One of the things that I love most about Japanese culture, is the sense of aesthetics. Beauty in its broadest sense is greatly appreciated in Japan. This emphasis on beauty is apparent in many aspects of daily life. While in the West, emphasis often lies on functionality only, in Japan an effort is made to combine functionality and beauty when designing mundane items of all kinds.
A perfect example of beauty in mundane items, is the design of manhole covers in Japan. Anywhere you turn in Japan, you can find gorgeous manhole covers. The variety is endless. Over time, I made a sport of photographing as many of them as I could. I hope to share some of them with you from to time.
A beautiful manhole cover in the city of Ise, Mie prefecture
Sometimes the manhole covers are even painted
For comparison purposes: below you will find a Belgian manhole cover.
A typical Belgian manhole cover, very unimaginative as you can see. Although I have heard that Germany and Denmark do have nice covers.
When Western people think about Japanese aesthetics, they will often think either about elaborate and colourful designs like kimono fabrics, or they will think of the rustic and minimalist aesthetics of tatami mats and shōji doors. I was therefore very surprised to discover the Japanese love for blue and white fabrics and pottery. The designs often include simple geometric forms.
I love how the blue and white designs are simple yet elegant. This subtle sense of beauty, and the fact that it is present in so many aspects of daily life in Japan, is one of the things that I love so much about this country.
Blue and white Japanese fabrics. The indigo colour of these fabrics, which is sometimes referred to as ‘Japanese blue’, is called ‘ai’ in Japanese. It is produced from the plant ‘dyer’s knotweed’ and the dye has a distinctive sulfur like odor.
Gorgeous blue and white Japanese rice bowls