A different kind of street art

Aha! Found one! Kyon, drop that stupid sign and bring out the camera!

Fed up with being an anime otaku? Need a new outlet for energies previously spent ogling seiyuu in the streets of Akiba? Well then, may I suggest manhole covers?

A writer for the Mainichi Shinbun recently did a piece on a new mashup site that allows Japanese manhole cover hunters to share photographs of their prey with the rest of humanity (whether the rest of humanity likes it or not). Images are grouped by geographic location using a Google Maps background. Not surprisingly, the largest concentrations are positioned over the Kantou and Kansai regions, while the Really Big Northern Island gets absolutely squat.

This oddly fascinating hobby has little chance of prospering in my corner of the world, where manhole covers are as plain as heck (and are routinely pilfered by thieves on the prowl for scrap metal), but it appears to have found fertile ground in the domain of the World’s Last Emperor. In Japan, people take their manhole covers very seriously indeed, which is good news for the rest of us as it gives us yet another pointless endeavour to waste our lives on.

So if you suddenly find yourself in Japan with a camera and absolutely nothing better to do, walk whilst keeping your head down and – provided you don’t get run over by a runaway soba cart – treat yourself to a free tour of one of the world’s largest (and most underappreciated) art galleries. And do it in Iwate Prefecture, if you can; judging from the photo archives that place needs more love from manhole maniacs.