Fun Manhole Covers: A Fun Scavenger Hunt

Beach-Bum

New member
Founding Member
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Manhole covers-
The name alone makes you think of storm drains or worse yet, the underground highway of toilet waste blech, but certainly not something that would grab your interest. In the US, they're pretty basic designs. In Japan, most of the designs reflect the prefecture, icons of a city (castles, animals, flowers, etc.), or special event (like anime characters or festivals). Sure this sounds like a quirky thing, just another "lol, Japan, of course you do cause everything is fun here," but do you know where it started?
OKINAWA!! That's right! Almost 10 years before mainland Japan jumped on board the cool kid wagon.

In 1976, the first decorative manhole was created in Naha, Okinawa, as the city was starting to attract more tourism. It's a ring of happy fish circling the plate. This was a big deal as it broke the norms of Japan's "one Japan" tradition of unity. The design is still in use today.

548

Naha (The first cover design)

Mainland Japan did not start producing unique manhole covers until 1985. Here is an article for reference https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/03/the-beauty-of-japans-artistic-manhole-covers/
Colored manhole covers make up less than 1%. These are usually around tourist attractions like Tsuboya Pottery District in Naha.

549

Ufushisa Tsuboya, Naha

With such unique designs, one would think that theft would be a concern (if for no other reason than from drunk shenanigans). In Japan manhole covers are designed with a lock and lever system under the lid that allows pressure to escape in the event of gas or water line breaks. The added bonus is they can't be stolen by the average citizen. It's rumored you can purchase a cover if you really must have one. Personally, I don't know were the heck I'd put it so I'll just stick with pictures & t-shirts.

It's said collectible cards of the manholes can be bought at the Naha City Water Department. In the future, I will check it out & update the post. In the meantime, while you're out & about, don't forget to look down & take pics. This is a fun & cheap way to make memories with the kids. Often manholes can be found on sidewalks or near the curb, but if you must enter the street, don't forget to look for cars first. Happy Hunting

Akajima (Keramas).JPG
Akajima (Keramas)

Chatan (colored).JPEG
Chatan (in American Village)

Chinen, Nanjo.jpg
Chinen, Nanjo

City Butterfly, Naha.JPG
City Butterfly, Naha

Fire Hyrant, No Parking.JPEG
Fire Hydrant, No Parking!

Kadena.jpg
Kadena
 
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Last edited:

David

Founder
Okinawa.Org Staff
This one is labeled Yomitan, but I ran across an IG post that has this manhole cover with Sunabe Sea Wall as the location. Perhaps since the two are so close (northern Chatan and Yomitan border), they share the same manhole covers? Or maybe it's just mislabeled. I would have to go check to see.

I have a few for everyone. We stayed in Uruma when we lived there.
Quite a few different designs there. I'm wondering from this whether they serve a different purpose, i.e. one being for wastewater, one being for underground wiring or something else, and the other being the main waterline for firefighting (as opposed to fire hydrants).
 
OP
Beach-Bum

Beach-Bum

New member
Founding Member
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Ok, I’m having user error isseus, so sorry if I left plank replies...
Anyways, I’m regards to the Yomitan/ Instagram (Sunabe), there maybe an overlap with the covers, but it’s more likely it was mislabeled on the Instagram post. The Sunabe seawall is quite a ways from Yomitan. My pic was from Cape Zanpa, Yomitan. The kanji on the cover is the same as the kanji’s for all Yomitan facilities (city hall, community center, schools, etc.) 読谷 🙂
 
OP
Beach-Bum

Beach-Bum

New member
Founding Member
Guest Blogger
This one is labeled Yomitan, but I ran across an IG post that has this manhole cover with Sunabe Sea Wall as the location. Perhaps since the two are so close (northern Chatan and Yomitan border), they share the same manhole covers? Or maybe it's just mislabeled. I would have to go check to see.


Quite a few different designs there. I'm wondering from this whether they serve a different purpose, i.e. one being for wastewater, one being for underground wiring or something else, and the other being the main waterline for firefighting (as opposed to fire hydrants).
- The decorative ones that have おすい are waste water. The obvious exception being the fire truck one. I wouldn’t doubt though that there are others for wiring & such. 🙂
 
OP
Beach-Bum

Beach-Bum

New member
Founding Member
Guest Blogger
Manhole covers-
The name alone makes you think of storm drains or worse yet, the underground highway of toilet waste blech, but certainly not something that would grab your interest. In the US, they're pretty basic designs. In Japan, most of the designs reflect the prefecture, icons of a city (castles, animals, flowers, etc.), or special event (like anime characters or festivals). Sure this sounds like a quirky thing, just another "lol, Japan, of course you do cause everything is fun here," but do you know where it started?
OKINAWA!! That's right! Almost 10 years before mainland Japan jumped on board the cool kid wagon.

In 1976, the first decorative manhole was created in Naha, Okinawa, as the city was starting to attract more tourism. It's a ring of happy fish circling the plate. This was a big deal as it broke the norms of Japan's "one Japan" tradition of unity. The design is still in use today.

View attachment 548
Naha (The first cover design)

Mainland Japan did not start producing unique manhole covers until 1985. Here is an article for reference https://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/03/the-beauty-of-japans-artistic-manhole-covers/
Colored manhole covers make up less than 1%. These are usually around tourist attractions like Tsuboya Pottery District in Naha.

View attachment 549
Ufushisa Tsuboya, Naha

With such unique designs, one would think that theft would be a concern (if for no other reason than from drunk shenanigans). In Japan manhole covers are designed with a lock and lever system under the lid that allows pressure to escape in the event of gas or water line breaks. The added bonus is they can't be stolen by the average citizen. It's rumored you can purchase a cover if you really must have one. Personally, I don't know were the heck I'd put it so I'll just stick with pictures & t-shirts.

It's said collectible cards of the manholes can be bought at the Naha City Water Department. In the future, I will check it out & update the post. In the meantime, while you're out & about, don't forget to look down & take pics. This is a fun & cheap way to make memories with the kids. Often manholes can be found on sidewalks or near the curb, but if you must enter the street, don't forget to look for cars first. Happy Hunting

View attachment 550
Akajima (Keramas)

View attachment 551
Chatan (in American Village)

View attachment 552
Chinen, Nanjo

View attachment 553
City Butterfly, Naha

View attachment 554
Fire Hydrant, No Parking!

View attachment 555
Kadena
Found some more in my files
Kakinohana, Tamagusuku #2.JPEG
Kakinohana, Tamagusuku #2

Katsuren, Uruma.JPEG
Katsuren, Uruma


Kin Town.JPG
Kin-Cho

Kin-cho Character.JPEG
Kin-cho Character

Kitanakagusuku.jpg
Kitanakagusuku
 

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