Lisa Colletta (2003: 1) quoted two interesting insights:


“The increasing seriousness of things, then -that’s the great opportunity of jokes”(Henry James).


“Human is not resigned; it is rebellious. It signifies not only the triumph

of ego but also of the pleasure principle…” (Sigmund Freud).


The street experience while commuting in Jakarta is something unfortunately funny yet undoubtedly tough. The tough side will be so complicated; all rooted from the traffic jam resulted from the uncontrollably enormous number of cars and motorcycles, city life mismanagement and weak enforcement of street rules. The number of the vehicles is unstoppably escalating because of the fact that to own a vehicle is so easy and tempting that so many people fail to reject it. Then there are no working days without traffic jam, and therefore it is better to narrow down the issue and discuss the other side of the reality—thus the topic of this study: the funny side where commuters, the motorcycle riders, cope with the dark situation and still manage to survive it through a seemingly trivial way of expressing themselves i.e. stickers, a smart way of dealing with the harsh side of reality. The traffic problem is serious. It is estimated that 1000 new motorbikes and 200 new cars flood Jakarta every single day



There is a new trend of switching to motorcycle as the most dominant working transportation from public transport such as buses and trains, or even private cars. The sole reason is that this motorcycle is considered as more agile and practical in ‘ramming’ through the stuck traffic.


The number of motorcycle is then beyond expectation, superfluously swarming like bees all over Jakarta and its neighboring streets such as Tangerang, Bekasi, and Depok. As mentioned earlier, the ownership of motorcycle is so easy and tempting, and this is the main reason of the

motorcycle superfluity. Anyone can bring a motorcycle home by only down-paying IDR 200,000 (USD20) through very friendly installment programs. Mostly people can have 33 months to deal with their installment.


This installment is for many riders another vicious circle because it provides facility of easy ownership but at the same time traps them for a long time

with about 50% additional price. Another program along with the installment is some kind of forced protection through insurance program. Therefore, cash ownership is not encouraged because the insurance business will lose its business opportunity.


What is interesting for me is the way commuters respond to their life hardship funnily, without being necessarily serious. This is shown through their sticking  of stickers on their rear part of their motorcycle revealing many everyday realities in commuting from home to their working place.


The goals of this study are to discuss how street commuters, despite the terrible unfriendly situation, express themselves through stickers and ideologies signified in their everyday encounters with job, street, and life. This is a library research of 40 stickers using Barthes’ ideas on myth and ideology to reveal the possible meanings.




“Defining dark humor is virtually impossible because its manifestation in great literature necessarily involves irony, the trope in which you say one thing and mean another, sometimes the opposite of what is said”(Bloom & Hobby, 2010:xv).


It seems that to define dark humor in literature –especially concerning great dark humorists such as Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Beckett, etc. – is not simple because it covers so many interconnected elements as the book has thoroughly discussed. However, for the purpose of this study, a simple definition as “

a form of humor that regards human suffering as absurd rather than pitiable, or that considers human existence as ironic and pointless but somehow comic”

( will suffice.


Laughing at one’s misfortune is a good way to treat life as not too serious. This is a way where a humor dimension of someone is utilized well to face reality in a light way. Humor is then seen as having a therapeutic capacity, and what matters more here is that someone is capable of laughing at his own  misfortunes, thus showing his superiority over the hardship. Freud has called this “humor on the grand scale” because it “acknowledges pain, suffering and futility”, but at the same time shows “magnificent superiority over the real situation” (Freud as quoted by Colletta, 2003:7). It is obvious that the capacity to LOL (laugh out loud) over one’s unfortunate position in life has positioned him or her as the superior master of life; that life can be so tough but still the one can smile along the way.


Humor makes it possible for someone who confidently treats life misfortunes as comic and deserves to be laughed at to be superior at least over his own fate. The confidence in him constitutes the source of strength because this confidence involves narcissism that rejects vulnerability of one’s ego to surface and thus rejects to suffer upon the pains and misfortunes.

The capacity to LOL over the pain has let the person triumph through the jokes expressed in any media (i.e. motorcycle sticker – in this study) so that all fears that he is powerless, lonely, ignorant, authoritarian, chaotic, nothing, and even “dead” are for a moment powerless and transformed into the source of power to create temporary survival pleasure. This is the function of narcissism of humor because it “protects individual from threat and pain”(Colletta, 2003:7).


