Japan sewers clean up their act with manhole art

A worker installs a designed manhole cover in Tokyo. (AFP)
Updated 14 January 2018
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Japan sewers clean up their act with manhole art

TOKYO: Japan’s sewerage industry has found a way to clean up its dirty and smelly image: Elaborately designed and colorful manhole covers with 12,000 local varieties nationwide — including, of course, a Hello Kitty design.
Appealing to a Japanese love of detail and “kawaii” (“cute“), bespoke manhole covers adorn the streets of 1,700 towns, cities and villages across Japan and have spawned a collection craze among so-called “manholers.”
The designs represent an instant guide to a place as they feature its history, folklore, or speciality goods: A castle design for an ancient town, a bay bridge for a port and Mt Fuji for a city at the foot of Japan’s iconic mountain.
As for Tama City, located in the western sprawl of greater Tokyo, locals are pinning their hopes on a more modern Japanese icon — Hello Kitty — to attract tourists, alongside the town’s theme park showcasing much-loved children’s character from the Sanrio company.
“We’d be happy if people come and take some time for a stroll in our town while looking for the Hello Kitty manholes,” said Mikio Narashima, who heads the city’s sewage system division, after the city installed the first of the 10 designed covers.
Veteran spotter Shoji Morimoto said his passion for covers was fueled after noticing that the central city of Fukui sported two phoenixes on its manholes.
He later learned the imaginary birds were a symbol of the town’s rise from a 1945 devastating US air raid and a deadly earthquake three years later.
“I sometimes do research on why the town has that particular design. I’m impressed whenever I find out it represents the town’s history and culture,” said Morimoto, who coined the word “manholer” for like-minded people.
Designed manholes cost more but appeal to a Japanese sense of detail, the 48-year-old Morimoto told AFP.
He has already visited all the designed manholes in his local area. “Now I have to travel far,” he admits.
“Manholers” take pictures of the covers they visit, with the more obsessive taking rubbings.
For others, the interest lies more in “cover bonsai,” plants growing on soil accumulated on and around covers.
More than 3,000 people attended a “manhole summit” in western Japan in November.
And manhole covers are not simply there to hide away dirty sewers, enthuses Tetsuro Sasabe, who is interested in covers for telecoms infrastructure.
“I’m interested in why the manhole is there, where it leads to — I’d say I’m interested in what’s under the manhole covers,” he said.
He noted that there is a story even to plain covers — such as finding the logos of now-defunct companies.
Given their size, the covers cannot easily be collected in the same way people hoard stamps and coins.
But to satisfy collectors’ desire, the private-public GKP network designed to promote awareness on the importance of sewerage in society, has released 1.4 million cards of 293 different covers.


’Pig’ British tourists to be deported from New Zealand

Updated 16 January 2019
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’Pig’ British tourists to be deported from New Zealand

  • The family have been involved in a string of incidents in the country, including accusations of littering, assault, not paying for restaurant meals and intimidating behavior
  • "They're worse than pigs and I'd like to see them out of the country," Auckland mayor said

WELLINGTON: Members of a British family have been branded “worse than pigs” and face deportation from New Zealand after a spree of bad behavior that left normally easygoing Kiwis outraged.
The family have been involved in a string of incidents in and around Auckland and Hamilton, including accusations of littering, assault, not paying for restaurant meals and intimidating behavior.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff led national outcry at the tourists’ antics, demanding the police take action. “These guys are trash. They are leeches,” he told a local radio station.
“If you say one time ‘I found a hair or an ant in my meal’ you’d believe it but they find it every meal that they have as a way of evading payment. That’s a criminal activity.
“They’re worse than pigs and I’d like to see them out of the country.”
New Zealand’s assistant general manager of immigration, Peter Devoy, said the family had been issued with a deportation notice on the grounds of “matters relating to character.”
One 26-year-old member of the family on Wednesday pleaded guilty to stealing NZ$55 ($37) worth of goods from a petrol station.
The family attracted extensive media coverage in New Zealand after a video showed them leaving beer boxes, bottles and other rubbish strewn on a popular beach.
When a woman asked them to clean up their litter, a child in the group can be seen on video threatening he would “knock your brains out.”
Stuff Media reported that one family member hit a journalist with her shoe after being approached for comment.
A member of the family told the New Zealand Herald they have now decided to cut short their holiday and will return home this week.
John Johnson insisted his family were of good stock, claimed his grandfather was the “10th richest man in England” and said he was made to feel “very unwelcome” in New Zealand.