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Tag: japanese city

Kyoto, the Japanese city often referred to as the country’s cultural capital, is renowned for its historic temples, its unique gardens—and its manhole covers. Unlike most sewage covers across the globe, Japan’s manhole lids are an unusual canvas for original artwork. Fans of the elaborately decorated covers, a group known as “drainspotters” or “manholers,” can now get their hands on three historic models, as Kyoto’s municipal government is, for the first time, offering up the covers to the public.

Manhole with painting of Mount Fuji on it
Japan’s manholes feature complex designs, colorful paintings and depictions of pop culture. Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The intricate lids have long been a source of revenue for Japan’s sewer system and a tourism draw. In response to rising interest in the covers as a collectible item, Kyoto is now putting three different obsolete versions, manufactured in 1978, 1981 and 1990, up for sale, according to The Mainichi Shimbun. While new maintenance hole lids typically cost around 60,000 yen ($400), the city’s municipal government will sell the covers for only 5,500 yen ($37) each.

The iron lids, which weigh up to 90 kg, feature designs specific to Kyoto. One displays a pattern of “court carriage” wheels, while the others show the city’s emblem at the center. As the covers have been in use for more than 30 years, they also exhibit signs of wear.

Why does Japan have such intricate manhole covers?

Custom manhole designs can be found in 95 percent of Japan’s municipalities and often contain references to the specific region’s history and culture. Even Kyoto University has its own sewage cover, complete with the institution’s abbreviation in Japanese. Hello Kitty designs are on manholes across Tama City, while Osaka’s include depictions of its famous castle. And in Hiroshima, the city’s baseball team has been honored on

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