Eulien: Covenant

Anyone whose ever strolled through Tokyo’s Akihabara district or comparable areas like Osaka’s Denden Town have likely encountered euliens (pronounced “eh-oo-lee-en“). These are people who stand on the street and try to aggressively draw people into their “galleries” and purchase their very expensive new-agey airbrushed landscape paintings.

Their name is a portmanteau of e uri (“picture selling” in Japanese) because that’s what they do, and “alien” because the whole thing’s really weird. It’s similar to what’s called an “art student scam” in other parts of the world in that the pictures are said to be sold under the pretenses that the pictures are original works by student artists when really all that’s being sold are glorified posters.

Compared to other pushy street salespeople I always found them to be relatively innocuous. Still, I never understood how anyone could get successfully roped into such a purchase, but it must happen enough for these things to be perennial fixtures in the otaku marketplace landscape.

However, with a recent climb in the numbers of infected in Tokyo, a state of emergency has been declared with non-essential businesses being advised to suspend operations to the time being. This move has been criticized for its lack of assertiveness, leaving it up to individual companies to regulate themselves.

And while you might not expect it, the eulien have heeded the call too and began to take measures to help curb the spread on 7 April.

▼ “Right next to a tapioca milk tea shop that decided to self-regulate, an eulien is still open!”

While it might look like the eulien store is completely open among the avenue of shuttered shops, there has been one significant change: no one is standing out front trying to shake people down. That might not seem like a lot but it’s a core component of the eulien business model. It’d be like if KFC stayed open but only sold Pepsi and gravy without any chicken.

However, on 10 April that very same gallery finally felt that it was too risky to continue servicing the public with their art.

▼ “From Akihabara to Suehirocho, the high-priced painting sellers called euliens have suspended business to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It’s also surprising they had the decency to post a notice.”

As the tweet mentioned, on the wall outside the closed gallery was a notice which read:

“Notice of Temporary Closure
As always, thank you for using our store. Because of the current situation with regards to the measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we will temporarily close as stated below:
For the time being as of 9 April (Thursday)
Thank you for your understanding, and we apologize for the terrible inconvenience.

I like to imagine someone poor soul running towards Gallery8 through the rain-soaked streets of Tokyo in desperate need of some overpriced pictures that would look really cool under a black light, only to read this notice and scream “NooooOOOOoooo!!!” towards the heavens.

But based on reaction online, that probably isn’t happening. People were rather surprised by the move though.

“Even the euliens have closed?!”
“At least something good has come out of this whole emergency.”
“You know things are serious when the euliens are scared to come out.”
“Can the euliens survive this?”
“They’ve been at it for 20 years! Who is buying this stuff?!”
“This is the first good news I’ve heard about the coronavirus.”
“Where am I supposed to buy an airbrushed dolphin now?”

Aside from ceasing in their annoying sales tactics the euliens have provided a valuable service by suspending activities. Now in the increasingly empty Akihabara, any non-essential business that chooses to continue operating and subjecting staff to possible infection can be stigmatized as being “worse than the euliens.”

No one wants to be that.

Source: Twitter/@ponimoe, Twitter/@kaztsu, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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