Gotta catch, er, flush ’em all!

Japan may be well known for its beautiful shrines, temples, and castles, but that’s not all it has. One thing that doesn’t get nearly the amount of international attention that it deserves are the gorgeous manhole covers that can be found in the streets and sidewalks all over the country.

▼ Just look at the colors on this manhole cover from Oarai in
Ibaraki Prefecture. Really makes what lies underneath a lot more pleasant.

But it seems that Japan’s manhole covers won’t stay unknown for much longer. Last year in April, the organization GKP – Gesui Koho Purattohomu (“Sewer System PR Platform”) released its first set of Manhole Cards.

And now, one year later, the popularity of the cards have exploded. They’re releasing their fourth set this month, making for a total of 170 unique Manhole Cards from 145 locations in Japan, and collectors can’t get enough of them.

▼ The front and back of one card from Wakanai, Hokkaido. The front has a picture of the manhole and its coordinates, and the back explains its design.

▼ One fan showing of their collection that,
up until recently, was complete at 120 cards…

▼ …but now, with the addition of the new
fourth set pictured here, they have some work to do!

▼ Some more cards from the new set, including the Fukui
Dinosaur in the center, and Yamaguchi Sakura Train right above it.

▼ Fans have fun tracking down their favorite cards,
then snapping photos of themselves at the original manhole locations.

▼ To get the cards, manhole-aficionados visit the local
sewer/waterworks organizations for different cities and towns.

While having people travel over the country to obtain the cards may seem strange at first, Japan has a long history of stamp rallies and other collectible-events where you have to go all over to different locations in order to get them all.

GKP, the organization that makes the Manhole Cards, has said that their goal in producing them was to “wipe away the image that people have of manholes being dirty, smelly, and ugly.”

▼ And with some rare cards on Yahoo! auctions going
for over 10,000 yen (US$90), I’d say they’ve succeeded.

Yahoo! Auctions

▼ GKP has even gone so far as to promote the term “manholer” as a word
for fans of manholes and Manhole Cards to call themselves.

▼ And if you want to be a “maholer” but can’t read Japanese, they’ve recently released English versions. Though a true collector needs both languages, of course….

While we don’t see ourselves dropping thousands of yen to get rare Manhole Cards (of course, we say that now…), we do have to say it adds a bit of fun to traveling around Japan, knowing that each new area we visit could potentially get us a new card with coordinates to follow to a beautiful piece of sewer artwork.

If you can’t wait to become a “manholer” either, then check out the official Manhole Cards website. They don’t have an English page just yet, but with the recent release of English cards, we have to imagine that will change soon. And until then, we can all just enjoy some delicious chocolate manholes instead.

Source: Gesui Koho Purattofomu via Asahi Shimbun
Featured image: Twitter/@FrancescoYamasa