Manhole Monday: Imabari

Whew, this Tokyo heat is interminable. The calendar is inching its way into September and I am not the only one in my family willing it to go faster so we get to the cooler temperatures quicker!

Yesterday, we braved the humidity and headed for the Shinagawa Aquarium with friends. While the aquarium itself was just so-so (not even sure it merits a mention here as a Family Fun post), the kids had a blast playing pirates in the nearby sprawling woodland.

So in keeping with the pirate theme, I thought I would post this “pirate-themed” manhole cover from Imabari, a city on the northern coast of Shikoku:


The boats depicted above technically represent ships in the MukamiĀ suigin, a self-styled navy led by several branches of the Murakami clan. These privateers controlled all sea-based commerce in Japan’s Inland Sea for much of the medieval period. They collected shipping fees, provided safe passage to official (ie government) goods and personnel, supplied tugboats when needed and basically acted as the enforcers for those engaged in maritime trade in the region. Due to the monopoly they had on the area and their sometimes exorbitant rates, they could conceivably be called pirates as well.

There is a museum dedicated to the Murakami navy on Oshima (“Big Island”), just off the coast of Imabari and accessible by the Shimanami Kaido route of suspension bridges that hop between the islands.

3 thoughts on “Manhole Monday: Imabari

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  1. Wow, I found that the pattern on manhole itself is fascinating, so there is a story behind it. is there a story behind each manhole pattern in Japan? Because I think it interesting when I found so many lovely patterns on manholes during my trip to Osaka last autumn. *I’lll google about it.*

    1. I recently read that of Japan’s nearly 1700 individual communities (cities, towns, villages, etc), over 1500 of them have specially designed manhole covers. Some cities put famous sites on their manhole (like Osaka Castle in Osaka), some put flowers (Kumamoto’s manhole cover is the Higo camellia, a locally bred flower) and some due scenes of local festivals (Aomori’s cover is the Nebuta Festival). I have quite a collection of manhole covers on the blog so enjoy having a peek!

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