Jakarta and Motorcycle : A common sight
Jakarta and Motorcycle : A common sight

Additionally, Colletta has emphasized that beyond all modern absurdities, to laugh at realities seems to be absurd but at the same time the only realistic thing to do. Even though this sounds submissive, it is actually self

-assured and insistent, that this response will be used as life defense or weapon against misfortunes.


In Modernist dark humor, all seems absurd, all seems inscrutable, and,

therefore, there is little else to do but laugh. This response may appear

resigned, but it is in fact a powerfully assertive and aggressive reaction, for

the dark comedic imagination casts off pain and suffering and refuses them

their power to overwhelm and destroy. If humor can no longer be used for a

moral purpose, it can be employed as a defense and a weapon, a formula of

personal survival that suspends the consciousness of death and dissolution

and strengthens, if only momentarily, a hold on life(p. 7).


Berger (Gournelos & Greene, 2011: 233-236) has divided theories of humor into four technique categories that commonly involve four areas:

language (e.g. allusion, exaggeration, irony, puns), logic (e.g. absurdity, repetition, reversal, unmasking), identity (e.g. burlesque, caricature, exposure, parody), or action (e.g. slapstick and speed).


The four theories are superiority theories of humor, psychoanalytic theories of humor, incongruity theories of humor and communication theories of humor. The Superiority theories of humor root from Aristotle’s definition of comedy

as “an imitation of men worse than average” and Hobbes’ statement on humor and superiority that “the passion of laughter is nothing else but sudden

glory arising from a sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves by comparison with the infirmity of others or with our own formerly”(p. 234).


These theories emphasize the idea that we laugh at people because we see them as inferior and ridiculous or at ourselves because we see ourselves once as such as well. Psychoanalytic theories stem from Freud’s idea that humor is

based on veiled aggression, that presents us gratifications which all of us wish for. Freud has noted that, “ …and here at last we can understand what it is that jokes achieve in the service of their purpose. They make possible the satisfaction of an instinct (whether lustful or hostile) in the face of an obstacle that stands in its way” (p. 234). While widely accepted Incongruity theories rely on the difference between what people expect and what they finally

have through humorous texts or encounters.


Schopenhauer has written about incongruity as the source of humor:

“The cause of laughter in every case is simply the sudden perception of

the incongruity between a concept and the real object which have been thought through it in some relation and laughter itself is just the expression of this incongruity” (p. 235). Finally, Communication theories, as stressed by Berger when quoting William Fry, focus on the fact that humor is a form of communication. Berger has written that humor is “a form of

communication that forces us to confront paradoxical aspects of reality. One way we deal with the paradoxical nature of reality, Fry suggests, is to laugh at it” (p. 236).


It is interesting to find Berger’s idea that jokes are not simple texts, but rather complex texts, and therefore need different approaches. He has summarized four techniques of humor when he discussed an interesting example of joke called “The Tan” (p. 236). The four techniques are eccentricity, mistake, exposure, and repetition. Berger discussed the necessity to use The Why

Theories (pp. 236-7) which focus on four elements in the humor i.e.

superiority (our feelings about the silly people in the joke), masked aggression

(ridiculing people in the joke), incongruity (the surprising pun line or other


imbalance), and play and paradox (recognition of the fact that it is only a joke, not reality). The last note here is related to the definition of joke as

“a narrative with a punch line meant to cause mirthful laughter” (p. 237) and the fact that laughter is shockingly not resulted from a response to structured attempts at humor, such as jokes or stories, but to anything resembling an effort at humor through everyday expressions such as greetings, questionings, small talks, etc. I believe, choosing and sticking a sticker on a motorcycle belongs to this last category.





Motor Sticker on Jakarta's roads: A reflection of the owners' state of mind?
Motor Sticker on Jakarta’s roads: A reflection of the owners’ state of mind?


Stickers are not merely words -sometimes with illustrative pictures- attached somewhere on motorcycles. They are undeniably a way of communicating something, a way of putting across one’s social identity. Chandler (2002:154) has put forward that “We communicate our social identities through the works we do, the way we talk, the clothes we wear, our hairstyles, our eating habits, our domestic environments and possessions, our use of leisure time, our modes of travelling and so on”.


