'Bronze Rat' 2006 artwork by Banksy at Lazinc Gallery in London on July 11, 2018. The exhibition opens to the public on July 12, 2018. (AFP/Tolga Akmen)
Tokyo authorities are working on solving an unexpected New Year riddle -- whether an item of graffiti found in the city was created by the elusive artist Banksy.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike indicated her excitement in a tweet Thursday on the discovery of a picture of a rat holding an umbrella and bag: "We found a picture of a lovely rat that could be a piece by Banksy. This may be a gift from him to Tokyo. It seems the rat is carrying a bag."
The picture -- no bigger than a sheet of office paper -- was discovered on a metal flood barrier near Hinode Station on the Yurikamome train line in the bay area of Tokyo's Minato Ward.
The Tokyo authorities became aware of it following an inquiry by a citizen at the end of last year.
The Tokyo metropolitan government on Wednesday removed the part of the barrier on which the mysterious item is drawn and put it in a warehouse due to concerns that the picture, which has already been shared online, may draw too many people.
"Drawing graffiti is unacceptable. But if the picture is authentic, we need to preserve it," an official of the metropolitan government said.
Banksy, a British-based artist whose identity is known to few, has produced works of art, including some featuring rats, on walls and other locations all over the world.
In October he caused a controversy after he shredded his noted picture "Girl with Balloon" during an auction in London.
A picture of a rat that looks similar to the one found in Tokyo is posted on Banksy's website.
The Tokyo official said the government is considering how to judge the authenticity of the graffiti as Banksy is an artist who "has a unique style of activity."
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