In Japan, 95% of the 1,780 municipalities boast unique manhole covers showcasing historical events and local color. Photographer Remo Camerota has captured the Japanese proclivity to place this public art underfoot.
In his new book Drainspotting Camerota explains why common sewer covers are dolled up so resplendently:
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 in the contours of a landscape. Implementing indigenous aspects of those landscapes, creating a sense that the manmade structures is as a natural as the mountains, rivers and trees. Consider the word shizen, roughly translated into English it means "nature" but a more accurate, and telling translation is "absence of pretense." The proliferation of these region-specific manhole covers embodies this notion of shizen in how 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 their environments, very much noticeable but never intrusive.
Drainspotting: Japanese Manhole Covers is available May 2010 from Mark Batty Publishers.