Pokemon are recognised and adored by everyone worldwide; from the first ever video game ‘Pocket Monsters Red and Green’ to the constantly updated trading card collections, these iconic characters are beloved by all ages over decades of growth. Now that we’ve seen the likes of Evee and Pikachu on our screens and cards for a while, how about something fresh… Your own Pokemon adventure perhaps? Over the past few years, Poké lids have become a trending sensation in Japan. Installed throughout individual prefectures, these manhole covers aren’t just pieces of art, but an exciting adventure for all who set out to find them.
In this blog, we’ll explore the many Poké lid locations dotted across Japan. Also, we will discuss the ways in which you can stamp, collect and achieve the feat of finding every single Pokemon manhole in Japan!
While the idea of Pokemon manhole covers is a fresh one, it isn’t the first unique set of manhole covers in Japan. That’s right, over the years custom made manholes have been placed throughout the country. What’s more, each has a specific purpose or commemoration effort relating to it.
Actually, the idea initially arose as a protest from an employee of the Ministry of Construction. He was unhappy with the expensive new sewage schemes introduced in the 1980s. With thousands of these designs now being the norm in most communities, perhaps it is time for something classic yet fresh – the Poké lid!
Poké lids are essentially manhole covers… But with vibrant, custom-painted Pokemon on them. Dreamed up in a collaboration between Nintendo and the Japanese government, these Pokemon manholes really don’t have any hidden purpose or meaning; they exist for an adventure! They were first produced and installed in 2018, but very quickly the popularity became apparent and now there are over 200 dotted across (mainly) Honshū, Kyushū and Hokkaido.
What you’ll find with these Poké lids is that they tend to be in much more rural, lesser known areas of Japan. This is down to the fact that Japan has a very unequal tourist distribution across it, as you can imagine the majority of people flock to Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka. Considering this, the government wanted to create something simple and trivial, yet appealing, to attract tourists to new areas of Japan.. Cue the Poké lids! I suppose this means they do have an alternative purpose, but there are certainly other ways to attract tourists to rural areas, so let’s take this Poké lid adventure and make the most of it!
This subheading comes before the one that outlines how to find them, simply because you can do these two steps in whichever order works best. If you are undertaking the epic feat of finding every Poké lid in a specific prefecture, or even every Pokemon manhole in Japan, you’re going to want – no, need – a way to record all of this! Integrated into this rural tourism scheme seamlessly, you can find Poké lid stamp collection booklets, as well as the stamp for each lid, in nearby shops, cafes and tourist information centres.
Almost every hole has its own location for the stamp, however some nearby ones share the same building. The idea is that you fill out every page in the booklet, stamping each unique print into the book. Not only does this give you a stunning and intricate souvenir to enjoy back home, it also presents an opportunity for a prize as plushies have been awarded a few times over the years… Look out for other such events related to the Poké lid stamp collection!
Now that you’ve booked your trip and prepared your Pokemon hunting gear, what’s next? There are really two ways to go about Poké lid hunting:
The first is through the Poké lid website or through the use of the map which can be found in some stamp locations or Pokemon stores. The photo above is the homepage of the website, and as you can see the interface is very intuitive; simply select your region and the next page should look like this:
Now you can select your exact prefecture, and the Poké lids in that prefecture are laid out as shown. The final step is to select your desired lid:
This gives you the location of the Pokemon manhole, or rather the location of the building the stamp is in. In terms of the manhole itself, that’s a matter of true Pokemon hunting, as it is hiding somewhere around that area. What’s the point in a Pokemon hunt that doesn’t involve some hunting?
The alternative option I mentioned is perhaps the less efficient one. However, it is certainly the one involving the most commitment! How about you go about this Poké lid hunt completely blind? That’s right, some hardcore Pokemon fans decide to head out into the rural areas of each prefecture… With no idea where exactly the Poké lid or stamp building will be. So. finding it is all the more of an achievement!
Need something trendy to hunt in? Check out this awesome Pokemon shirt which you can grab right here through the Japan Nakama store!
We’re covering everything we need to know to get hunting! Now, let’s start looking at how we get to one. So, since these lids tend to be in out of the way places, they can be a bit of a pain to get to. This being said, there are always Taxis available, and additionally there are train services into most of the areas too.
Let’s look at this Slowpoke Poké lid as an example. Located in Ayagawa, Kagawa, it isn’t necessarily the easiest lid to get to.
Anyway, the obvious move here is to spend a day or two in Takamatsu city either by boat or plane. This would give you enough time to complete the prefecture. With this specific Poké lid, a long(ish) journey is unavoidable. While a taxi is an option, the most obvious choice here is the 50 minute train ride. This is from Kawaramachi station for about JPY590 ($4USD). The point of such trips isn’t to be a nuisance. Instead, it is expanding your view of Japan and its rural areas. Now in Ayauta district, you are only a short walk away from the farmers market. Such is the way of Poké lid hunting; you are finding a Pokemon manhole… However, you end up biting into a delicious, organic apple in the market too!
Now that we have completed this guide to Poké lid hunting in Japan, there are a few directions you can go:
1) Packing your bags and heading off to hunt some Pokemon manholes! And don’t worry, ‘that’s not all’ as there tends to be a Pokemon store near most major Poké lids… You might be sticking around for hours…
Also, here is the Poké lid official website if you are ready to plan your trip: https://local.pokemon.jp/en/manhole/
2) Checking out this blog from Japan Nakama on the best real life Studio Ghibli locations. A fair warning though: this could be filling your Poké lid hunting trip with some other out of the way but magical locations:
3) Have a watch of this video from Sharla on YouTube vlogging her Poké lid hunting experience!