Sticker is no exception and it is closely related to our modes of traveling, and it is for a way of communicating identities which in turn reflect multi-layers of



The possibility of generating layers of meaning is the nature of any text where

“language use acts as a key marker of social identity” (p. 154). Roland Barthes has used the popular term “orders of signification” consisting of denotation and connotation as two basic levels of meaning or representation. (Allen, 2003:43)


Chandler (2002:140-4) has summarized that denotation (definitional, literal, obvious, or commonsense meaning of a sign) is produced in the first level of signification where there is a sign consisting of a signifier and signified. While connotation (the socio-cultural and personal associations—ideological, emotional, etc.—of a sign is produced in the second level of signification where there is a sign deriving from the signifier of a denotative sign. In the

development, it is not easy to separate the signifier from the signified, the ideological from the literal because “ what is a signifier or a signified depends entirely on the level at which the analysis operates: a signified on one level can become a signifier on another level…This is a mechanism by which signs may seem to signify one thing but are loaded with multiple meanings” (p. 143).


There is another level beyond the two basic levels called the third order

of signification. This next level of connotative signs is referred by Barthes as myths that consist of ideologies of our time. Myth transforms history into nature, it hands round the ideological function of naturalization. It is further called ideology i.e. the naturalization of culturally specific phenomena (Allen, 2003: 35). The functions are obvious: “ For Barthes, myths serve the ideological function of naturalization (Barthes 1977, 45-6). Their function is

to naturalize the cultural – in other words, to make dominant cultural and historical values, attitudes and beliefs seem entirely ‘natural’, ‘normal’, self-evident, timeless, obvious ‘common- sense’ – and thus objective and ‘true’ reflections of ‘the way things are’ ( sem06.html).


Although the differences between the three orders of signification are not always clearly cut, they can be summed up clearly in the following quotation:


“The first (denotative) order (or level) of signification is seen as primarily

representational and relatively self-contained. The second (connotative)

order of signification reflects ‘expressive’ values which attached to a sign. In

the third (mythological or ideological) order of signification the sign reflects

major culturally variable concepts underpinning a particular worldview—

such as masculinity, feminity, freedom, individualism, objectivism, Englishness, and so on” (p. 145).


As a text is always capable of producing layers of meaning, therefore beyond the denotative meaning that we can immediately understand without ambiguity, there are layers of other possible meanings that belong to connotation and metalanguage (metaphor)-as Hjelmslev and Barthes called it-i.e. “an aspect of signification that occurs when an initial denotative sign

(signifier and signified) is taken as the signified of a different signifier” (O’Neill, 2008:75). Allen (2003:44) has futher mentioned about myth: “ Myth is a metalanguage: a second-order language which acts on a first-order language, a language which generates meaning out of already existent meaning. However, as Barthes also reminds us, the original, first-order meaning is not completely forgotten”




Moetidjo, et. al. (2008) in their book entitled Stiker Kota (City Stickers) have classified stickers simply based on a famous sticker “Free but Proper” into the ‘Free’ and the ‘Proper’ category. The image and ideology behind all the stickers keep changing, but they quoted Agustinus’ statement about the lasting one:

“the only image that can survive through each and every whims and wills of the market is the image of hope…that never departs from that of the communal hope, or communal memory, which has been reconstructed in the mind of the mass, handed down from generation to generation…those who can free them from pain”(p. 276). The stickers are then produced based on the belief presupposing the fact that there are two groups of people: those who believe in hope (the ‘Proper’) and those who play with it (the ‘Free’). Who are they? They are lower and low-middle class people because historically the term city stickers comes from stiker angkot (public transport stickers) that are often considered as lowly because the public transportation vehicles in Indonesian context are associated with the commoners (p. 290).


Jakarta has been imagined through the stickers as a prosperous place where dreams can take their real forms, especially for those coming from the villages where job opportunities are so limited, despite the fact that Jakarta has so many problems which will actually transform those dreams into illusions. However, the image making efforts over Jakarta done endlessly through

television series and movies since 1970s up to this day have resulted in the illusions of Jakarta image as a symbol of prosperity. No matter what happens, Jakarta keeps its magnetism from time to time so that now millions of people have overpopulated the city, creating various social problems such as traffic jam, just to mention one. And the dreams are then forced to take form into temporality. What is shocking is the reality that, according to Moetidjo and

friends’ research, these stickers about city life are produced in a small village in Malang and Bandung. But it strengthens the idea of the imaginary Jakarta where the crowded metropolitan city is imagined from the remote suburban places.


