American manhole covers are disks of metal designed to cover holes. This is a very functional description and, I think, it captures the essence of how we design our covers from a very functional position. Japanese manhole covers are, in contrast, a form of expression, or advertising. After taking some photos of the manholes in Mino city and putting them on Flickr, I was contacted by the Japanese Manhole Covers group and asked to add my photos into the pool.
While American manhole covers have traditionally been very boring with basic cross-hatching for non-slip qualities; Japanese manholes have been adorned with all sorts of creative designs. The last several years have seen an explosion of art carved covers with elaborate designs. Often these covers show off the regional identity of some town or city. Birds, flowers, tourist attractions, just about anything is fair game.
Well, realizing that with all my travel, I was literally walking right over myriad covers. Being aware that people around the world have interest in the group, I decided to start collecting photos and uploading them to the group pool. I have been taking them from a technical perspective: shooting at a 90 degree angle; taking a photo of every type and variation I see; providing descriptions. This has paid off with me being the number one contributor at this point. Kind of an odd distinction.
From this point on, I think I will reduce my activity level and take pictures only of art carved covers or particularly unique covers. (Although I might try to snap all of the Tsu covers.) Also, I might try catching them with interesting lighting, angles, etc. I snapped a fire water cistern cover in Seki Juku from a low angle with an 18mm lens as a sign.
If you’re interested, please take a look at my collection.