Every city and every town in Japan has a unique manhole cover with a variety of designs. It is said that there are 1,540 types of manhole covers with non-repetitive patterns throughout Japan.
According to the survey in the book "Manhole Covers in Japanese Society", Japanese manhole covers now have more than 6000 types of art designs. The semi-official "Manhole Cover Association" composed of 32 companies and responsible for protecting and researching manhole covers throughout Japan came into being, and has even built several manhole cover museums across the country. Manhole covers start from solving practical details, and become an art due to exquisite workmanship and interesting design. Finally, they are popularized and developed into a special culture.
In Japan, manhole covers are simply the business card of a city. The above pattern will tell you what is the most famous and interesting in this city, or the historical story of this city. Among the 1,780 municipalities in Japan, 95% of the cities have adopted uniquely designed manhole covers (the remaining 5% use ready-made templates). About half of them use plants, trees, and official flowers as patterns. In addition, animals, birds, as well as scenic spots and historical stories are often used as design themes.
For example, as a historical city, Osaka is a popular place for cherry blossom viewing, and the manhole cover in Osaka depicts the blooming cherry blossoms.
Shizuoka Prefecture at the foot of Mount Fuji has dozens of manhole cover designs based on the scenery of Mount Fuji, including the combination of Mount Fuji and cherry blossoms, and the combination of Mount Fuji and beautiful girls.
There is a street full of northern style in Nagano prefecture, which was named an ancient building protection group. Their manhole covers are covered with small bridges and flowing water and many ancient buildings.
Kyoto and Nara are ancient capitals for millennia, and manhole covers are naturally based on countless temples and shrines. Not only the composition of the picture is interesting, but the creative ideas are also very interesting.
▲ Nara's "God Messenger" fawn
In Nara, there is also a set of "fables" themed manhole covers, which describe how people dig and enjoy hot springs in the past. Some places also use souvenirs or handicrafts as design patterns. For example, Hakodate, Hokkaido is rich in cuttlefish, and there are three dancing cuttlefish dolls on the manhole cover. Iida City is rich in apples, and there are 3 big red apples on the manhole cover, which makes it clear at a glance.
Of the manhole covers I have seen, the most difficult one is carving traditional ceremonies or temple fairs. The pattern of the manhole cover in Furukawa City is a firework festival held every summer. The 60cm diameter round cover has beaches, cruise ships, and fireworks of various colors. It is carved into the slightest. There are 7 kinds of colors alone. Such a fancy manhole cover is simply called A must. The most interesting is the manhole cover that uses comic characters as the spokesperson of the city. The manga writer who created the famous Detective Conan was born in Daiei Town and is the pride of the locals. It is said that the Conan on the manhole cover was designed by the author himself.
The most rare thing is the temporary commemorative manhole cover. For example, the 1990 "World Flower Expo" was held in Osaka. The manhole cover design of that year was like a few flower fairies flying around, very cute.
The details of the Japanese can make people crazy. The seemingly ordinary small manhole cover is full of nuanced considerations.
For example, the taboo of patterns. It is said that although there is no explicit stipulation on the design of manhole covers, in general, real-life images are not allowed in Japanese manhole covers. No matter how proud of a great man, it might be a bit disrespectful to be trampled underfoot. In the same way, although scenic spots and historical sites are often used, shrines or temples that are national treasures rarely appear.
In addition to the pattern design, Japanese manhole covers have many other advantages. For example, in many countries, manhole covers are a major source of noise in cities. Because the manhole covers are not tightly attached to the road surface, vehicles will make unpleasant noises when they pass over the manhole covers. . But this problem has been well resolved in Japan. In the 1970s, due to public protests against noise, the manufacturer improved the shape of the manhole cover, changing the original cylindrical shape to a conical shape, and changing the vertical plane in the thickness direction to a slope with a certain inclination angle. The consistency with the road surface successfully solved the noise problem.
The purpose of manhole covers of different shapes is also different. For example, the manhole covers of fire hydrants are mostly square, with cartoon patterns of firefighters engraved on them. Different patterns also help to clarify the scope of jurisdiction of each administrative subject. For the sewers managed by the municipal, district, and town governments, the city flower, district flower, and machi flower are used on the manhole cover. Once maintenance is needed, the responsible party can be identified immediately. If it is a private sewer, the word "private" will be marked on the manhole cover to distinguish it.
Japan is a country with frequent natural disasters, and there are "emergency shelters" near residential areas. In addition to arrows indicating the direction, the manhole covers around some shelters are also painted with colors. The yellow arrow indicates within 200 meters of the shelter, and the red one indicates within 100 meters. Recently, satellite positioning systems have been installed on manhole covers in some areas. Manhole covers with such a "road sign" function can also be seen in Tokyo. These manhole covers are engraved with a square diamond in the middle, and the four corners of the diamond are respectively written with place names to indicate the direction for passers-by. Perhaps Tokyo is easy to get lost, and even the manhole cover serves as a guide.
Nowadays, a large-scale "manhole cover fan group" has been formed in various parts of Japan. They have established their own organizations, websites, and forums, and are keen to collect manhole cover pictures. Organize a city runaway plan with a manhole cover as the theme route. Treasure hunting is general. Find one and take a photo, and then share it on the Internet.
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