Stuck in Tokyo? Check out the local “BNE参上” Stickers

BNE参上 Sticker on Signpost in Shibuya“BNE has arrived!” – well that’s what the stickers tell us. What stickers? If you don’t know, then you either don’t live in any one of many big cities around the world where they are now officially everywhere, or you just don’t get out very much.

These BNE stickers have become the centre of a baffling worldwide “who dunnit” involving stickers, and graffiti in an ever increasing number of well known international destinations. Living in Tokyo, we have noticed these stickers are appearing more and more, and more interestingly continue to be replaced even after authorities remove them! They are distinctive and all feature black, block characters, on a white background, and while having a number of variations, all deliver the same message that BNE is here. What is BNE is here to do? That is still anyone’s guess, and apart from his adhesive efforts, there has been little influence on anything other than people’s puzzled faces when BNE is the topic of conversation.

BNE 参上 Sticker on fire Hydrant“B-N-E”: the three letters stand for what has become an international mystery. From Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur, New York to Prague, and now Tokyo and Osaka, the acronym has been plastered on phone boxes, walls, newspaper dispensers, vending machines, parking meters and street signs. When the culprit becomes tired of stickers, he (we refer to BNE as a he, as he often refers to himself as “King BNE”) switches to spray paint, and even permanent marker. San Francisco has been plagued with the stickers since early 2006, and the mayor, Gavin Newsom is absolutely furious. He has made several news appearances promising to prosecute Mr. BNE to the extent of the law, and has even gone so far as to offer a reward of $2500 USD (almost JPY 30 men) for his capture. One estimate has it that the BNE stickers alone are costing the city of San Francisco $1 million USD a month to keep under control, as a futile effort to remove them continues while the mayor vows to stick at it, and catch the meddling vandal. The obvious, but sad fact is however, that the stickers are many times more costly and time consuming to remove than they are to put in place.

BNE 参上 StickerSo, what does it all mean? Theories are bouncing around the web, and even have had air time on international news networks. Some ideas for the acronym (despite being lame efforts) are, “Be Nowhere Else”, “Big Nuclear Explosion” and “Breaking ‘n’ Entering”. However, there is still no definitive answer to the puzzle that has police in at least 6 nations running wild goose chases for the vandal that is spreading an unknown message to tens of millions of people around the globe. (BNE is also the 3 letter international location code for Brisbane, Australia. It is also the name for an Israeli music production company called BNE (standing for “Brand New Entertainment”). However it would be extremely disappointing to learn that this code that has stumped us all for over a year now, amounted to nothing more than the Sunshine State’s capital city, or a local music company in the holy land).

BNE 参上 Sticker at HarajukuSan Francisco police first noted the menace in May 2005, but since then, BNE has gone worldwide, and has an overwhelming presence here in Tokyo only in the last 6 months, with stickers now visible in every nook and cranny of each of the major city centers of Tokyo, even extending out to the suburbs. The BNE revolution (as some call it) has drawn so much attention here in Japan, that it has been featured quite regularly in the media also. This is a short clip, from the news, on location in Tokyo. The reporter finds BNE presence in Akihabara, Shinjuku, Shibuya and even Harajuku and Omotesando! (The clip is in Japanese, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it):

We at also conducted an independent BNE sticker hunt in Shibuya on the weekend, and found around 50 separate areas defaced by BNE stickers (see gallery below for the best specimens), and that was only searching for some fifteen minutes.BNE Phone Booth in Shibuya Shibuya must certainly be one of the most highly concentrated BNE areas in Tokyo – it is hard to open your eyes and not see them. The phone booth pictured on left (click to enlarge) was looking particularly worse for wear, with almost every glass panel bearing the repetitive BNE symbology.

American news stations believe BNE is from Japan, due to the fact that the acronym is regularly displayed with the Japanese word 参上 (Sanjyo, meaning “arrived” or “is here”). However, it could simply mean “BNE was here” (as amateur spray paint graffiti vandals often like to let us know), using the Japanese word for the same to deepen the wild theories that so many are brewing, and seems to be working well so far to that end.

