Flowers and manhole covers

I adore Japanese manhole covers. They are just so beautiful! Here’s the one for Toyota City:

toyota city manhole cover

Toyota City manhole cover

It features the symbol of Aichi prefecture in the middle, surrounded by sun flowers. Toyota City has adopted the sunflower as its symbol flower. Likewise, the manhole cover for Takayama features rhododendron flowers, which are symbolic for the city of Takayama.

takayama manhole cover

Takayama manhole cover with rhododendron flowers

In fact, I think almost every Japanese city has a symbol flower and a symbol tree. Additionally, each province has a symbol flower and even each month of the year has its own typical flower (see hanafuda card game).

hanafuda_cards

Hanafuda card set by Kelsey Cretcher

The importance that the Japanese attach to flowers is further illustrated by the following anecdotes: During my stay in Japan, I have often been asked what the symbol flower of Belgium is. Japanese people seemed quite surprised when I said there is none (as far as I know). I have also heard that during trips abroad, Japanese people will often ask their tour guide about a particular flower. Usually the tour guide doesn’t know anything about flowers and the response will be ‘that’s just a flower’, causing great disappointment to the Japanese tourists.

At first I was quite surprised by the Japanese fascination with flowers. But if you think about it, it shouldn’t be surprising at all, considering that the Japanese elevated flower arrangement to a true art form (ikebana 生け花) and have developed an entire symbolic flower language in which words and codes are assigned to flowers (hanakotoba 花言葉). I guess I can only conclude that the Japanese sure do love their flowers!

Ikebana

Ikebana – image from Wikipedia

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Manhole covers: Ise in Mie prefecture

One of the things that I love most about Japanese culture, is the sense of aesthetics. Beauty in its broadest sense is greatly appreciated in Japan. This emphasis on beauty is apparent in many aspects of daily life. While in the West, emphasis often lies on functionality only, in Japan an effort is made to combine functionality and beauty when designing mundane items of all kinds.

A perfect example of beauty in mundane items, is the design of manhole covers in Japan. Anywhere you turn in Japan, you can find gorgeous manhole covers. The variety is endless. Over time, I made a sport of photographing as many of them as I could. I hope to share some of them with you from to time.

sewer pit cover ise

A beautiful manhole cover in the city of Ise, Mie prefecture

sewer pit cover ise coloured

Sometimes the manhole covers are even painted

For comparison purposes: below you will find a Belgian manhole cover.

Belgian manhole cover

A typical Belgian manhole cover, very unimaginative as you can see. Although I have heard that Germany and Denmark do have nice covers.