The gutters on the sides of many roads here are deep ditches, and in the countryside where they are uncovered, you have to drive carefully lest you allow a wheel to drop into one. In the cities, however, they are usually covered with blocky cement caps. Although there is space between the caps for water to drain into the ditches, they are also frequently interrupted by grates and grills to ensure that even large amounts of water can drain away.

Of course, many of these grates and grills are simple grids of steel. But if you've seen the manhole covers we've posted about, you might not be surprised to learn that some are more decorative.

The most common decorative design seems to use a honeycomb grid and the city logo in the center.

There are some still around with an old city logo, too.

This logo is the prefectural symbol of Iwate.

The logo doesn't have to be on a honeycomb, either. Here's one with a slanted grid.

The maze-like pattern on this one evokes ancient western cultures.

Not all of them are just a logo. Some feature the city's official flower, the white lily.

The largest and most extravagant ones — with white lilies, again — are along the main street running away from the station.

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Miyako Manhole Cover 

A pair of salmon dance on the Miyako manhole cover design.

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Akita Manhole Covers 

Here are some more manhole covers. These ones are from Akita prefecture.

These racks of lanterns feature prominently in Akita City's largest festival, Kanto Matsuri. The manhole cover is in the city's downtown area.

Kamakurando, a tourist destination in Yokote City, has its own manhole cover design. The dog is Kamakurando's mascot, Nobu. Of course, he's an Akita dog.

Omagari is a city famous for fireworks, and the site of Japan's largest fireworks competition.
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More Manhole Covers of Iwate 

Here are some more manhole covers from Iwate.

First up, Rikuzentakata, a small city on the Pacific coast. I'm not sure what all the designs represent, but the lumpy things around the outside might be sea pineapples (a delicacy of Iwate that most people in Japan wouldn't consider food).

Next up, Esashi. Esashi has a famous district of old warehouses.

Finally, Ezuriko, a village that became part of Kitakami City in 1991.

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Sendai Utility Panel 

It's not really a manhole cover, but Sendai also has decorative access panels for their underground utilities.

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Yuzawa Manhole Cover 

Here's another manhole cover, this time from Yuzawa. You can see Inukko Matsuri represented by the dog and shrine in the lower right corner.

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Manhole Covers 

In America, manhole covers are a largely ignored part of the urban landscape. They are quite plain, bearing little more than a note of what utility it serves and a tread pattern so that pedestrians won't slip.

In Japan, though, each municipality has manhole cover designs that reflect local specialties, historical sites, or festivals. Whatever a town is famous for may end up on the manhole covers.

Here's one of Kitakami's designs:

And one from Hottoyuda, famous for its hot springs:

And one from Yokote, depicting Yokote Castle, a kamakura (snow hut), and cherry blossoms:

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