Japanese Manhole Cover Art Prints by David Robert

manhole cover art tracings by david robert (1)

photos by Mariano Cruz

It’s no secret that Japanese manhole covers are some of the most intricate and colorful in the world. So French-born designer and illustrator David Robert decided to create replicas; not from cast iron but on paper.


The artist, who works for creative director Morihiro Hirano, travels around Japan making tracings of some of the more beautiful manhole covers he finds. He considers them “souvenirs” of the different places he’s visited. Now, the series of manhole cover prints are going to be on display in an exhibition aptly titled SOUVENIR. The show runs from July 18 – August 22, 2015 at Kai in Tokyo.

manhole cover art tracings by david robert (5)

manhole cover art tracings by david robert (4)

manhole cover art tracings by david robert (3)

manhole cover art tracings by david robert (2)


manhole cover art tracings by david robert (1)
Poster designed by Daisuke Sasaki


  1. I’m a first-time commenter and I hope I don’t come across as unnecessarily mean or nasty, but I’m afraid I really don’t… understand what makes this art. These are a white dude’s literally grave-rubbings from elementary school of manhole covers that he didn’t design. Could I have this explained to me?

    • @Jeannie – I think the point of the work is that the artist simply wanted to take home these beautiful manhole covers. But since he couldn’t physically do that, he did the next best thing.

  2. I always wanted to do that . . .

  3. In response to Jeannie’s question about what makes this art– this particular project seems to be in part a celebration of something beautiful that is overlooked in everyday life. Much like how a photographer does not create the subjects he photos but rather captures them, this artist has done the same, capturing images he found compelling in a unique medium to bring something cool to the attention of others. To address the issue of his being white– sometimes outsiders to a culture are able to more easily find the extraordinary in what would be considered ordinary and overlooked by residents. I’ve lived in Japan for three years now. I know that the manhole covers here are unique, but it’s not something I think about on a regular basis. Seeing it presented this way is a fun reminder of the little “moments of art” tucked away into our every day experience.

    I hope you find this perspective helpful!

  4. @Jeannie the perspectives given above say it all. For me, when I travel, I love to photograph street art in each city I go to. It’s a way to capture memories and bring them home with me. It’s a way for me to share what I have seen with others.

    I was delighted to see these manhole covers. Art is everywhere!

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