Lines and Colors art blog

Japanese Manhole Covers

Here in the U.S, manhole covers are treated as simple utilitarian access to underground systems, and their design generally reflects that — just a utility hatch.

In Japan, however, a large number of municipalities use the same kind of utility opening covers to express their local identity, with decorative covers that portray local landmarks, plants, animals, festivals and other elements of cultural or civic import.

There is an extensive Flickr group devoted to them and a book on the appreciation of them called Drainspotting.

[Via Salon]


7 responses to “Japanese Manhole Covers”

  1. Awesome!! I stayed with a friend in Yokohama and many of their drain covers had a hippo on them, I loved it!

  2. That’s so awesome! Thank you for introducing me to this, I’ll check out the Flickr group 😉

  3. Very cool! It is so good to see something that is utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Very cool, I even like them against their various backgrounds and I like that some are colored.

    On that note I should say that, although not as beautifully designed, here in Long Beach California the city has had artists paint murals on the utility and electrical boxes you see on city sidewalks and corners. So maybe that is a step in the right direction.
    My sister, an interior designer, likes to photograph sidewalk stamps put there by the contractors who poured the concrete. Some go back 80 to 90 years and are disappearing as sidewalks get replaced for urban renewal and handicap access. When seen as a group, even utilitarian, they become a fascinating study.

  5. We should consider doing these, what great public art!

  6. Japan is always known for its manhole covers art. You’ll find this art almost every where in Japan.

  7. Japan has the largest and most amazing collection of Manhole Covers in the World. I hope to see them in person one day.
    Is there anyone from the Japanese Manhole Watching Society who can contact me in English?
    I am the American Artist, whose “Grate Works of Art” are based on manhole covers, water covers, grates and drains.
    Contact me at