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THE LEGEND OF “WASAMON” #2 : Police Station

Mayuna Mizutani Mayuna Mizutani 02/04/2018 11 min read
In the center of Kyushu, in the far west of Japan, lies a land called Kumamoto. Surrounded by a bottle green sea and towering mountains, this place of outstanding beauty is known as the “Land of Fire”…and where there is beautiful nature, unique and intriguing cultures flourish. Naturally, the people of Kumamoto have imbued their own culture and language with these same, mystifying characteristics…  


— the article series that aims to introduce the “WASAMON” people of Kumamoto.   Last time, we looked at the “Kokai Pedestrian Scramble”, the first pedestrian scramble in Japan and the “Sempai” of that large monster in Shibuya. Today we’ll introduce you to the Kumamoto Central Police Station, located in Chuoh-ku, Kumamoto city.   Though lumped together as “Police Stations/Offices”, they sure come in all shapes and sizes! Depending on which country you live in, the buildings you’ll imagine when you hear the word “Police Office/Station” may look like a little this…   …or this, …or even something like this? Well, this is how they look in most parts of Japan.   Simple, effective and purposeful, they look any other public institutions the world over, don’t you think? *ONE POINT COLUMN: Kouban Have you ever read “Kochikame”, by Osamu Akimoto sensei? In the manga, the protagonist “Ryo-san” works at a police station in front of Kameari park. Japan is famous for having these small police stations called “Kouban” or “Hashutsu-jo”. The police officers who work at “Kouban” are there to protect the neighborhood, and help anyone who’s in trouble. So, if you ever become lost, get struck by sudden illness, or even find a criminal, the “Omawari-san (Mr. police officer)” is the one you need to call!   HOWEVER! It is said that Kumamoto’s “Kumamoto Central Police Station” is no ordinary police station! I wonder what that means…?   Now take a look here. THIS is a Police Station that represents Kumamoto!       ?!       ?!?!?!?!   WHAT THE?!?! You’d definitely be surprised at a glance! A very unique inverted-triangular-ish structure, where the higher levers are wider… and the facade is covered with one-way mirrors…   Designed by “Kazuo Shinohara and the Taiko Architects Office”, this strange box-like building is known as the “Great Glass Police Station” among the locals. The building was completed in 1990, as a direct result of a prefectural initiative called the “Kumamoto Artpolis” project. Led by the former prefecture governor Morihiro Hosokawa, the project began life in 1988 and was aimed at changing the landscape of Kumamoto. The dull mismatch of buildings that sprung up during the post-war economic growth period, was quickly replaced with “an everlasting legacy of cultural fortune”. Kumamoto was the first to undertake this project, inviting the best international architects from all over the world to build/design the public buildings of Kumamoto. *ONE POINT COLUMN: Morihiro Hosokawa Incidentally, Mr. Morihiro Hosokawa is a direct descendant of a well known Japanese warlord – and a relative of Gracia Hosokawa’s husband! (Who knows him, from dramas, operas, and literatures? 😃 ) After ending his term as a local governor, Mr. Hosokawa then became prime minister of Japan. He is well versed in fine art, and is now active in the field of pottery.   The “Kumamoto Artpolis” project is still in action today, with 109 buildings already completed as of Oct, 2017. This includes public lavatories, ferry terminals, dams, housing complexes, schools, bridges and a hospital. The annex of “Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art”, designed by Spanish architects Elias Torres & Jose Antonio Martinez Lapena, w/ Yamato Designs is located close to Kumamoto Castle. The “face” of Kumamoto is literally in this project’s hands!   It is very rare for a project to last over 20 years, passed on from governor to governor – only in Kumamoto could this project last this long! When designing and building public architecture, designers are usually chosen by public tender. However, the “Kumamoto Artpolis” project has a sole commissioner who has complete authority in choosing the architects . In other words, being chosen for this project means that you have been recognized as an outstanding practitioner in your field! It seems Kumamoto is also a holy ground for all architects in Japan.   Because of it’s uniqueness, the foreign media have even begun to refer to Kumamoto as “an unprecedented area, where the prefecture itself is itself an architectural museum”. Looking around this enormous “artpolis” is definitely a great way to enjoy Kumamoto!     Penmaru: Woooooooow!!! I haven’t seen such a stylish police station before! Why don’t we re-design our Dojo like this, Shihan?       Shihan: The goal of the”Kumamoto Artpolis” project is to “Create a pastoral culture which is unique Kumamoto”. The people of Kumamoto wanted to build a sophisticated property, that has a taste of the new while harmonizing with the past, not something that is just bizarre and fancy which can’t fit into the landscape. The people in Kumamoto sure have piercing minds, I guess!     The next episode will be about Japan’s most favorite “Friend of Rice”! You guessed it… it’s THAT magical sprinkle you may have seen in anime/manga! Read onto the NEXT episode to see what I mean!   Did you like the fancy architecture in Kumamoto? How does your local police station compete to the Kumamoto Central Police Station? Please do let us know, by sharing this article with your friends on SNS! Don’t forget to follow Mayu on Twitter /Facebook, as well!
Image Credits: Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department: Credits to っ [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, CC BY-SA 2.1 jp ( or CC BY-SA 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons Kichijoji East Gate Police Box: Credits to 運転太郎 [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Mayuna Mizutani

Mayuna Mizutani