Akira is a funky beats-master artist, skinny and frantic and one heck of a showman. He performs regularly at the fountains in Yoyogi Park, his own unique brand of frenetic dance moves, dance beat remixes, and exhilarating yawps and whoops, all the while constructing some dystopic work of art which he signs, rolls up into a poster case, and hands out for free to one lucky spectator at the end, with a wry smile and very polite manner.

Then he pauses, re-frames, and rocks right out again. What a guy.


Yukinko Akira puts a trance on you.

I’ve seen Yukinko several times before, probably always in Yoyogi though maybe I’ve seen him elsewhere. He always has a sizable crowd gawping,  entranced by his bizarre but joyful display.

Slashing yellow lines across the work.

Adding details with one hand, remixing the beat with the other.

Yukinko is one of several public performers lucky and skilled enough to have the Tokyo government’s approval- granting him status as ‘Heaven Artist’. Heaven Artists have to pass multiple stringent interviews and trial performances, proving they bring some real cultural value to Tokyo’s public spaces. They have to have skills, time, and the inclination to seriously commit to their chosen art.


The finished work. Go! My Way!

There must be several, but I only know of one other Heaven Artist: I forget his name, but he plays a set of home-made xylophones and drums, along with all manner of percussive devices and jangling bells affixed to his wrists and ankles- making him a seated one-man band. What’s even better- all his gear fits into the panniers of the bike he rides to work, including multiple xylophone keys and 2 frames and more. He’s a great performer, when I next find him I’ll get shots of him.


Yukinko shows his rock style.


Folding up the art.

After he gives out the art, he steadies himself, then hops up into the air with a big yawp, ready to get on the next work.

Dropping to jump.

Apex of drop.


Apex of up.

Come down, exhale.



His crowd.

A second work.

And of course, no post featuring music and performance would be complete without a little video:

Yukinko Akira from Michael John Grist on Vimeo.


You can see all MJG’s Tokyo content here:

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Comments 11

  1. It’s very cool of him to hand out the artwork for free to some random person. It’s interesting also that Tokyo gives out Heaven Artist titles. It sounds like a good system. I wonder if any other cities around the world have anything similar?

    Nice report and explanation of a dude many must have seen before.

  2. I’ve seen this guy a few times, and I have to admit he puts on a heck of a good show.

    However when I saw him he wasn’t giving his paintings away for free. There’s a donation box and people (if they have any feelings) usually give him a some money.

  3. Hell of a good feature! I’ve never been much of a Yoyogi Park-goer, but I’m definitely considering hanging out there more often. The sad thing is that it’s only a 20-min walk from my place.

  4. I’ve seen him several times at Yoyogi and also he was a featured artist at a celebration near Shimbashi for a week. That was over 3 years ago and it looks like he hasn’t changed his performance much. It is pretty fascinating, and unique, but when I saw this post, I was hoping I’d have seen some evolution in his style. From the short video though it appears almost exactally the same gig he was doing 3 or 4 years ago…maybe his style of art has changed…but not much…a lot of people walking towards an opening in a dark space…..lots of horizontal lines…same as before. Still, I would love to see him put that show on here in Vancouver. People would we awestruck and he’d gather an enormous crowd.

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  6. Ho visto per la prima volta Yukinko lo scorso giugno a Parigi davanti al Beaubourg. Davvero sorprendente!! e direi un bravo artista.
    Gli ho dato volentieri 20 euro (poco) per una sua ala firmata. Lui dice che le sue opere non hanno prezzo, vero,infatti le dà anche gratis, ma è stato contento, ed è giusto contribuire.
    L’arte non deve sempre essere la Cinderella delle cose!

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