Japan’s beautiful manhole covers
Japanese manhole covers are surprisingly beautiful affairs; each city has its own unique design that reflects the city’s defining characteristics, and many of them are even painted in order to add to the general effect. The manhole cover at the top of this post is from Takaoka and features the city’s famous coastal view of islands topped with wind-wracked pines in the foreground and beautiful snow-capped mountains in the background. When I visited Takaoka the view from the coast (where this particular manhole cover was found) did indeed look pretty much like the representation — aside from the fact that a low-lying layer of cloudy haze prevented the mountains from shining their whitest and brightest.
The manhole covers in Toyonaka-shi, where I live, feature a happy cartoon alligator and a bunch of roses. The alligator is called Machikane-wani (“The Machikane Alligator”), and it’s sort of a local mascot. There are, of course, no alligators in Japan now, but there were 400,000 years ago when Machikane-wani ruled the roost. The enormous fossilized skeleton of Machikane-wani was found in 1964 somewhere in the vicinity of the Osaka University department of science and the alligator has come to represent both the city of Toyonaka and Osaka University itself. The fossilized skeleton is on display at The Museum of Osaka University (admission free!) and it’s huge (especially its hands and feet). There’s also a map of Toyonaka that you can stand on that makes you feel kind of giant, like Godzilla. I think I may have accidentally stood on my own house. The roses on the manhole cover, as far as I can tell, are there because of Toyonaka’s rose garden, which I have yet to visit.
Paying attention to the manhole covers in Japan has made me start paying attention to manhole covers in general; when I went to Korea I saw that the elaborate representations available in Japan were absent, but instead there was a wide variety of amazing geometric decorations on offer. I didn’t really take as many photos of Korean manhole covers as I would have liked, and the photos that I did manage to take don’t really function as adequate illustrations of the elaborate geometrics that I came across.
The square setting on the Ricoh GRD2, one of my favorite point-and-shoot digital handhelds, is especially handy when it comes to manhole covers. Somehow there’s something extra satisfying about dropping a circle into a square, and letting it sit there.
Filed under: culture, daily life, design, funs, history, Japan, Kansai, museum, Osaka, photography | 10 Comments
Tags: alligator, マチカネワニ, 高岡市, 豊中市, Japan, Japanese manhole covers, Machikanewani, manhole covers, Ricoh GRD2, rose garden, roses, Takaoka, The Museum of Osaka University, toyonaka