Tag Archives: Japan

Take a Tour of a Japanese Manhole Factory Where Neighborhoods Create Their Own Designs 

In most countries, the design of manhole covers is scarcely given a second thought other than the basics of material and a generic pattern resulting in drab metal circles with a purely utilitarian function. But after World War II, city planners in Japan proposed the idea of allowing each local municipality to design their own manhole cover as part of an effort to raise awareness for costly sewage projects. Designs would reflect local industry, culture, and history. The result was a huge success, and now over 19,000 manhole cover designs can be found embedded across 95% of all municipalities in Japan.

John Daub from ONLY in Japan recently visited the Nagashima Imono Casting Factory to see how the manhole covers are designed and built. He also stopped by an annual gathering of enthusiasts called the Manhole Summit that began in 2014, and learned about a new deck of Japanese Manhole Trading Cards.

If you can’t make it to Japan anytime soon, you can go on your own manhole adventure by exploring the Instagram hashtag #japanesemanhole. (via The Kid Should See This)

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Kayashima: The Japanese Train Station Built Around a 700-Year-Old Tree 

Photo by Kosaku Mimura/Nikkei

In the Northeast suburbs of central Osaka stands a curious train station unlike any other. Kayashima Station features a rectangular hole cut into the roof of the elevated platform and, from inside, a giant tree pokes its head out like a stalk of broccoli. It’s almost like a railway version of Laputa.

The large camphor tree is older than most records but officials believe it to be around 700 years old. The story of how this tree and station became, quite literally, intertwined, varies depending on who you ask. It certainly has to do with a great reverence for nature, but also a fair amount of superstition.

Kayashima Station first opened in 1910 and, at the time, the camphor tree stood right next to the station. For the next 60 years the station remained largely unchanged. But an increase in population and overcrowding began to put pressure on the station and plans for an expansion where approved in 1972, which called for the tree to be cut down.

But the camphor tree had long been associated with a local shrine and deity. And when locals found out that station officials planned to remove the tree there was a large uproar. Tales began to emerge about the tree being angry, and unfortunate events befalling anyone who attempted to cut it down. Someone who cut a branch off later in the day developed a high fever. A white snake was spotted, wrapped around the tree. Some even saw smoke arise from the tree (it was probably just a swarm of bugs).

And so, the station officials eventually agreed to keep the tree and incorporate it into the new elevated platform’s design. In 1973 construction began and the new station was completed in 1980. The station even surrounded the base of the tree with a small shrine. To this day, the tree still stands thanks to a strong, local community and a little bit of superstition. (syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)

Photo by Studio Ohana.

Photo by Studio Ohana.

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Rebirth: Artist Manabu Ikeda Unveils a Monumental Pen & Ink Drawing Nearly 3.5 Years in the Making 

Rebirth, 2016. Pen & ink, 13 x 10' (300 x 100cm). Courtesy the Chazen Museum of Art.

Rebirth, 2016. Pen & ink, 13 x 10′ (300 x 100cm). Courtesy the Chazen Museum of Art.

The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan was one of the most devastating environmental events of our time, with its overall impact rippling across the globe for years to come. But just as stated in Newton’s third law—for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction—so too did the people of Japan respond to the magnitude of the destruction in an effort to rebuild their country anew as captured in this staggering new artwork by Manabu Ikeda titled Rebirth. Starting in July of 2013, Ikeda toiled away on the 13 x 10 foot piece for 10 hours a day inside a basement studio at the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin. He finished work just last week.

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Manabu Ikeda at work.

A video posted by Colossal (@colossal) on

At its core, Rebirth depicts a tree rising from the debris of the tsunami as enormous waves crash nearby, but a closer inspection reveals thousands of tiny details, the individual stories of anonymous people, plants, and animals as they fight for survival and try to return their world to a semblance of order. Ikeda says that in his work he seeks to replicate the beautiful chaos of life that rarely fits a simple linear narrative. Instead, everything crashes together and interacts in unknown and unexpected ways, an idea that applies directly to his process as he often doesn’t know what each day will bring as he works inch by inch on the near endless canvas before him.

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Rebirth, detail.

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Rebirth, detail.

