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Japanese Manhole Covers


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Japan is a notable destination for art and design lovers. From Naoshima island, an entire dedicated to art and culture to the many museums found throughout Tokyo and Kyoto, there are vast collections of creativity found throughout the country. Perhaps one of the most unexpected places to find artistic touches is directly on the street, and no, we don’t mean street art or graffiti! In Japan, the manhole covers are decorated beautifully, each presenting its own unique style or brightly colored designs.

Manhole Covers Japan

History of Japanese Manhole covers

This unusual trend of designing decorative manhole covers in Japan started in the 1980s. This unexpected creative element was actually an initiative to promote awareness of the sewage system in Japan and the rising costs of operations. The idea sparked a movement of creativity and quickly more and more manhole covers began to transform. It became so popular that municipalities began to create their own distinct designs on the manhole covers in Japan. They even held a competition for the designs which has to include specific elements representative of the district, for example, cherry blossoms or other floral motives or specific landmarks local to the area.

How to see Japanese Manhole covers

There are some 6000 manhole covers in Japan today, each with their own unique and artistic style. It is as easy as looking down to your feet to find these surprising treasures in the ground. A special word has been used to nickname the act of looking for the covers, “drainspotting” is popular both among locals and tourists to find the most unusual manhole covers.

While exploring throughout the many districts and areas of Japan, simply looking down and taking note of the many different manhole covers is a delightful surprise! Try to find your favorite one.

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