Some cities just seem to have fun with their manhole covers. Okayama was one of them. Who wouldn’t smile at this cute cartoonish tableau?
The cover art in Okayama is actually based in an old folktale, one that is known throughout Japan. This tale revolves around Momotaro, a boy who was born from a giant peach (Okayama is well-known for its particularly juicy variety of this fruit). When Momotaro was older, he heard stories about ogres living on the nearby island of Onigashima who threatened the homes and lives of his countrymen. With a bag of millet dumplings for sustenance, he set off to rid Japan of these monsters. Along the way, he was joined by a dog, a pheasant and a monkey … all of whom can be seen on the manhole cover above.
Some stories have Momotaro slaying the ogres, while lighter versions say he merely takes their treasure and extracts their promise not to harm anyone else. The tourism office in the depths of Okayama station’s underground mall offers a free full-color book detailing the myth for anyone interested.