Behold the Unique Beauty of Japan’s Artistic Manhole Covers

Vis­i­tors to Japan can’t help but be struck by the beau­ty of its tem­ples, its scenic views, its zen gar­dens, its man­hole cov­ers

You read that right.

What start­ed as a scheme to get tax­pay­ers on board with pricey rur­al sew­er projects in the 1980s has grown into a coun­try­wide tourist attrac­tion and a mat­ter of civic pride.

Each munic­i­pal­i­ty boasts its own unique man­hole cov­er designs, inspired by spe­cif­ic region­al ele­ments.

A com­mu­ni­ty might opt to rep its local flo­ral or fau­na, a famous local land­mark or fes­ti­val, an his­toric event or bit of folk­lore.

Mat­sumo­to City high­lights one of its pop­u­lar folk craft sou­venirs, the col­or­ful silk temari balls that once served as toys for female chil­dren and bridal gifts.

Nagoya touts the puri­ty of its water with a water strid­er — an insect that requires the most pris­tine con­di­tions to sur­vive.

Hiroshi­ma pays trib­ute to its base­ball team.

Osa­ka offers a view of its cas­tle sur­round­ed by cher­ry blos­soms.

The prox­im­i­ty of the San­rio Puroland theme park allows Tama City to lay claim to Hel­lo Kit­ty and Poké­mon-themed lids have sprung up like mush­rooms from Tokyo to Oki­nawa.

Most of Japan’s 15 mil­lion artis­tic man­hole cov­ers are mono­chro­mat­ic steel which makes spot­ting one of the vibrant­ly col­ored mod­els even more excit­ing.

In the fifty some years since their intro­duc­tion, an entire sub­cul­ture has emerged. Vet­er­an enthu­si­ast Sho­ji Mori­mo­to coined the term “man­holer” to describe hob­by­ists par­tic­i­pat­ing in this “trea­sure hunt for adults.”

Remo Camero­ta doc­u­ments his obses­sion in Drainspot­ting: Japan­ese Man­hole Cov­ers and Amer­i­can trav­el­er Car­rie McN­inch shares the joy of stum­bling across pre­vi­ous­ly unspot­ted ones in her auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal com­ic series You Don’t Get There From Here.

The ongo­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of this offi­cial­ly sanc­tioned street art is evi­denced by the Japan­ese Soci­ety of Man­hole Lovers, an annu­al man­hole sum­mit, and tons of col­lectible trad­ing cards.

Explore a crowd­sourced gallery of Japan­ese man­hole cov­ers here.

via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Dis­cov­er Edo, the His­toric Green/Sustainable City of Japan

The Mak­ing of Japan­ese Hand­made Paper: A Short Film Doc­u­ments an 800-Year-Old Tra­di­tion

Down­load Clas­sic Japan­ese Wave and Rip­ple Designs: A Go-to Guide for Japan­ese Artists from 1903

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of The East Vil­lage Inky zine and nine books, includ­ing, most recent­ly Cre­ative, Not Famous. Fol­low her @Ayun-Halliday

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  • Annick H. says:

    Quil­ters have found this art­ful beau­ties and have repli­cat­ed them in cloth.
    I own two of the books pub­lished with a selec­tion of those man­hole cov­ers. On one side you see the pho­to of the man­hole cov­er, often in situ and on the oth­er the quilt inspired by it. Beau­ti­ful!

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