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Drainspotting in Japan

Some spot trains, while others spot planes. In Japan, home of many wacky obsessions, amateur and pro photographers scour the country taking photos of one-of-a-kind man hole covers.  They call themselves Drainspotters. The project now counts as many as 6000 individual covers that are found in villages and cities all over Japan.  Most of the attached images are from a group of photographers sharing their photos through creative commons, a dedicated flickr page here.


During state sponsored infrastructure public works projects, which began in the 60’s, the sewer systems were to be upgraded all across Japan. Local preservation and traditionalist minded citizens groups fought the proposal to dig up the ancient streets. A project manager came up with the idea of placing one-of-a-kind manhole covers on the new sewers and the groups gave in. Most of the covers depict scenes or historical images that relate directly to the part of the village or city where they are placed. Before a manhole cover is cast it is first approved by a local board or city council.

UK photographer Remo Camerota has just published a book of over 600 of the known manhole covers available at Amazon here. He also maintains a blog where he has cataloged hundreds of the drain covers. There is a nice post from the folks over at Gwarlingo with a story and photos from the book.

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