There are many things to like about Japan. Anime, temples, samurai and electronics are some of the usual things that come to mind right away. However, there is something that is not so normal that I have been intrigued by about Japan since I first wrote a post about it a couple years ago – that something or should I say “things” are manhole covers and I have found a book all about these covers.
I searched to learn more about these customized but often unseen but functional works of art which led to me do a followup post about a Japanese manhole cover location community – yes an online community dedicating to locating and photographing manhole covers all over Japan. There was even a name for this activity “drainspotting” with drainspotters all over Japan sharing their finds and even foreigners coming from all over the world to experience this cool new activity.
Drainspotting – Japan’s Artistic Manhole Covers
This new book called Drainspotting – Japan’s Artistic Manhole Covers was done by Remo Comerota that has pictures of various manhole cover designs that can be found all over Japan, information about some of these covers as well as an interview with the president of a Japanese foundry that makes some of these covers. I really like the book, the design of the cover with the textured title but I was somewhat disappointed with the text of the descriptions of the covers as it was hard to read the white text in light coloured backgrounds on some of the pages. Other than that though the pictures are well taken and the kanji characters for the various areas the manhole covers can be found.
Excerpt from the Book
In Japan, all objects are created with an aesthetic sensibility. Ancient temples were not just built as stand-alone structures, they were designed by taking the contours of a landscape, implementing indigenous aspects of those landscapes, creating a sense that the man-made structure is as natural as the mountains, rivers and trees, Consider the word shinzen, roughly translated into English it means “nature” but a more accurate and telling translation is “absence of presence.” The proliferation of these region-specific manhole covers embodies this notion of shinzen is now the designs range from images that evoke a region’s cultural identity, from flora and fauna to landmarks, local festivals and fanciful images dreamed up by school children. The designs reflect heir environments, very much noticeable but never intrusive.