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Drainspotting: Japanese Manhole Covers [Hardcover]

Remo Camerota
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 Jun 2010
In Japan, modern sewer systems began to appear during the late 19th century, though evidence of sewage systems in the country dates back to over 2,000 years ago. Foreign engineers introduced the Japanese to modern, underground sewer systems with above ground access points called manhoru (manholes). At that time, manhole covers utilized the geometric designs similar to those used in other countries. In the 1980s, communities outside of Japans major cities were slated to receive new sewer systems these public works projects were met with resistance. One dedicated bureaucrat solved the problem by devising a way to make these mostly invisible systems aesthetically appreciated aboveground: customized manhole covers. Because the Japanese raise design in all aspects of life to a new level, this idea was welcomed, and even though custom manhole covers cost more than generic ones, today nearly 95 percent of the 1,780 municipalities in Japan sport their very own specially designed manhole covers. Designs range from images that evoke a regions cultural identity, from flora and fauna to landmarks and local festivals to fanciful images dreamed up by school children. In Kyoto, a turtle adorns the citys manhole covers, signifying wisdom and longevity. Unsurprisingly, this phenomenon has bred another phenomenon: manhoru mania. A rabid - online community, based in Japan and abroad, has developed around these pieces of city sanctioned urban art. Several blogs and websites dedicated these manhole covers provide details about locations and designs. With numerous colorful photographs organized by region, Drainspotting is the first book to document yet another wholly distinct aspect of contemporary Japanese visual culture.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Mark Batty Publisher (14 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982075472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982075470
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 1.7 x 16.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 475,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful 11 Jun 2010
I met the artist behind this book recently and he gave me a sneak preview of the book, i'd already seen some of it online but in print you really get the full effect. The book is designed to a high quality which reflects the care and attention that the Japanese put into producing the manhole covers. This is the perfect examples of finding beauty in the mundane.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This small, hard back book (with a great name!) is a collection of pictures of Japan's amazing drainhole cover art.

A short introduction explains the reasons behind the art, and there are a few examples from each prefecture of Japan, with a little explanation about each one.

A lovely book to have on your coffee table and leaf through every now and again.

Japanophiles will definitely enjoy it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By Japano phil - Published on
This book is truly amazing. I had no idea that manhole covers such as these even existed! They don't in my country or anywhere else for that matter. The book is fascinating using highly professional photographs taken by Remo Camerota. He definitely has a great sensibility when it comes to photography, which only is avaialable from years of experience. This is apparent in his first title Graffiti Japan and NOW his latest title Drainspotting - a look at Japanese pop culture through the "hieroglyphic reading of manhole covers to reveal stories of urban history that can only be recovered from the logos and markings of these designs". Quoted from the book.
Not only that - You can download Extra Photographs and Story descriptions from the Itunes App store. Drainspotting Extras is available on Itunes App store for your Ipad/Ipod/Iphone etc etc.
When I visited Japan last month, I went drainspotting myself and I used my Iphone App and this book to locate nearly all of the Drain covers in both mediums. This book is fantastic and has changed the way I look at things and the way I travel. This is what spurred me to write this review. I just got back from my trip and this book and apps made it all the more better.
Forget about traveling guides, or lonely planet, its artistic books like this that will really make an impact on your life. AND on top of it all it, is a great conversation starter as nobody knows that things like this even exist!
Thank you Remo for opening my eyes to what is around us and on the ground!
You can keep up with the Drainspotting world on Remo's blog here: [...]
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The art underfoot 29 Oct 2010
By M. Bromberg - Published on
During the 1980s Japan experienced country-wide resistance to replacing ancient sewer systems until one politician came up with an idea that approached the old problem in a new way. He appealed to civic pride by suggesting, and then implementing, the idea of custom manhole covers for each community.

The idea was a great success -- sewer systems were repaired and many towns received the benefit of an unexpected civic boosterism, as well as a new kind of art appreciation: thousands of one-of-a-kind manhole covers that tell local history and commemorate local heroes.

"Drainspotting" is a brick-sized photo collection of these unique artworks in appropriately less-than-coffeetable format (six-by-six inches). Besides being an unexpected and attractive art, the result has been a beneficial civic program, a great example of how the demands of politics, the needs of communities, and the aesthetics of art can combine -- and a reminder how rarely they do, too.

Since their original introduction the manhole covers have taken on new themes. Designs range from images that evoke a region's cultural identity, from flora and fauna to landmarks and local festivals. There are even fairytales and fanciful images dreamed up by school children. With its photographs organized by individual region, Drainspotting documents another distinct aspect of contemporary Japanese visual culture.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Any Japanese art library needs this 20 Sep 2010
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Drainspotting: Japanese Manhole Covers is a fine, recommended pick for both arts and Japanese culture libraries. Its subject is artistic Japanese manhole covers, and color photos of different covers pack every page, illustrating the covers of both contemporary and historic art. Any Japanese art library needs this!
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Four Star Concept With Two Star Execution. 27 April 2014
By Zendicant Penguin - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What a great example of putting one's pen to paper. I really admire this author's gumption for undertaking and successfully completing this project. Just the act of getting a publisher to buy into the idea is audacious, never mind the time and effort it took to get this book to press, thus my full bodied anticipation of the book itself.

I came to this book via the author's earlier published book looking at Japanese wall art graffiti. From that book I appreciated the author's eye and respected his ability to take an interesting snap so I guess you could say that I knew what to expect from him. In this sense, it may be surprising that I didn't like many of the aesthetic choices the author made both editorial and pictorial.

While I don't quibble with his choices he made in selecting manhole covers to shoot, I often didn't like the way the graphics and photographs were juxtaposed. The page layouts left a bit to be desired, frankly. As to the editorial comments, I thought they were few and far between and those there were often too terse to be edifying.
One is also left wondering how the provinces the author visited were suspects this had something to do with author's perambulations while he was pursuing graffiti art in the isles.
5.0 out of 5 stars Small hardcover book, lots of interesting mh lids 4 Jan 2014
By Bruce Crawford - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a civil engineer, I'm one of those that look down and notice lids and grates on the street. Never been to Japan, but as this book shows, their decorative lids are impressive with a wide variety. I keep the book at work for people to look at while waiting for info.
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