Japanese College Students Prank Statue (Even After It’s Gone)

In the early 90s, Kyoto University had a problem. A statue on campus kept getting vandalized over and over, without any sign of stopping.

Students kept making their own additions to the statue of educator Hikoichi Orita, including face paint, clothing, props and just plain ol’ text and scribbles.

orita-statue-bicycle

By 1994, the university was so fed up with all of the graffiti and vandalism that they put up a sign next to the statue. It said:

折田彦市先生は、第三高等学校の校長として京大の創設に尽力し、京大に自由の学風を築くために多大な功績を残した人です。 どうかこの像を汚さないで下さい。

総合人間学部

To paraphrase in English: Hikoichi Orita was a great man who contributed a lot to this school, so stop vandalizing his statue.

orita-statue-yakisoban

Unsurprisingly, the sign didn’t a damn thing to stop the vandalism. By 1997, the university decided to permanently remove the Orita-sensei statue; but even that didn’t stop people from messing with him.

Nowadays, instead of defacing the long-gone statue, people simply build their own, complete with pedestal and sign.

Every year, new, fake statues pops up on campus in place of the Orita-sensei statue around significant dates (like exams and such), featuring a different character in place of the seminal Kyoto University figure.

orita-statue-brock

Gym leader Brock/Takeshi from Pokémon

orita-statue-mr-contac

Mr. Contac, the mascot for cold/flu medication Contac

orita-statue-poko-chan

Fujiya mascot Poko-chan

orita-statue-nisehorn

Twitter bot @nisehorn

orita-statue-tendonman

Children’s TV show character Tendonman

orita-statue-kamen-rider

A Kamen Rider character

orita-statue-suppaman

Superman character from the manga Dr. Slump

orita-statue-noppotoppo

Snack mascot Noppo Toppo

I feel kinda sorry for Hikoichi Orita; I’m sure he would have liked to be remembered as an educator and major figure in Kyoto University history, instead of an oft-defaced statue.

At the same time, the legacy of the Orita-sensei statue has made Hikoichi Orita much more notable than he might have otherwise been. After all, how else would I know about this minor 19th century historical figure?

To the Kyodai students who carry on the tradition of pranking the Orita-sensei statue, even though it’s been gone for almost 20 years: I salute you.

  • God

    In the last picture, why is there a guy with a mask?

  • kazenosuna

    I’m not entirely sure, so don’t quote me on this, but I think I remember reading about how people in that part of Asia wear masks to protect themselves from getting colds and such. But I’m not sure if I’m remembering that correctly.

  • da.pink.buble

    that dude probably has a cold and is being Curtis to others and trying not to spread his cold

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511987068 Eggers Christopher

    He’s a Ninja. A common occurrence in Japan, yet rarely captured on film.

  • http://twitter.com/Cupucuups Hamyo

    That red one was freakin me out , it’s somekind like a tengu statue i guess…… O.o

    http://okonomikatsu.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    People in Japan wear surgical masks when they’re sick or afraid of getting sick. Read our post for more info:

    http://www.tofugu.com/2012/06/14/why-do-japanese-people-wear-surgical-masks/

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    Shouldn’t you know this already, considering who you are? Unless this is a metaphorical question, meant for us mortals to ponder upon. Perhaps the mask itself is also figurative. Also, a Google image search for Noppo Toppo returns the images in this article, and a bunch of cars. Is that also symbolic? Am I thinking about this too deeply?

  • Lizzy

    if you do a google search spelling his name in katakana (ノッポトッポ) you get lots of his pictures.

  • Mescale

    He’s not being Curtis, he is after all Japanese, he’s probably being Ichigo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=310200036 Zero-kun Blank

    Poor RIderman. Doesnt even get a name. Just “A Kamen Rider character”.

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    I’m more concerned about the lack of legs. How’s he supposed to do a Rider Kick now?

  • Henro 88

    A commenter on that article gave some good insight – the masks do literally nothing, so, above all, it is cultural convention above all else.

    It’s an element of Japanese culture that people (who don’t live in Japan) don’t know much about. The Japanese are very literal-minded people. Give you an example: the CDC website says that IF someone has the flu, crack open ONE window to let in fresh air. The flu spreads more easily in stagnant, humid air.

    In Japanese schools, during the winter, they leave every single window wide open. They even have signs in my kids’ school that say, “Let’s all open the windows to chase out the flu!” It is official school policy. So they took this one, simple bit of advice: “crack open one window if you are sick,” and interpreted it to mean, “Open all windows=no one will get the flu” without even thinking about it. These are the people educating my children!!

    I think it might be the same with the masks. Surgeons wear masks. Mask=safe. Never mind the fact that hospitals have dozens and dozens of procedures to ensure a sterile environment, and the mask is only part of that. To Japanese people mask=safe. Open window=no flu. This is honestly one of the most frustrating things about living in Japan, because it is a simple part-whole logical fallacy. This kind of thinking is pretty common in Japan, especially regarding health, and it can be very, very frustrating to deal with on a daily basis.

  • RosebudMarie

    This is freakin hilarious! I guess college students are pretty much the same the world over.

  • robersora

    But why did they start vandalizing it? Was he a controversial figure, or did they do it just for fun?

  • Ben Nichols

    The masks do not “do nothing”. I’ve used them many times and at the very least, they prevent certain larger particles from entering the mask, such as mold and pollen. This is why many people wear the masks, especially in the spring, which may explain the picture above if it was taken during graduation (in March). There are other innovations for the masks which give a variety of benefits. Whatever the actual results, it’s a far cry better than America (where I am now) where people often sneeze into the open air, their hands, or wherever.

