As this set of cards shows, going down the drain isn’t always bad.
Raising awareness of Japan’s public sewage system requires a creative approach, especially if one wants to maintain a tactful tone. It was announced this week that a Japanese company managed to pull off this delicate act with the release of collectible cards featuring decorative manhole covers from across Japan.
The manhole covers, whose designs are decided with the participation from the public, often feature a symbol specific to an area or town, or a local mascot. The popularity of these covers has even given birth to a new kind of tourism – “drainspotting” – where travelers attempt to see all of the 6,000+ different designs in person. You can see a few of the thousands here, courtesy of photographer S. Morita’s Flickr set: www.flickr.com/photos/28074232@N06/sets/72157612036691185/page3/
According to the Japan Times, GKP – a consortium of local government agencies and the sewage department of the Infrastructure Ministry – partnered with a toy company to produce the set. Pictures of the manhole covers will don one side of the business-sized cards, while explanations of their designs, as well as precise geographic coordinates, will be featured on the reverse.
To be launched at a “manhole summit” (indeed, such a thing exists) in Tokyo later this month, the first batch of collectors’ cards will be given away free of charge to anyone who has the olfactory fortitude to visit a sewage plant or a water treatment facility. The company is planning a second batch of cards for release in July, with more to come based on public interest.[Update: As for that public interest, it has simply been booming. According to RocketNews24, GKP has launched its 4th edition of cards this month, now making for a total of 170 manhole covers from 145 different locations. If you’re interested in picking up a card, you need to go to the specific location that you can find on this list, and you can get a card for free, if there are still some left. If you’re