I’m spending a nice relaxing holiday at home in Kumamoto with my family this year, but we were lucky enough to get in a quick pre-Christmas jaunt over the weekend. It was my first trip out of Kyushu by car and I must say, it was kind of thrilling to drive across the strait at Shimonoseki onto the island of Honshu.
While I can’t wait to stop off in Shimonoseki for a bite of their famous fugu, this past weekend was spent in Iwakuni (south of Hiroshima) where I stumbled over this fantastically colorful manhole cover outside the city hall.
While some manhole covers in Japan are a bit cryptic, Iwakuni’s is very easy to “read”. On the top is Iwakuni Castle. It’s a recreation, not even in the same spot as the original, but still looks impressive up on top of one of the city’s hills. In the middle of the grate is the Kintai Bridge. This site is Iwakuni’s crown jewel – the five-arched wooden bridge that spans the Nishiki River was originally built in 1673. It was washed away in 1950 by a flood, but rebuilt soon after in the original style.
Visit the bridge on a summer evening and you might catch one of the locals out cormorant fishing (the bottom part of the manhole cover). This is a popular pastime in Japan in the warmer months and involves using cormorant birds on leashes or ropes to catch fish in the river. (A ring around their neck ensures that they don’t swallow the fish.)