Japan’s manhole covers are full of creativity – look around and you’ll find detailed designs on these pieces of the public sewage system.
In cities, towns, and villages across the country, manhole covers have original designs depicting local history or regional characteristics.
Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture This one depicts the story of Momotaro
(Peach Boy). The city of Okayama takes claim for the locale of the old story.
Kishiwada City, Osaka
of the Kishiwada Jyo (Kishiwada Castle)
Koganei City, Tokyo
This one is actually a fire hydrant cover, and shows a fire man from the old days
…and another fire hydrant with fire men.
Nara City, Nara Prefecture
Deer and Double Cherry Blossoms (Nara is known for deer)
Kusatsu city, Shiga Prefecture
This one shows the crossroads of Tokaido
, two major roads in the old days.
Taking it another step further, there is an artist who uses the method of Takuhon to create wholly new pieces of art out of these design manhole covers.
Having won famous awards in the Takuhon world and holding a 20 year career, Ms. Fusa Nakata started taking prints of the manhole covers seven years ago when construction was being done to replace a manhole cover in her hometown of Nara. The moment of inspiration hit, and from then on she has been taking Takuhon prints of these fascinating manhole covers around the country.
Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture
Mt. Fuji and Mt. Atago
Kawagoe city, Saitama Prefecture
A townscape of the old-style city of Kawagoe.
Shirakawa Village, Gifu Prefecture
is a historical village known for its old style houses.
Kamaishi city, Iwate Prefecture
Depicts the tiger from the toramai (traditional tiger dance).
Using a silk pad soaked with oiled ink, the image is pressed on to the paper. Depending on how the pad is pressed, a light/shade effect is created which allows for the individuality of each print. Before doing each piece, Ms. Nakata reads up on the story or picture that is depicted to decide how the light/shade effects will be done.
In order to claim her working area in the morning when the traffic is low, Ms. Nakata gets there a day before to check out the scene. Before starting, the dirt, rust, and mud stuck between the seams of the manhole cover are removed. Then, a whetted paper is used to lift the rest of the small particles off. Finally, the Takuhon begins.
Currently, Ms. Nakata has 80 pieces in total, looking to hit 100 within 2 years.
Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture
Formerly called Hamata city, the art depicts Kagami Mountain
Takehara City, Hiroshima Prefecture
This one depicts the tale of Taketori
, about a moon princess who was found inside a bamboo shoot (no joke).
Toyokawa city, Aichi Prefecture
A manhole cover rendition of a piece from the famous ukiyoe artist Ando Hiroshige
Even a piece of public works equipment, with creative attention applied to it, can become a beautiful work of art.
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