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Only an art enthusiast will understand? – Thomasson Hyperart

Japanese culture

October 14, 2020

Off-the-beaten Track – Fi’s Recommendations from Tokyo



Hi, I’m Fi. I’m from England. I’ve lived in Japan for 4 years, my favourite thing about living in Japan is the food.

Both the urban and natural beauty of Japan are world famous, from the skyscrapers and neon of Shinjuku to the majesty of Kyoto’s bamboo forest.

While I’m in love with all of the above, this article is about the often overlooked suburban, everyday beauty you can find in Japan.

I’m amazed how every building on my street looks completely different from the next, some are modern and minimal, some are wooden with curved eaves.

Residential areas here are constantly changing, I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t construction happening in my neighbourhood.

This frequent evolution creates a lot of interesting scenes and one effect was declared an official art form in 1980 by Japanese artist Genpei Akasegawa; Thomasson.


One example of Thomasson: Useless staircase

Photo from Wikipedia

What on earth is Thomasson?

Thomasson is what you get when a random feature is left over from a demolished or rebuilt structure.

The remaining object is left as a memory, a kind of accidental sculpture. Sometimes this interesting new feature is even cleaned or repainted, maintained as a decoration.

Because Thomasson ‘artworks’ look so good and artsy while actually being happy accidents they’ve been labelled ‘hyper art’, greater than ordinary intentional art, which all sounds pretty exciting.

Here are some examples;


Where do these stairs lead? (Kagawa prefecture)

Photo from Wikipedia


Hmm…okay, you seem to be a tunnel. (Tokushima prefecture)

Photo from Wikipedia

What’s with the name?

This art form is named after an American baseball player!

LA Dodgers’ Gary Thomasson was signed to Tokyo’s Yomiuri giants for a record breaking amount of money, only to do nothing but strike out for two seasons and eventually be benched.

He became the perfect namesake for a cool thing, kept in good condition but ultimately serving no practical purpose . . . poor guy.


Gary Thomasson

While there are examples of Thomasson all over the world, it’s a phenomenon especially common in Japan since its residential areas reconfigure so quickly.

On a wander around your local area, it’s fun to look out for examples of Thomasson. Here are a couple of examples I’ve spotted in my travels.


Remains of a door and shelves? / windows? (Tokyo)


A door to nowhere (Tokyo)

Our pick


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