Manholes – the great cover-up

The joys of multitasking… (and who said men can’t do two things at once?)

It was while trying to find examples of the ginkgo as a symbol in popular culture and worms for my pet eel that I literally stepped on my inspiration for this post – manhole covers.  Often overlooked or unconsciously filtered out of perception, the manhole cover is, in fact, a photographic goldmine for travelers. 

Every city or municipality in Japan has its own manhole cover design, or rather, several designs or variation on a design, in addition to the manholes belonging to utility companies.

The manhole cover instantly tells who “owns” the manhole – prefectural government, local government, or private company; and what it is for – water mains, sewerage, storm-water run-off, gas, etc.

A quick web search shows that Drain Spotting is quite a hobby in Japan.

My humble collection of manhole covers covers manholes (did I really just say that?) on my route from home to work.

Look carefully at the symbols, and see if you can’t make the connections yourself.

The “standard” Tokorozawa manhole cover.


Another Tokorozawa manhole cover. Tokorozawa was the birthplace of Japanese aviation in 1911, and this is celebrated on some of the manholes.


A painted Tokorozawa manhole cover showing all the symbols of the city.


Tokorozawa runoff valve cover.


A dull fire hydrant cover.


A painted fire hydrant cover in Tokorozawa.


Sayama City’s version of the painted fire hydrant cover.


Sayama manhole cover displaying the city’s official symbols – azalea, tea and azure winged magpie.


Sayama air valve.


A manhole cover belonging to the Saitama prefectural government.

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