Japanese Manholes Are the Prettiest

The phrase “manhole enthusiast” gets us thinking some naughty thoughts, but there are actually people out there just really fascinated by manholes, as in the the covers to underground utility vaults, not more gutter-minded pursuits. In Japan, the manhole covers are actually beautiful, unique designs, and they’re the subject of a new book.

Photographer Remo Camerota’s Drainspotting: Japanese Manhole Covers focuses on the imagery of the manhole cover. Of the 1,780 municipalities in Japan, almost 95% have their own customized manhole covers that portray the region’s culture, from landmarks to festivals to plants and animals. The Katsuyama manhole cover pictured above with the T-Rex is from a district famous for its archaeology of Dinosaurs.

The colorful manhole covers originated in the 80s when rural and suburban areas were due for new sewer systems. There was some resistance to these public works projects, so one crafty bureaucrat came up with the arty covers as a means of making the sewer system upgrade more visible and aesthetically appealing.

Drainspotting isn’t out until June, in the meantime, you can download outtakes from the book as an iPhone app.

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