Has Banksy struck in Tokyo?
Train station graffiti bears striking resemblance to one of the street artist’s most famous creations
Japanese officials are trying to verify if a potentially years-old spray-painted image of a rat discovered in Tokyo is the work of British street artist Banksy.
The drawing bears a strong resemblance to Banksy’s trademark rodent, which features in several of his previous works, including a series of stencils in Melbourne called Parachuting Rat.
The Tokyo rat, which is holding an umbrella, was sprayed on a tide gate at Hinode Station on the Yurikamome train line in the centre of the city, the BBC reports.
Officials say they had been aware of the graffiti for a long time, but did not realise they were looking a potential Banksy until December, when local residents contacted them to point out the similarity, according to The Japan Times.
“There are photos on social media that appear to show the same painting which date back several years,” the newspaper says.
Tokyo Metropolitan government official Koji Sugiyama told CNN that the stencil had not been erased by city authorities because it “didn’t stand out”.
Banksy’s work, which often satirises authority figures and current affairs, frequently sells for millions.
Sugiyama said local government officials are attempting to confirm whether the rat image is the work of the mysterious British artist, but add that they “don’t know if there’s an expert in Japan” qualified to give that verdict.
The gate, designed to protect the station from floods during high tides, has now been removed and put in storage to prevent any damage.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike posted photos of herself with the painting on Twitter, writing: “There’s a painting of cute rat in Tokyo which could be Banksy’s work! A gift to Tokyo?”
Last month, Banksy confirmed he was behind a mural in Port Talbot, Wales. That image, showing a child playing in the embers of a skip fire, “seems to comment on the town’s industrial heritage” and appeared on two walls of a garage overnight, the London Evening Standard reports.