The humble manhole cover may not seem like a blank canvas, but a Japanese city is reinventing the possibilities with light-up versions featuring anime characters.
Tokorozawa, near Tokyo, hopes the unusual additions attract visitors, including devotees of the painted and decorated manhole covers that adorn some streets in Japan.
“These are the first illuminated manhole covers in Japan,” city official Junichi Koike told AFP.
Japan is no stranger to decorative manhole covers, offering everything from richly engraved versions to those painted with city mascots.
Cities have been rejuvenating them for at least four decades, with the aim of improving the image of the sanitation system.
A subculture of manhole cover fans has sprung up, with enthusiasts exchanging information on social media about their favorite versions under the hashtag #manhotalk.
“’Manhole covers’ love to discover different types of manhole covers,” Koike said.
“We hope that the new illuminated will further enhance the dirty and smelly image of the looks and also revitalize the local economy by attracting visitors.”
A total of 28 manhole covers were installed across the city on August 1, featuring anime characters like the robot Gundam and the sci-fi animated series “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and the “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” television series.
The blankets light up from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. using solar power, illuminating the sidewalks that lead from the city’s main train station to a new cultural complex, complete with an anime museum .
They are part of the project in which the city collects revenue by allowing private companies – in this case the large media group Kadokawa – to use manhole covers for advertising.
But while city officials say the additional street lighting could have a deterrent effect on crime, security guards must expand their patrols to go through the covers in case someone tries to steal or rob them. cause damage.
So far, the blankets have received a positive reception from both enthusiasts and local residents.
“They are brighter than I expected,” manhole fan Kaoru Morita, 55, told AFP.
“Usually when you look for manholes they’re actually not that easy to spot. But I can see where they are from a distance, so it’s useful for a person like me looking for them.”
Tatsuhiko Sato, 29, who lives in the city, admits to being a little surprised to see the blankets at first.
“But it was a nice surprise. The animations I always watch can also be enjoyed this way. It’s also fun for the kids.”
There are some 15 million looks in Japan, but only a fraction have painted designs, which takes the cost of a blanket from around $ 600 to sometimes double.
The cost of the light blankets was not disclosed, but is covered by the sponsor, and the awesome feature will remain in place as long as the company continues to pay for it.