Japan's manhole covers are absolute works of art. They decorate the streets of each prefecture, and there are even designs inspired by the pop culture they export, like Pokémon manhole covers. Their beauty is celebrated by locals and tourists alike, which has even led Japan to throw a manhole cover festival. The process behind its creation is as fascinating as the pieces themselves. Process X, a YouTube channel dedicated to revelatory videos about Japanese manufacturing, produced a short documentary about how these colorful manhole covers come to life.
The mini doc walks us through the whole creation operation at the Hinode Water Equipment Co. factory. It all starts with a machine raising and transporting irregular pieces of scrap metal to the melting spot, and ends with a test on a real-life street where cars drive over them. Before the test, though, there are some mesmerizing steps. Arguably the most alluring part of the documentary is when the color is added to the intricate design. Each shade of paint is loaded into bottles and deposited carefully by hand, like a real life coloring book. Without this, the motives would only be noticeable upon closer inspection, but it's the color what elevates this from ubiquitous city infrastructure to cheerful sights one can stumble upon in the streets. Since they have to be resistant to the elements, the pigments are heated for extra durability.
On top of its artistic charm, the attention to detail put into every single metal cover reminds us that safety and practicality are equally important. This is a common thread in the equally curiosity-spiking manufacturing documentaries Process X produces, from pencils to samurai swords.