Interestingly enough, there was quite a widespread computer virus that infected computer systems around the world soon after BNE started “arriving” that contained the three letters “BNE” in its name (Win32.Rbot.BNE). There are many references on the Internet linking the sticker culprits, and the hackers behind the virus, but as expected, proof of it has not been ascertained.

BENET signed as BNEThere is only one explanation for BNE so far that is believable enough for me – that being the “Benet” theory. “Benet”, as he is known, is a “prolific” (the word most often associated with him) graffiti artist from San Francisco. Allegedly, (as in the picture to the right), he writes his name in overdone bubble graffiti letters. The reason he is linked to BNE is that apparently he signs his graffiti with the block letter initials “BNE”. Although, the BNE stickers have become more widely known than his graffiti artwork, and he himself remains elusive to police, despite his popularity among cult graffiti artists. Benet is said to also have visited Tokyo a few times, around the same time when stickers started to appear on the streets here. One comment on a blog I visited recounts the writer having an alleged run in with Benet at Club Milk in Ebisu, where he was hanging out with the likes of several other “celebrities”. When the blogger approached Benet with comments of adoration of his work, Benet ignored him, and was “cold and rude” according to the post.

BNE 参上 Sticker (different version)Whoever BNE is, he has carried out one of the most successful, low budget and viral brand recognition campaigns I have ever seen. What it is exactly that he wants, or is trying to tell us, remains in the dark… at least for now. Of his several different variations of sticker, some feature a halo and the number 1 as to the left, and as yet, these subtle symbols are as baffling to us as the three letters themselves.

We will update you with any more information we get on the BNE enigma, but if you know anything, please share it with us by leaving a comment below! In the meantime, enjoy the BNE Sticker collection below (All of were shot in and around Tokyo). Note the seventh image, which is a perfect example of BNE’s spray painted graffiti art in, showing how BNE often refers to himself as King BNE in his non-sticker adaptations. (Click on images to view larger versions): BNE Sticker collection!
(Have some more good BNE images taken in Japan? Let us know via the contact page, and we will publish them here!)

65 thoughts on “Stuck in Tokyo? Check out the local “BNE参上” Stickers”

  1. Yeh, I spotted some of these down in Roppongi-dori this morning! Between Roppongi Hills and Nishi-Azabu crossing. I wonder what they are all about? They are not Chinese right? I wonder if the word 参上 exists in Chinese??

  2. >>I wonder if the word 参上 exists in Chinese??

    I asked a guy at work today (Chinese) and he said that 参上 doesn’t exist in Chinese with those exact Kanji.

  3. I asked a chinese girl in roppongi and she said “Massaji massaji” it must be the chinese reading for it

  4. It’s the graffitti guy. Other wall scribblers have done the same thing, having travelled around the world, often in association with a DJ or band or some such thing. It is actually a kind of marketing, a way for a graffitti artist to become noticed by legitimate Ad Makers.
    The BNE guy is Japanese anyway, he was just living in the US for a while.

  5. >>fuckedgaijin

    Perhaps its in a different dialect? I mean, there is more than 1 Chinese language. Eg, Mandarin is the official language but Cantonese is still very popular…

  6. Hi David, I think Chinese is written the same way, and the dialects are just a matter of different ways of reading it. Any Chinese stippy readers to help us out here?

  7. Hi Blue,

    If i remember correctly while the majority of Chinese characters are shared, there are some here and there that are language-specific (I made a mistake calling them dialects before, as a dialect is a regional variance of a language, and there is no single language called “Chinese”). However, I also hope that there’s a Chinese-speaking stippy reading who could help out 🙂

  8. these stickers are of a graffitti writer called benet he’s from japan and sometimes lives in san francisco.

  9. Hi blue,I like to give them but this information is the unique thing that I know respect of bne stickers. I am a graffitti writer reason why I know the work of benet . other thing that I know , that is bne is one of the more serious and respected graffiti writers to internacional level in the graffiti scene.I have a question: they continue appearing in the streets stickers of bne?. excuse me for my english because I speak spanish.


