Japan's new Pokemon manhole covers are the very best, like no manhole cover ever was

Gotta step on 'em all.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
  • Third place film critic, 2021 LA Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards
Leslie Katz
2 min read

The New Poke Lids. 

Exeggcute and Poke Lid

Most manhole covers around the world look decidedly drab. Not in Japan. There, they can be striking works of street art.  

Look down and you might spot a utility cover decorated with a calming floral or mountain scene, an elaborately reproduced local shrine or landmark, a sports mascot or a pop culture icon like Hello Kitty or Pokemon

Wait, did someone say Pokemon manhole covers? Yes, they're called "pokefuta" in Japanese and Poke Lids in English. They're located in 15 prefectures around the country and they're adorable. 

Last week, Miyazaki, the first city on the island of Kyushu to boast Poke Lids, announced it will get eight more designs, including favorite creatures such as Raichu, Marshtomp and Exeggcute. 

The expansion builds on a campaign to bring visitors to lesser-known parts of Japan. The Poke Lids being installed on the streets of Miyazaki feature cheerful colors, local sights and palm trees to represent the city's year-round warm climate.  

Japan's artistic manholes date back to the mid-1980s, according to Atlas Obscura, when public officials sought to sell skeptical rural residents on the costly but necessary modernization of Japan's sewer system. Over the years, the intricate designs have attracted devoted followers who travel the country to take photos and even attend manhole cover festivals

The Poke Lids come in more than 160 designs. On the Poke Lids website, you can see which Pokemon manhole covers you can spot in which region, with maps that show each one's precise location. It's a pretty precious way to try to catch them all.