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Goin’ Japanesque!

Kasukabe Shutter Art in Nikko Kaido Post Station

This time we introduce a somewhat out-of-ordinary tourist spot. It is the shopping streets with shutter art, in Kasukabe of Saitama Prefecture. It’s not just that shutter art organically came together in this area; there is deeper history and meaning behind it. Do check out the historical background before you actually pay a visit.


The History of Kasukabe, Saitama Prefecture

In the Edo Period (1603-1868) the current region around east exit of Kasukabe Station was one of the post stations of the Nikko Kaido (Nikko Kaido was one of the five routes of the Edo period built to connect Edo with the Nikkō Tōshō-gu/Tochigi Prefecture). At the time it was called the “Kasukabejuku”. Counting from Nihonbashi, Edo it was the 4th post station; just about a day’s walk if you had started from Edo and it was a bustling town. It is also famous as the place that Matsuo Basho first spend the night in Oku no Hosomich (The Narrow Road to the Interior).


The Reason the Shutter Art Shopping Streets Developed

While the western exit of Kasukabe Station has many retail facilities being build and becomes modernized, the eastern exit still keeps its nostalgic cityscape with traditional housing, shrines and temples. In reality the local residents could not find the virtue in the history and nostalgia. Therefore, the shutter art project began as part of a project in revitalizing the region and realizing the virtue in keeping the old.


Characteristics of the Kasukabe Shutter Art

Originally when people speak of shutter art, the intention is sometimes to glamorize a deserted town and so illustrations are depicted on shutters of closed stores. However, in the Kasukabe shutter art project, as indicated above, the revitalization of the city was the main objective. Thus, the illustrations are executed on shutters of stores that are still in business. Therefore, the designs can’t be seen all day. In fact, because the shutters are open during the day, often times, the designs depicted on them cannot be seen during that time.  Because the illustrations depicted for the shutters of each store are related to the business of the store, it is very interesting to look at. Each is very unique such as scenes and ukiyo-e paintings from Nikko Kaido back in the day. It seems that people tend to be shy about putting graffiti over beautiful artwork that is also helps to prevent vandalism by graffiti.


Numerous Shutter Art in Kasukabe

With the east exit area of Kasukabe Station at its center, there are currently 34 pieces of completed shutter art. The below is just a few.

The excitement of the town back then.

The photo shop exhibit shows photographic equipment of the time with Sakamoto Ryoma (said to be one of the first people to use photography in Japan).

The Ikebana shop shows scenes of enjoying Ikebana (the art of flower decorating).

The live flower shop shows activities of flower merchants of the time.

The shop selling festival related items shows an ukiyo-e style artwork of the festival.

The fire station shows ukiyo-e style artwork of firefighters trying to contain the fire

The kimono shop shows the depth of kimono culture.

The book store shows a scene from the terakoya (workshop) where their books were delivered.

The construction agent shows a scene of the time of carpenters working.

The print-design shop incorporates a print of Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”.

The liquor shop shows women of the Edo period enjoying sake while gazing at the cherry blossoms.

Even the public restrooms are decorated with such fabulous art.


Even if shutter art is not you main objective, the cityscape of Kasukabe is fabulous. If you want to ensure that you see the shutter art, you should probably try to get there early before the shops open or in the evening after the shops close. Information: Map

Related: Other Japanese art articles

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