  10. Jons, its easy to make all sorts of claims on the internet, especially when its anonymous. So, noone wants to know about it if you can’t give us enough info to prove that you are not bullshitting us.

  11. jons says the truth with regard to bne. they wants to know more about it? turn off pc now. San Francisco Chinatown is the key.

  12. It’s funny how once you put graffiti in legitimate letters everyone gets brainwashed and thinks it’s more than it really is.

    All it is, is a writer named Benet that uses the acronym “BNE” and the halo is just a decorative element used since th beginning of the tag. I think it’s bullshit that if this was admakers doing this because money is involved this would not even be an issue.

  13. BNE is definitly a grafiti writer.
    however i heard he could also be a gigolo getting paid by rich women in different countries which would explain his international level.

  14. Wow, that really was a good find carolina… I wonder if he is the real deal, or just someone capitalising on the BNE参上 mystery??? Whichever way, its a good ploy for some quick cash.

  15. Help stop BNE

    I’d like to catch this guy. He’s just trashing our city with ugly garbage. Anyone want to work together with me to crack this?

    Do you think it’s a single individual? The sticks are phreak’n everywhere in Tokyo, so I think it must be more than one person. What do you think?

    I’m sure Japanese police are too busy moving bicycles around to care about this, but do you think the domain name registration info for could be helpful? (pasted below)

    If it’s more than a single individual (and I think it must be.) Seems like a possibility that one of us might actually see someone pasting one of this stickers some day. If so, I’m just gonna grab a hold of the guy and no let go. Either drag him to the police box or wait for the cops to arrive in the case he struggles.

    If the Benet guys lives in Japan, anyone know where? we could follow him around in shifts to see if we can catch him in the act.

    If the police of a city really want to know who is doing this, perhaps they could ask printers thoughtout the city. Some printer has to be making the stickers right?

    Why is the mayor of san fran only offering a $2500 reward for something they claim costs $12 million per year to deal with?? Put a $100,000 bounty on this guy if you want one of his friends to rat on him.

    jons, if you have some info on this guy, why not share? You think worthy of respect to litter our city’s streets, buildings, mass transit and parks with vandalism? Wouldn’t you like to see cities spend our taxes on services more beneficial to society than scrapping paper and glue off all the smooth surfaces? The people who have to clean up after this anti-social vandal deserve a lot more respect than anything the attention starved wanker has ever accomplished. Please repair your moral compass and help us out–that is, if you’re not just some bullshit artist yourself, like your hero BNE.

    Join us if you’d like to try and solve this puzzle!

    WHOIS information for:


    Domain Name……….
    Creation Date…….. 2007-06-11
    Registration Date…. 2007-06-11
    Expiry Date………. 2008-06-11
    Organisation Name…. misakanana
    Organisation Address. 890
    Organisation Address.
    Organisation Address. sekkinoharanitta
    Organisation Address. 434-0866
    Organisation Address. osaka
    Organisation Address. JAPAN

    Admin Name……….. ozawa takashi
    Admin Address…….. 510
    Admin Address……..
    Admin Address…….. sekkinoharanitta
    Admin Address…….. 485-0023
    Admin Address…….. nagoya
    Admin Address…….. JAPAN
    Admin Email………. [email protected]
    Admin Phone………. +81.09065312700
    Admin Fax…………

    Tech Name………… YahooJAPANDomains TechContact
    Tech Address……… 6-10-1, roppongi
    Tech Address……… roppongi hills mori tower
    Tech Address……… minato-ku
    Tech Address……… 106-6182
    Tech Address……… Tokyo
    Tech Address……… JAPAN
    Tech Email……….. [email protected]
    Tech Phone……….. +81.0364406000
    Tech Fax………….
    Name Server……….
    Name Server……….

  16. @white rabbit,
    Im not a fan of BNE stickers myself but I think finding out who is resposible is going to be a little more complicated than you think.That website could be a fan or someone trying to make money off of this.Its not illegal to make a website.If someone is caught posting a sticker,there is no way to know if that person posted all of them or just one.Anyway good luck in your search,hope you catch him/her/them.

