Drainspotting, a book about Japanese manholes

draingspotting.jpg There's a new book about Japan called Drainspotting. It's based on a blog by Remo Camerota, and features lots of colorful, beautiful photos of manhole covers. Manhole covers are art mediums used by municipalities to show off regional pride in things like local landmarks, region-specific art styles, and native plants.
In Japan, modern sewer systems began to appearduring the late 19th century, though evidence of sewage systems in the country dates back to over 2,000 years ago. Foreign engineers introduced the Japanese to modern, underground sewer systems with above ground access points called manhoru (manholes). At that time, manhole covers utilized the geometric designs similar to those used in other countries. In the 1980s, as communities outside of Japan's major cities were slated to receive new sewer systems these public works projects were met with resistance, until one dedicated bureaucrat solved the problem by devising a way to make these mostly invisible systems aesthetically appreciated aboveground: customized manhole covers.
Drainspotting: Japanese Manhole Covers from Mark Batty Publisher


  1. How are they made? What materials will hold-up to cars constantly driving over them?

  2. I’ll wait for that book about Yakusa’s tattooed anuses.

    Seriously though, this is better than ours, which are still grates.

  3. Yeah, I’m also curious as to what the colored fill material is. Anybody know, or have a guess?

    These are gorgeous.

  4. I’ve seen some fancy looking manholes in North America, but never painted like these ones. Purrrrty.

  5. It pains me that I’m even tempted to point out the fundamental differences between a drain and a manhole cover.

  6. After living in Japan for four years, spending a ton of time walking, I must say I have never seen one of these.

    Colored and illustrated tiles on the street, yes, but anything other than normal, metal manhole covers and drains, no.

  7. Yeah… The phrase “Japanese Manholes” just DID NOT strike up a very exciting image for me… O.o

  8. This is a really beautiful collection!
     For another twist on these – there’s also a woman who takes “Takuhon” prints of these covers around Japan I recently interviewed
    : http://bit.ly/9H6VhU.

  9. When I visited Japan as a child, we had a big book where would take rubbings of manhole covers we came across. I’ve always loved how the Japanese take a mundane location and infuse it with art. Similarly, I loved the animations drawn on the Tokyo subway walls:

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