Look out for the Custom Art Under Your Feet!

Manhole COvers of Japan

Japan is well known around the world for its eclectic and unique culture. However, unknown to many Japan has a very unique culture surrounding its manhole covers.  Much like the United States treats stamps, Japan has represented significant cultural aspects in their manhole covers. Nearly 95% of Japan’s 1,718 municipalities have their own unique manhole covers.  Osaka has 180,000 manhole covers with 10% featuring designs; 1,900 of them are painted. 

How did this begin? In the late 1970’s, Japan faced the costly task of updating its sewage infrastructure.  In an effort to generate more interest and excitement in updating the system, the local governments  began a trend of creating uniquely designed manhole covers. The campaign was wildly successful!  

The first of these artistic manhole covers appeared in Japan in 1977 in Nagaya, Japan.  It depicted a happy fish in water cleaned by the sewer system. As interest in designer covers grew, the first painted cover appeared in 1981.  It snowballed from there into a phenomenon, boosting domestic tourism. Atlas Obscura has a long story dedicated to Japanese manholes and “manholers” (manhole enthusiasts) that now travel the country to view these unique creations. There is even a Japanese Society of Manhole Lovers and a trading card game!  One such card features Fuji City at the base of Mt. Fuji, which draws tourists from all around who clamor for the trading card depicting the manhole.  

Manile COvers in Japan

While Japan’s custom-designed manhole collection is quite robust, we do see some throughout the United States. While some municipalities and cities in the United States have custom designed covers on display throughout their streets and sidewalks, we would certainly love to see a few more incorporate
custom art designed manhole cover statement pieces into sports stadiums, tourist spots, and city sidewalks for the public to enjoy. As manhole hunting popularity grows worldwide, we can’t help but wonder where we might see custom art designed manhole covers pop up next. Will we ever see an
adaptation of manhole culture with domestic tourism boost in the USA as we see in Japan? We will have to wait and see!  So, keep an eye out and don’t forget to look down, and watch out for the art under your feet!

Here at Manhole Covers Direct, we offer custom one-off art design manhole covers to fit virtually any space or application. We offer a variety of powder-coating colors and would be happy to discuss how we may be able to help you accomplish your goals. Let us help you make your project a reality – contact us today

Other Posts



Go to Top