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  • JAPANESE MANHOLES UNCOVERED

  • Welcome to Tokyo.

  • There's a reason why I'm standing in the middle of the street.

  • Japanese manhole covers

  • Yeah, it's a pretty unique topic to cover but

  • the more I traveled around the country making this series

  • the more I discovered how unique these manhole covers are.

  • This one is Tokyo's design. A very modest cherry blossom.

  • Tokyo's manhole cover's contain numbers

  • that tell the location and year installed

  • to make it easier to find in case of trouble.

  • Elsewhere in the world, manhole covers are just

  • something on the street, something forgotten

  • but here in Japan, they're a work of art.

  • To get a sense of how big the Japanese manhole boom has become

  • I went to the annual Manhole Summit.

  • Outside, manhole covers from all over Japan

  • were on display.

  • You can see each town's attractions

  • and culture in each one.

  • This year also introduced

  • the manhole card!

  • to a packed auditorium ofmanholers"

  • the term used for manhole enthusiasts

  • The cards are really well made

  • featuring the location of the manhole cover

  • and it's history and info on the back.

  • They were even featured

  • in the JOURNAL OF SEWAGE this month!

  • The summit is all about manhole covers.

  • And the boom is real.

  • Goods of all kinds are on sale,

  • selling a piece of urban art from every corner of Japan.

  • But if I really want to becomes a manholer myself,

  • I have to go out there and search them out.

  • IN SEARCH OF MANHOLE COVERS

  • Sapporo!

  • This was the first manhole I filmed a year ago

  • when I started this adventure after the Sapporo Snow Festival.

  • Sapporo's manhole features the clock tower built in 1878,

  • a symbol of the city.

  • On another location shoot,

  • I found this one in Mihonoseki in Shimane prefecture.

  • Mihonoseki is sleepy fishing village

  • with a very small population

  • but their manholes are beautiful.

  • It features a red snapper

  • and the port which protects Miho Shrine.

  • I

  • n Takamatsu on Shikoku Island,

  • the design represents the battle of Yashima in 1185.

  • A samurai who chased the enemy deep into the sea

  • on his horse.

  • He shot an enemy's fan off the boat in a single shot.

  • An act that was praised by both sides.

  • His clan won the war.

  • In Osaka, the impressive Osaka Castle

  • with cherry blossoms looms large on the design.

  • In Yonago, Tottori prefecture,

  • a mascot with the stunning Daisen, the Mt Fuji of the East.

  • Aomori city, the very north of Tohoku has one of my favorites.

  • The design represents their big summer festival, NEBUTA

  • which I also took part in as a haneto dancer in a past episode.

  • In central Tottori city,

  • the colorful Shan-Shan festival umbrellas grace the design.

  • The colors really dance off the streets like the festival itself.

  • Nearby is the Tottori Sand Dune

  • which has it's own sand colored manholes.

  • I shot Japan's largest desert episode here.

  • Nagoya is Japan's fourth largest city

  • and home to the happy water strider design.

  • Chiba prefectures Funabashi city near Tokyo

  • is a famous port town.

  • The design represents its local history on the sea.

  • In Kichijoji, Tokyo,

  • I found firefighter characters on the cover,

  • There is a fire hydrant below ground at the spot.

  • Saitama prefecture has some colorful covers

  • like this one in Misato.

  • On a trip to Niigata prefecture,

  • I found Yahiko's designs very interesting.

  • Local attractions, mountains, cherry blossoms and it's famous bicycle race.

  • Finally in Kodaira city is this one.

  • It represents a peaceful life in this Tokyo suburban town.

  • A commuter train with Mt Fuji in the distance

  • In color, the design comes to life

  • showing houses and the suburban life of Japan today.

  • I met Ishii-san who rode his bicycle around the country

  • finding interesting manhole cover designs

  • and who wrote a book on the topic.

  • Nihon no Manhole or Manholes of Japan.

  • Inside, he shows off hundreds of designs

  • with an explanation of its history and meaning.

  • Each one has a story to tell.

  • This is Ishii-san's favorite from Yaizu city, Shizuoka

  • with local fish (bonito) and Mt. Fuji in the background.

  • HISTORY CORNER

  • Why do Japanese Manholes have designs?

  • The story goes that designs were a public relations approach

  • in the 1960s

  • to get more people aware of the new post war sewer systems,

  • But Naha in Okinawa is said to have the first

  • really artistic design in 1977.

  • See those fish?

  • Original locally produced designs took off in the 1980s.

  • Now, over 95 percent of the 1,780 municipalities in Japan

  • have manhole cover designs.

  • There are approximately 12,000 different manhole cover designs

  • throughout the country

  • with an increasing number of hobbyists searching them out!

  • I asked Ishii-san about that.

  • All over Japan,

  • Wherever there are sewer pipes, there will be

  • manhole covers with designs in Japan.