  17. Good luck catching him. And i hope he smashes your teeth out when you try to catch him. Which you wont.dont you have anything better to do? Guess not

  18. I see them all over Bangkok.
    Seen some in Taipei too.
    I find it a very amusing idee to leave your mystery marks all over the world.
    To mee it is art.

  19. These stickers are all over milan right now.I heard this guy is a celebrity art wierdo and is dating
    Lindsay Lohan.

  20. I don’t want BNE to mess around anymore. It’s not nice to plaster public places with all these ugly garbage. In Thailand, where I live, also has BNE plastering public things.

  21. Why does everyone get so flustered over stickers?
    If you feel stickers are such a big concern, I can only imagine how you feel about drug dealers and rapist. Perhaps you don’t do anything about them….

    Perhaps you are just a hypocrite. Perhaps you are jealous. Perhaps you have no life.

    I’m thinking it’s the last one.

    There is no way to determine if it is a single person or multiple people, but if it is more than one person, it would MAYBE be one other. Staking out and trying to catch one person out of six billion sounds like a very VERY big waste of time. Considering all of the major cities he is in, you aren’t going to be able to wait around in tokyo and find him, believe me.

    “trashing our city with ugly garbage”

    really? plain, black and white stickers is trash?
    If that’s the case, 90% of the world must look like a hell hole.

  22. me think it stands for Benign Network Explorers. Thus a bunch of tight neat vandals, time will tells.

  23. I’m from Thailand and I have seen some of it in Thailand. Now I’m in Sydney. It’s also BNE here too. WHO DA FUK ?

  24. why the hell does whiterabbit give such an insane fuck about catching BNE? he obviously keeps his shit off of personal stuff like cars, houses, and shit like that. He just uses unused space to keep himself busy. Shit. could you imagine if this guy put his efforts towards something more evil like terrorism? Its apparent that he can get around the world very easily without suspicion. And hopefully he owns his own printer idiot cuz ordering or paying for what looks like an insane amount of stickers isn’t that cheap.


  26. For people that don’t like what hes doing, why? Is his doing really affecting your lives? Hes human, and he can do whatever the hell he wants. If a man is bound by a system, a law or whatever, and is suppose to follow them, then are you really a human being. I say do whatever you want but do good. It’s not like hes slapping on time bombs everywhere.

  27. The stickers must have cost this guy a bomb. Either he has too much money (instead of giving it to charity) or he’s just acting like a dog leaving his mark everywhere he goes. There is no sane place on earth for such a meaningless act. I’m from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) and travel on monthly basis to Bangkok (BKK) for business purpose. I don’t see much of his stickers in KUL compared to BKK. Well to you Mr. BNE, your days are numbered. It seems there are much more bad comments bout you on the net. If that is the case, you should join the “Jackass” team and get paid for stupidity.

  28. Zak1881, you say it’s a meaningless act. Why? Because you don’t understand why he does it. I don’t even know why, but it sure as fuck is not meaningless, every human has his own purpose in their life. Humans can do whatever the fuck they want dude. Like nanotechnology. Stickers are a worlds apart from being, dangerous to other people.

  29. BNE, we tire of your old tricks! Show us a brilliant second act, or prepare to be mocked!

  30. It seems hypocritical to be enraged by BNE’s stickers; but you are not on here complaining about all stickers & ads in general…Politicians stickers…Advertising billboards…The fact is public space (space mine & your tax dollars pay to upkeep) is saturated with advertising & no one complains about that….I am forced to look at advertising everyday & no one asks my opinion as to whether or not I want to see it…But they pay money for it, so my opinion doesn’t matter….Graffiti is illegal so everybody gets so crazy & acts like “who are these people to put this in my face”…Public space is public, that means you and I own it….So my opinion should be just as valid as yours…That fact is, it’s not a big deal…There are alot more problems in major cities for police & courts to worry about then people putting up stickers or painting graffiti….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *