Look Down on Us: Japanese Sewer Covers (Many Photos)

If memory serves, my first unusual encounter with a Japanese person was at Yellowstone National Park in 1995.  He came up to my family, asked to take a picture with us, and then proceeded to photograph a garbage bin.

Not sure if there’s a connection between the two, but after visiting Japan, I came to understand why that second photo was so interesting for him.  That brief point in time ostensibly inspired me to not only snap photos of famous sights and infamous sights, but also of anything that might be even the slightest bit intriguing.

In Japan, pretty much everything fits that bill:

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (1)
That’s a sewer/manhole cover (マンホールの蓋 manhōru no futa) in Shimonoseki, Yamanashi prefecture.   In 1985, in order to mollify the public’s suspicions about costly public works projects, an official in the construction ministry introduced to cities and towns throughout Japan the idea of ornately decorating their sewer covers.  (Link in Japanese)  Being the simultaneously weird but cool country that Japan is, artists started coming up with designs that may have best reflected that location.  For Shimonoseki, someone chose its most famous export, fugu, the poisonous blowfish.

But is this art?  Just kidding…I was looking for a place to fit that keyword in, ’tis all.  With that said, let’s take a look at a bunch more examples I came across–

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (7)

Hamamatsu, Shizuoka prefecture.  Not terribly creative, eh?  Is that a dust mite in the middle?  How difficult would it be to paint it the colors of the Brazilian flag?

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (14)
Funabashi, Chiba prefecture.  The name means boat bridge, and indeed there is a bridge downtown with a boat sticking out of it…but it’s unlikely that it was the origin of the name.

Inuyama, Aichi prefecture.  Inuyama’s castle is the spotlight on this cover.

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (12)

The Yokohama Bay Bridge, Kanagawa prefecture.  Would be neat to see a picture of a roasting chestnut,  包子 from Yokohama’s Chinatown, or Commodore Matthew Perry instead.

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (10)

Odawara, Kanagawa prefecture.  Try harder.  Yes, sewage is art in its own right, but

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (11)

Dang picture interrupted me!  No problem, because this is the other Odawara sewer cover.  Looks like a bunch of cultists running on water, and Odawara castle in the background.

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (8)

Hey now.

The writing refers to the 400th anniversary of the reconstruction of Sunpu Castle in Shizuoka, Shizuoka prefecture by the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (9)

Numazu, Shizuoka prefecture.  I stopped here because I read that it was known for fresh shirasu (baby anchovies), as opposed to the usual dried version.  Ha, and you thought it was to see Mt. Fuji, which is what you see on this manhole cover.

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (6)

Chitose, Ishikari subprefecture, Hokkaido prefecture.  One of those fish is supposed to be a sockeye salmon.

Chitose is also the home of Sapporo’s primary airport.  How Ryanair of them.

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (5)

Sapporo, Ishikari subprefecture, Hokkaido prefecture.  The underwhelming Sapporo Clock Tower, the city’s de facto symbol – as opposed to sea lion-in-a-can – joins in the sewer cover fun.

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (4)

Otaru, Shiribeshi subprefecture, Hokkaido prefecture.  Those are otters.  Sound similar?
By the way, good seafood.
By the way, I haven’t tried otter yet.

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (2)

Kobe, Hyōgo prefecture.  Upon first glance, I thought that was a tattooed seagull.  In fact, those are mountains with an anchor and the Kobe city logo.

Japan - Japanese Sewer Covers (Manhole Covers) (3)

Okayama, Okayama prefecture.  Momotaro, the child who descended upon earth in a giant white peach, salutes all waste visitors to this laid-back city.


Did you notice these unusual additions when you visited Japan?  Do they make you want to visit Japan?   If so, be sure to tell immigration, and they’ll in turn be sure to give you the side eye.

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About buildingmybento

Bread, olive oil Waking up in Nakagin Sure does sound like me
This entry was posted in East & Southeast Asia, Human Nature, Japan, Languages, pop culture and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Look Down on Us: Japanese Sewer Covers (Many Photos)

  1. Japan is all about the little details, I absolutely loved it when I traveled there this summer! Cool post, can’t wait to read your new content (:

  2. marshall says:

    most manholes in New York were made in India

  3. Pingback: Japanese Onigiri Month, Part Six: Nothin’ But Eel | buildingmybento

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