The last issue is the question why these stickers exist. Moetidjo has summarized the reason: “…what the producers have in mind are the immigrants in the big cities who somehow still cling to the memories of their villages of origin. This is

apparent in the city stickers that are found in greater abundance in the public

transportation in Jakarta than in any other cities. This is exactly the locus

where the city stickers play their role. All the defining traits of identity of the

people cannot materialize amid the lack of public spaces, which would

consequently block various channels of expressions. The stickers are required

to express all the things that have been silenced, to serve the media for

stuttered speeches…As soon as the buyer affixes his or her sticker,

identification takes place. It is as if the act of affixing the sticker has restored

stifled identity” (2008: 289).


Identification of one identity, especially the silenced and stuttered one, can materialize in the stickers affixed on one’s vehicle as a personal yet universal medium of expression, especially of the urban harsh realities.




The analysis of the stickers is divided into five parts that signify different meanings but are still somehow related to one another as elaborated in the following discussion.




The commonly found view of motorcycle stickers has colored the daily commuting activities of millions of people in Jakarta for the last few years, especially since the increase of subsidized fuel  price by 1 October 2005 from IDR 2,400 into 4,500, the point in time when people started turning to motorcycle as a more reasonable means of transportation. Commuting is an alternative way —though not a convenient one—to reach the work place.

Most working people, especially employees, live on the outskirts of Jakarta biut work in the center of the city, while some living in the center of the city work on the outskirts. What makes it worse is the fact that several people living on the outskirts (called [Ja]bodetabek:

[Jakarta,] Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi) work on the other outskirts, travelling through the center. This reality itself is actually funny: the wrong working and living place; what a mismanagement of earning a living! Living on the outskirts is a better choice for it is much cheaper and more humanized – less polluted and crime, a bit more space with still existing social interaction.


These stickers are sticked at the back of many motorcycles; they are there in the noisy streets, but silently voice many responses towards life hardships, still with the capability of taking them lightly. Besides, they are “commuting” along the way, never stop at one point of expression. They voice their identity, position, sufferings, and how to cope with them. Moreover, they are on the first place targetting themselves most of the time through light self

mockery before criticizing others. Various life topics are addressed, but this study will only focus on one interesting target: CR3DIT or HP: Hire Purchase from humor perspective, though still interconnected with other modern life intersections such as endless traffic jam, low payment, unemployment, and modern capitalist traps.




Who are these commuters? Roughly labelled, they are workers, but it is not specific enough, some of them feel the need to label themselves with a clear identity. Thus, they stick stickers on their motorbike. Some stickers are absolutely serious, but most of them are not. They take them jokingly, even on the bitter realities. Humor is believed to be an effective way to deal

with the harshness of street and life.


Sticking a sticker is at the same time revealing one’s social existence in a limited city space where voices almost have no room. A yellow-black-red sticker of 8×5.5 cms in size is a big and eye-catching medium of stutteringly uttering one’s identity, especially because the stickers represent the biggest portion of the society i.e. the lower and low-middle class people who flood Jakarta streets every single day. The stickers represent their problems and dreams, and most of all their need to show them to the public so the repressed problems and dreams are brought to the open space, loosening all the tension. It is true that it is somehow a form of resistence against destiny and authority, but without the desire and power to actually resist. So it is more a form of social and psychological therapy for them because to be able to expressively show their identity indicates the acceptance, and furthermore, to be able to laugh

at the harsh reality indicates superiority because as Freud said they are the master of the powerlessness temporarily and thus transforming the hasrh realities into a source of pleasure through the humor dimension. The riders and others who read the stickers are made aware of their existence with all the problems, but at the same time feel temporarily relieved when knowing that they can laugh at them. Therefore, a sticker “Warning: Masih Nyicil?

Capek Dech!!” (24) or “KR3DIT: Capek Dech” (21) show the harsh reality of inability to own a motorbike by cash, that installment is the only choice but taking a long time to settle, thus it is so tiring, but the friendly informal expression “Capek Dech” signifies the joking attitude toward the reality. After all, the whole expressions are joking. What matters is the light acceptance of the bitter reality by laughing at it so that all the tension is loosened.




