Me Manhole


On my recent trip to Kyoto (京都) I had a purpose, but rare is the occasion where I have only one purpose. One of my secondary objectives was to catch a few of the manhole covers on film for all those afficionados on the net. I was surprised to see how many there were in Kyoto and caught a few of them quickly; however, I was especially pleased when I stumbled upon this one, which I titled “My Manhole”.My Manhole Cover

A friend of a friend had shown me this image on their cell phone, but could not recall where they had shot it, other than, “Possibly in Kyoto”. Since that day, the image has lingered in the back of my mind; such a rare find that it must be tracked down and its meaning unlocked. The character in the middle of the cover, drawn in a slightly stylized script, is watashi which means ‘me’ or ‘I’. This is located in Kyoto near Shijo (四条) on a small alley. Sou-sou and Iwai (井和井) stores are nearby. If you want to look for it, it should be easy to find.

I still don’t know if it is one of a kind or if it can be found around the area. Nor do I know why someone would label their manhole with ‘me’. I imagine the curiousity will get to me eventually.


4 Responses to “Me Manhole”

  1. verbivore Says:

    How cool is this. Have you been able to dig up any history about why the manhole covers are all decorated? Is there a system and one that might explain this use of 私?

  2. びっくり Says:

    Usually if there is writing on the covers it is to identify where it is – for the art carved ones – or what is underneath – for the normal ones. Art carved ones to commemorate the region are a fairly recent development and generally carry the city or town name. The normal covers usually identify: sewer, storm water, fire hydrant, fire cistern, gas cut-off valve, etc.

    A cover with just 私 on it, seems to have no connection to anything. I think I might have to spend a few hours on a two-step progress. Step 1. circle out from the known cover looking for others to establish if it is: one of a kind; clustered in a tight region; or widespread. Step 2. poke my head into shops near the cover asking about its meaning. If it is one of a kind, I am guessing the shop in front of it will be aware. (Another possibility is to open it up to see what clues lie beneath.)

    I can see you are stimulated to curiosity by unanswered questions, as am I. I have long thought my family was not mine. Perhaps you are my sister. 😉

  3. verbivore Says:

    Then I could be 小びっくり…:-) びっくりはセが高いのね?
    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the manhole cover was the first word in a poem or some sentence and if you walked around the city you could gather all the rest of the words? Someone should write that book…

  4. びっくり Says:

    How about if you are びっくりちゃん and you can tell people I’m びっくん?

    I think you’re onto something with the poem. In Iga they could do it with some famous Basho haiku. In Kyoto they could do it along the Philosopher’s Walk. We’ll see what the truth reveals about this manhole eventually.

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