Japanese Firm GKP Releases Collectible Manhole Cards

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In an attempt to raise the profile of the sewage industry, a Japanese company is giving away trading cards featuring uniquely designed manhole covers, a signature landmark in Japan.


According to Thisiscolossal.com, the manhole covers were developed in 1985 after a high-ranking bureaucrat in the construction industry came up with the idea of allowing municipalities to personalize their own manhole covers. The goal was to not only raise awareness for the country’s costly sewage projects but to get the municipalities involved and make it more palatable to tax-paying citizens.

Now, there are almost 6,000 artistic and unique manhole covers throughout Japan, with a myriad of symbols that boost local appeal. And it’s easier than ever to carry around the beauty of this national phenomenon in your very own pocket.

The cards are the product of GKP, a conglomerate of local governments and the sewage department of Japan’s Infrastructure Ministry. Each card’s caption provides a full explanation of the design’s meaning, including the exact coordinates of said manhole cover.

According to Japan Visitor, the manhole covers attract what they call “drain spotters” — tourists who flock from all corners of the globe to see the uniquely designed manhole covers across Japan. Like Texas’s famed cross-country cows, the manholes feature geographically specific symbols and designs. Typically, the designs are decided upon after either taking a public poll or through competitions.

The first batch of manhole cards will be given away for free to anyone who visits sewage plants or water treatment facilities in the area. To boot, the GKP says they will be releasing a second batch of cards this July.

The cards are roughly business-card sized — certainly much smaller than a typical 100- to 200-pound manhole cover. This makes it easy for drain spotters and average citizens alike to covet, swap, and pocket these manhole collectible cards.

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