 The stickers are mostly placed st the back bumper of the motorbikes. It is funny to find the fact that the riders seem to mockingly target their message to others while they themselves belong to the same group all the way. So it is actually safe to say that the riders target it to themselves and their group.


This back positioning is obvious from the contents of the stickers indicating the position such as “Motor Kredit Dilarang Nyalip” (25) or “Sesama Motor Kreditan Jangan Saling Mendahului” (36). The words “Nyalip” and “Mendahului” (Overdrive) clearly show that the target readers are behind the sticker owners.


The next idea concerns who are behind the riders. Somestickers mock on other riders behind them, for instance, “Kredit? Elo Aja Kali, Gue Kagak!” (20) who jokingly stress that they don’t HP or credit the motorbike, or “Lebih Baik Over Gigi daripada Over Kredit” (23, 33) which state that it is better to ride a two or four stroke motorbike with manual transmission (less practical yet cheaper) rather than automatic one (more practical but more expensive). This is a twofold criticism: on installment ownership and automatic transmission choice

because we have the counter stickers: “Biar Bekas tapi Cash/Bebas Kredit” (4,5). But, are the other riders the only target? It seems clear that some stickers target other group of people-higher positioned people. The motorbike mobility has made this vehicle a much preferred choice than public transportation as it can go through narrow paths besides the main roads, including the narrow space between cars, trucks, containers, etc. along the jammed streets.

Again this mobility has undeniably positioned motorbike as a number one choice (even the last few years, so many city comers go back to their hometown anually, called “Mudik”, riding their motorbike, travelling hundreds or even thousands of kilometers, especially during Lebaran/Idul fitri time). Then, going back to the other target, it is interesting to see that they

silently target the jokes (read criticisms) on car owners, especially luxurious cars. Stickers like “Biar Jelek, Hasil Keringat Sendiri” (6, 8, 9) or “Bukan Hasil Korupsi Gitu Loh!” (14) or the mocking counter “100% Bukan Hasil Sendiri” (40) obviously target their jokes toward higher class people with nice cars because these people are the only target of the struggling KPK

(Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi = Corruption Eradication Comission). The expressions “Hasil Keringat Sendiri, Halal, Berkah, etc” are synonymous with non-corrupt way or earning money.



Most stickers depict misfortunes of lower and lower-middle class society where hardships of living in metropolitan city need extra effort even during the way to and from work place, not to mention the powerlessness in the work position itself. A very popular sticker “P6: Pergi Pagi Pulang Petang Penghasilan Pas-pasan” (34) is so true for so many people.This sticker voices a lot of social problems of urban living where the yawning gap between have and thehave not is undeniably bitter everyday reality. The motorcycle people have to struggle from dawn (“Pergi Pagi”) to avoid the sometime unavoidable traffic jam, through the crammed streets with private luxurious cars the left and right, plus huge-spacious malls and sky scrapers also on both sides, just to reachg the factory or office for work abnd then do the same thing after dusk (“Pulang Petang”) and reach home late with insufficient earning for a decent life.Bitter words such as “kere (19), susah (17), sengsara (12), ngak punya biaya (11), capek dech (21, 24), nyicil (1, 24), kredit(an)-over kredit (5, 8, 9, 10, 18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 26, 30, 33, 36), pengawasan bank (29), buronan (15), macet (38, 39), susah bensin (37), pacar kandas (28), tua(3)” all show how hard life is treating them.However, those sour expressions don’t mean that life is only cruel to them. These people can see the other side of the reality-the bright side- where with awareness they accept their position, and then take this lightly by showing their identity, and having a braveheart to laugh at it. This is where they become the master of their sorrows—this is how the riders “ride” their life with triumph as Freud has stressed—these brave riders have refused to let themselves becompelled to suffer and use the instances of pain as a space to gain temporary pleasure through the humor so that their greatest fears, powerlessness, or perhaps loneliness are mastered for a moment. This is done through their bridging expression “biar”, “tapi” (even though): “Biar nyicil (1), biar bekas (4), biar jelek (5, 6, 7), biar kredit (8, 9, 10), biar ngak punya biaya (11), biar sengsara (12)”. These expressions ideologically reflect acceptance withconfidence of the hardships. Thus no wonder that they are superior because they have no other choices but to laugh at the suffering, and then temporary release is with them to go on cramming through the next days. They are capable of bouyantly taking the “jammed life” (traffic jam, polluted air, emotional riders, everlasting credits, etc.) with self mockery.Some even dare to ridicule themselves by jokingly say “Biasanya saya bawa mobil mbak” (13) or “(Sorry gue) lagi nyamar jadi orang miskin” (22), signifying urban dreams of becoming rich and owning car in the middle of hardship of owning a motorbike through years of installment. Others show their powerlessness by criticizing the expensive petrol price byplaying with the abbreviation “BBM=Bagan Bakar Mahal” (2) instead of the original Bahan Bakar Minyak (fuel) or even ridicule nation leaders such as “SBY-JK=Susah Bensin Ya Jalan Kaki” (37). SBY-JK is the famous campaign slogan for Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jusuf Kalla (RI President and Vice President). All show their mastery of the unfortunate situations.HP LIFE: A WARNING The growing phenomenon of owning a motorbike through credit as most of the stickers have implicitly showed is undoubtedly amazing: 1000 new units are registered per day! The stickers show two responses to this installment ownership: as a helpful facility and as a helpless oppression.

