In Japan, Manhole Covers Are Canvases for Public Art

m-louis/CC BY 2.0

Public art is crucial to keeping urban life vibrant and interesting, but outdoor space is too often reserved for advertising or covered in graffiti of dubious artistic merit. Japan, however, has capitalized on an unusual canvas for a unique genre of public art: the lowly manhole cover.

According to Remo Camerota's book Drainspotting (reviewed on Gwarlingo), nearly 95% of Japanese municipalities have engraved or painted manhole covers. The variety of designs is remarkable; some are austere and simple, others colorful and silly. They usually reflect the particular characteristics of the city or town where they are located.

The colored covers are painted with tree resin, dyed with pigments. Camerota also writes a companion blog to his book, of the same name.

This is a simple way to incorporate life, color and individuality in a place where only drabness and utility is expected; it would be great to see other countries and cities follow suit.

m-louis/CC BY 2.0

m-louis/CC BY 2.0

chidorian/CC BY 2.0

Want to see more photos? Check out the Japanese Manhole Covers pool on Flickr.

Tags: Arts | Cities | Japan

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