In this photo series, we take a look at some of the Kawaii (cute in Japanese) manhole covers
I’m sure I got some pretty weird stares on the sidewalks of Japan. After all, I spent quite some time staring down at my camera focussed at my feet in the middle of the busy sidewalk. Well, I was enamored by the most unusually weird manhole covers. Yes, you heard me right – manhole covers!!
Japan was fast becoming industrialized in the decades following the War. And in the 1980’s, along with the rapid urbanization, underground sewers spread over the country. These public works projects met with some resistance until one high ranking bureaucrat came up with a novel solution: customized manhole covers!!!
The idea was to make the manhole covers more visible and aesthetically pleasing and so raise awareness about the then fledgling projects. As the craze spread, municipalities were soon competing with each other to see who could come up with the best designs. Today, by some counts there are over 6000+ unique manhole cover designs in Japan. A lot of them are documented in the superb collection on flickr by S.Morita and have even gone on to inspire a coffee table book or two.
Here are some of the manhole covers I spotted on the streets of Japan.