The first group perceive credit as a smart opportunity to own a motorbike, overcoming the powerless condition such as insufficient earning “gak punya biaya” (11), “sengsara” (12), “susah” (17), “kere” (19) and others. This is a true blessing because it is so easy, by only spending US$20 (IDR200,000) someone can bring home a brand new motorbike and the offer is everywhere. This has at the same time caused many of them fail to finish the instalment andthe motorbike is finally taken by the credit company (15). The facilty is also accompanied by protection through “forced” insurence application integrated in the installment which is also a big business for insurence companies. Therefore, it is understandable if the cash purchase is not encouraged.The second group see credit as tiring life burden and as a trap. They need the bike for commuting but after the installment is dealed, the next process of paying monthly payment is tiring and with fine if the due date can’t be kept. That’t why the expression “Capek dech”, though sounds joking, is a reflection of long long process of settling the installment, as if life is gone through it.What is more interesting is the fact that almost all stickers use “Warning” format (the other words are “Caution” or “Danger”) in letter font, color and design, jokingly signifying that there is a warning (not to take one installment plan) but still many of them can’t refuse thetemptation.LAYERS OF MEANING – A SEMIOTIC CONCLUSIONThe stickers are denotative in as much as they stand as a physical or verbal expression of conceptual contents of motorbike riders’ humorous responses toward misfortunes whether they are the tiring credit ownership, the mockeries on other riders’ HP or other street problems such as traffic jam, P6, etc. The connotative aspects would be the additional meanings above the verbal denotative level where the motorbike stickers as a whole become an expression of social voices showing attitudes of superiority against powerlessness using dark humor.Meanwhile, the metalanguage (metaphor, myth, ideaology) might occur when the stickers become metaphorical contents which reflect major culturally concepts underpining a world view of modern capitalist traps i.e.  the fact that credits are so commonsesnse, normal, and natural so that riders are capable of laughing at themselves a long the wayREFERENCES.Allen, Graham. (2003).Roland Barthes: Roudledge Critical Thinkers. New York: Routledge.Bloom, Harold & Hobby, Blake. (2010). Bloom’s LiteraryThemes: dark Humor. New York:Infobase Publishing.Chandler, Daniel (2003). Semiotics: The Basics. New York: Routledge.Colletta, Lisa (2003).Dark Humor and Social Satire in the Modern British Novel.New York: Palgrave MacMillan.Gournilos, Ted & Greene, Viveca (eds) (2011).A Decade of Dark Humor:How Comedy,Irony and Satire Shaped Post- 9/11 America.Mississippi: University Press ofMississippi. Moetidjo, Ugeng T. (2008). Stiker Kota. Jakarta: Ruang Rupa.O’Neill, Shaleph (2008). Interactive Media: The Semiotics of Embodied Interaction. London:Springer-Verlag. published in :

The International Academic Forumwww.iafor.orgThe Asian Conference on Cultural Studies 2012Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japan