This is not your typical manhole cover – there aren’t too many square decorated ones out there – but then Kobe is not your typical Japanese city.
One of the first to open up its port after Commodore Perry’s visit and one of the only to be destroyed by natural forces in the modern century, Kobe has been through quite a ride and yet its often overlooked on the tourist trail. Even I’ve only really transited from the airport on my way to other places … perhaps it’s time I checked it out myself.
The manhole cover does a good job of showcasing some of Kobe’s sights. In the top left, you can see the silhouette of the Kobe Port Tower. Rising over 100 meters, it gives visitors a great view over the port area. The port itself is shown on the top right. Along with Yokohama and Hakodate, it was one of the first ports to open to western trade in the mid-eighteenth century. This special status gave Kobe quite a cosmopolitan – and foreign – feel. I have yet to figure out the building in the lower right corner but the street lamps in the lower right corner mimic the gas lamps that used to light the Kitano neighborhood, Kobe’s foreign quarter. The old houses here were mostly destroyed during the war but there are still some of the original mansions dotted about the quarter that can be visited.