While Ikeda sketches broad details in pencil on the canvas beforehand, he primarily works with pen and acrylic ink using various forms of cross-hatching and brushwork to fill areas so dense with details, the true nature of the artwork isn’t revealed until staring at it from only a few inches away. Mountains of vehicles, gnarled tree branches, and train tracks sit tangled at the base of a tree, and flower blooms comprised of umbrellas and emergency tents fill the sky above. Everywhere a collision of humankind and nature, for better or worse.

“My goal is to faithfully express my view of the world in my composition, but I don’t intentionally depict detailed images,” he tells the Chazen. “Because I see details when I observe things, rather than the whole, I find pen and ink to be the best tools to express how I see them.”

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Rebirth, detail.

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Rebirth, detail.

Rebirth, detail.

Rebirth, detail.

Rebirth in progress.

Rebirth in progress.

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Rebirth in progress.

Ikeda’s time spent in Madison wasn’t without its own adversity. The artist dislocated a shoulder in a downhill skiing accident which rendered his dominant hand temporarily useless. Unable to stop work for very long, Ikeda began practicing with his other hand and after 3-4 practice drawings continued work on Rebirth unfazed.

Rebirth will be on view only briefly at the Chazen Museum of Art through December 11, 2016. If you’re anywhere near the midwest, this is well worth a trip and I strongly encourage you to stop by. You can explore it for over 30 minutes and still not see everything. You can also read more about it on Wisconsin Life.

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Manabu Ikeda at work, still from Clayton Adams.

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Manabu Ikeda at work, still from Clayton Adams.

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Ikeda Manabu’s first attempt at drawing with his non-dominant hand after a skiing accident.

Film and stills courtesy Clayton Adams.

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A Peek Inside Japanese Candy Sculptor Shinri Tezuka’s Amezaiku Studio 

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At the age of only 27, self-taught candy sculptor Shinri Tezuka (previously) may be one of the youngest practitioners of amezaiku, the dwindling art of candy crafting. Even though the craft dates back hundreds of years, there are only two known candy makers in all of Tokyo who roll, sculpt, and paint lollipops in this manner. Great Big Story recently stopped by Tezuka’s workshop for a quick video interview you can see below.

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This Solemn Forest Chapel in Japan Imitates Two Hands Clasped in Prayer 

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Located in a forest just beyond a nondenominational cemetery sits the Sayama Forest Chapel, a three-year-old building designed by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP (previously). From a bird’s eye view the chapel appears to form both a star and two hands pressed together in prayer, which is a traditional Japanese structural form called “Gassho-zukuri.”

“For those who are in deep grief and inconsolable, how can architecture nurture them? With this in mind, I designed buildings that gently surround them and support their intentions,” explained Nakamura to Yellowtrace.

The building was also built in a way to promote growth around its exterior, with walls tilted inward to leave room for the forest to grow around its shape. The chapel’s floor and patterns of its slate also lean toward the forest, subtly asking visitors to concentrate their mind on the surrounding elements of nature.

The chapel was named as a winner in the religious buildings and memorials category in this year’s Architizer A+Awards, an awards program that celebrates the year’s best in architecture and products. (via Yellowtrace)

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Blue Rivers of Bioluminescent Shrimp Trickle Down Oceanside Rocks in Okayama, Japan 

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Photographed off the coast of Okayama, Japan, The Weeping Stones is a photo series by the creative duo Trevor Williams and Jonathan Galione of Tdub Photo that captures the eerie blue light emitted by a native species of bioluminescent shrimp. More commonly referred to as sea fireflies, these rare creatures live in the sand in shallow sea water, floating somewhere between the extremes of high and low tide. At just 3 mm in length the shrimp are extremely small light sources, but when grouped together they take on abstract patterns that light up the water around them.

In order to group such a large number of sea fireflies, or Vargula Hilgendorfiitogether Williams and Galione had to collect the creatures by luring them with raw bacon into jars and repositioning their tiny bodies on the rocks. Photographing and placing the bioluminescent shrimp next to the shore ensured that the photographers did not harm them, and allowed them to quickly return the animals back to the water below.

This fall, Tdub Photo hopes to shoot more bioluminescent images by focusing on glowing mushrooms. You can see an earlier project the duo created with bioluminescent shrimp on their website, and see more of their travels over on their Instagram and Facebook. (via PetaPixel)

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