  • Something I want to emphasize to everyone is that

  • bigger cities do not mean prettier manhole covers

  • but if you go to the rural areas

  • you'll find designs that are unique to that area

  • There are so many!

  • So rather than urban areas,

  • if you go to the countryside, you'll find

  • local culture in the designs

  • or things the locals are proud of

  • in their town

  • If you look for that,

  • you'll find some great discoveries.

  • Rather than just visiting tourist attractions,

  • discovering Japan through manhole covers

  • is super interesting, like my own experience.

  • In that way, it sure will be a fun trip.

  • MANHOLE COVER CASTING FACTORY

  • I visited the Nagashima Imono Manhole Casting Plant

  • to get an inside look

  • on how they make these amazing designs are made.

  • Nagashima-san gave me a tour around the factory.

  • Scrap steel is melted in a big furnace.

  • The glow is mesmerizing.

  • It's alloyed and melted at temperatures around 3000C

  • Kagalite is added to remove the slag

  • or impurities from the molten metal.

  • Workers collect it after the carbon impurities bond with the kagalite

  • and remove it.

  • Left behind is a sparkling gob of molten waste.

  • When ready, it's poured into a transfer ladel.

  • Workers remove more carbon impurities,

  • cover and transfer it to the casting area

  • where the molds are waiting.

  • The sand shell molds are placed into boxes called flasks

  • then a large metal frame.

  • The molds has risers and vents

  • which allow the gases and heat to escape.

  • Here the top and bottom of the mold are put together by the machine.

  • The molten metal is poured into the mold.

  • It takes about an hour and a half before the manhole covers and cool enough

  • to be removed from the mold

  • and then placed on a vibrating grate

  • to remove the sand from the mold.

  • The new cover is given a few hits

  • to break up the sand told from the metal.

  • It's placed on the side to cool.

  • There still pretty hot at this stage

  • and it can take a whole day before they're at room temperature,

  • but the next stage is right here

  • SHOT BLASTING

  • The manhole covers are lifted into this reinforced box

  • where they're shot with metal bearings that

  • polish and strengthen the cover.

  • They're then lifted to the finishing area

  • where the first step is to remove any leftover molding.

  • Next, they're moved by this musically talented machine

  • for sizing where they get shaved down to exact measurements.

  • The metalic dust is recycled and used again.

  • Finally they're coated, dried and moved for transfer to the cities

  • or painted for commemorative manhole covers.

  • Nagashima Imono makes manhole covers that go all over the country.

  • The colors on these are important to fire fighters

  • to find underground hydrants.

  • The symbol for water, mizu (水) is in the middle.

  • Painting a manhole is like paint by numbers.

  • You have to mix the colors to get the right shade.

  • Here's a manhole from Shiroishi City in Miyagi Prefecture

  • Shiroishi Casle was founded in the 14th century

  • demolished in 1875

  • then rebuilt in 1995

  • now a symbol of pride for the city.

  • The blue pain will become the sky.

  • It's important for the manhole to be painted perfectly.

  • One mistake and it has to be redone.

  • It takes 24 hours for the paint to dry.

  • Newer manhole covers may have a lovely plastic printed finished

  • but to me, the painted commemorative manhole covers

  • are just simply more stunning.

  • They're also pretty heavy!

  • They can weight as much as 50kg.

  • I tried to pick one up.

  • They're really heavy!

  • It's about 50kg per

  • manhole cover

  • Arhhhhh! HAHA!

  • MANHOLE!

  • HOLER!

  • They're also important property of a Japanese municipality

  • so take care!

  • Nagashima Imono has been making manhole covers since 1945.

  • I asked him how they got into this business.

  • As a recovery from the war,

  • assuming the government will improve

  • the sewage system,

  • our company moved into the manhole business.

  • It was though to be a low level industry

  • so it was rumoured to be easy for

  • new companies to join

  • I can see that. Sewers are a dirty place so

  • if the manhole cover is prettyit's sort of better.

  • Right. The image of the industry is improved by it.

  • Once considered the lowest form of art

  • Japanese manhole designs are booming

  • Art collectors everywhere take notice

  • canvas is nice, but metal is forever

  • whereever there are underground pipes

  • there will be manhole covers

  • When you come to Japan,

  • don't just look up at those bright neon signs.

  • Look down!

  • You might just discover a work of art

  • And something that is trulyONLY in JAPAN :)

  • NEXT TIME: I travel to Aomori Airport

  • where they've never had a snow delay

  • The crew is called WHITE IMPULSE

  • and they remove the snow from the runway like a machine ballet

  • If you liked it, hit that SUBSCRIBE BUTTON

  • and watching another one of ONLY in JAPAN's shows.

  • See you next timemata ne~

JAPANESE MANHOLES UNCOVERED

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B2 manhole cover design prefecture japanese metal

Japanese Manhole Covers: Drainspotting Adventure & Factory Tour ★ ONLY in JAPAN

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    Summer posted on 2020/10/24
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