    The benefit of opening so many windows can obviously be debated, but if it’s not cold enough to harm anyone, why not get fresh air in the classroom? Nobody seriously believes opening all the windows means Nobody will get the flu, it’s just a preventative measure.

    Surgeons wear masks to prevent germs from spreading from their mouth and nose. The other dozens of procedures ensure a sterile environment for SURGERY. If you’re not performing surgery, a mask will be sufficient to prevent spreading germs–not 100%, but a whole lot better than nothing.

  • Henro 88

    Ben, if you’ve ever been in a Japanese school, you know that they open the windows throughout the winter, no matter how cold it is. “Cold enough to harm” is obviously debatable, since I’ve never heard of a child dying from it. I have, however, seen heated teacher’s rooms while the students all languish in unheated rooms with all the windows open in the middle of December. I mean, let me ask you: if your child is in an unheated classroom with the windows open in December, not allowed to wear anything but the standard school uniform – and the teachers are sitting in a heated room, would you consider that “harming” the children? Sorry, but I don’t think you understood what I meant by “opening all the windows” because you probably thought I was being hyperbolic – I wasn’t. There is no benefit whatsoever.

    “Nobody seriously believes opening all the windows…it’s just a preventative measure.” It doesn’t prevent anything, and, yes, they actually post signs in our school saying, “Let’s prevent flu by opening the windows.” And, yes, my stepson’s class actually had SO MANY children sick with the flu last year that they canceled classes for a whole week.

    You may be right that the masks do something, but I’m looking at them in the context of real, actual Japanese culture. Once you look at the whole situation, you realize that the masks are just one component in a huge misunderstanding of how health and safety works. If you lived in Japan, you would know of the interesting, quirky superstitions they have about health. But I stand by my point that it is frustrating, and anyone who chooses to live here will have to work through that frustration eventually.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Just for fun, as far as I can tell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AbigailCamarillo Cam Abi

    This is hilarious! Thanks for sharing!

  • Poliwhirl

    Even the signs are genius:

    Hikoichi Orita was the leader of Pewter City’s gym, trainer of rock Pokemon who did a lot to spread TM 34. So please don’t choose Squirtle.

    - Onix

  • Dynasia

    Lol hey at least the students have a sense of humor XD

  • Jonathan Wong

    As a cyclist, I can’t help but love the first picture with Hikoichi Orita in a Helmet and a bike over his right shoulder cyclocross style.

  • Ben Nichols

    I lived in Japan for two years, and that whole time was spent teaching at a boarding junior high school (and regular elementary school). I’m not speaking from ignorance–I know what it’s like.

    However, I worked at a private school, so we did some things differently. We had space heaters in every classroom (kerosene), which produce harmful gasses so we also opened SOME windows every once in a while to get fresh air flowing. And this was in Okinawa, which gets cold but not nearly as cold as mainland. So I don’t know if it’s all public schools, or perhaps just in your area, that’s so backwards but it doesn’t happen everywhere.

    It’s interesting that when you quote the signs at your school they don’t say “Let’s open ALL the windows,” just “Let’s open the windows.” Maybe some people take it too far.

    Yes Japan needs to work on the social stigma of taking time off work, among many other things. It probably won’t happen anytime soon though. So in the meantime, I think wearing a mask (which, as I’m sure you know, isn’t just for people who ARE sick, but for prevention too) is better than being sick and NOT wearing a mask.

    Because I HAVE lived there (and my wife is Japanese), I know of the “superstitions” they have. Every country has superstitions, and health superstitions are the most common. But sometimes we can learn something from them, and it’s not possible if you’re not open to the idea they might be right about some things where we’re wrong. For example, Japanese people say that stomach pains are often caused by a cold stomach, so they’ll put a hara-maki on to warm themselves up (mostly women). I thought that was a stupid misconception, but it turns out Japanese people may have a physiological weakness that causes this problem. So what I thought was a superstition may turn out to be true. Of course a lot of superstitions are just that, but if we’re blinded by ethnocentrism, we’ll never discover the ones that turn out to be true.

    Yes, I have dealt with frustrations too. But strangely, the uniqueness of Japan that makes me frustrated is also the thing that keeps me intrigued and challenged to help things begin to change.

  • Helen Kirifides

    Well, you know what they say; Necessity is the mother of invention. :)

    Also, I think it’s really human nature, and teen/young adult nature in particular, to rebel or want the opposite of what the adults or “authorities” want.

    ‘You want to have a nice, clean, respected statue in your court? We’re gonna disrespect it and vandalize it. Yeah!
    You take the statue away from us? We’re gonna build it, and beautify it. Take THAT! Hah!’

    The school should take a hint from the psychology of this and take down all boring looking statues and little monuments from around the school, maybe uproot a few trees and shrubs here and there, and leave the spaces empty, and they’d probably end up with a really beautiful campus full creative students spending much their potentially destructive free time, planting guerilla gardens, and erecting some really fun and inventive instillation art. :)

  • Henro 88

    You’re partially right. I am living in the inaka, and a lot of the problems here are inaka problems. People, for example, in the inaka don’t fully understand that tobacco is bad for pregnant women. You see a lot of “redneck” crap out here that is definitely not universal in Japan (I mean, I sure as hell hope it isn’t).

  • AlJaf

    Lol how do you find out about these things?! Reveal your source! Haha I lived in Kyoto for a year, like 10 mins away from Kyodai and this sort of thing would definitely have tickled me in my otaku-sight-seeing phase keke !

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    I was researching something else about Kyoto University and just sort of stumbled upon this. Maybe next time you’re in Kyoto you can swing by campus and see yourself :)