New Japanese Craze: Drainspotting

Daily Mail: We have all seen a trainspotter wearing an anorak and huddled with a camera on a railway platform - well, now there's a new phenomenon: drainspotting, where obsessives travel hundreds of miles to snap unusual manholes.

The craze has swept Japan, where enthusiasts spend days hunting out the nation's 6,000-plus uniquely designed manholes. For the first time the hobby has been documented in a new book, called Drainspotting, which features 800 of the manholes.

The colourful covers were first created in the 1980s when communities outside of Japan's major cities were due to receive new sewer systems. The scheme was met with resistance by traditionalist locals, who were against the idea of manholes, or manhorus. Sensing the scheme was in danger, one dedicated bureaucrat solved the problem by customising the manhole covers and designing them so they told a story about the area they were in.

For example, in the city of Shimotsuke, which is twinned with the brothers Grimm birth place, Hanau, in Germany, the manhole features a Little Red Riding Hood design. The city of Katsuyama is famous for its dinosaur fossils and on its manhole is a picture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. In Tokyo, home of Japan's Disneyland, there is a manhole baring the face of Mickey Mouse, which also speaks once stepped on.

There are two types of covers - manholes and red and yellow covers brightly marked to be easily visible for firemen to extract water from.

The pictures in the book have been taken by Remo Camerota, who researched the phenomenon for three months by visiting websites depicting where the thousands of manholes could be found.

The 44-year-old, who was born in Coventry and now lives in Tokyo, said: 'I found the manhole covers fascinating and hired a car for a month to drive across Japan taking photos of the most colourful and interesting.

'My girlfriend and I drove from town to town, stopping and searching for the covers. Sometimes we would be arguing about a wrong turn and then stumble across a beautiful manhole, one which had been previously undocumented - that happened a few times.'

'Finding them is the best part, the whole time it feels like a treasure hunt. You walk the streets, with little time, anxiously looking for a new manhole cover and often you find these amazing covers that you would never dream of. The designs became more intricate and decorated in competition with each neighbouring town.'

'Today we have designs of many things, flowers, birds, animals, ninjas, firemen, shrines, dragons, Godzilla and even space crafts. I have made it a mission to capture them all as it is of great interest to me as a collector to see them all and share them with the world.'

The book is available online along and there is an application for smartphones.


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