A city in central Japan recently held a lottery for decorative manhole covers after a sale offer became twenty-times oversubscribed.
Maebashi, which is 77 miles (124 km) north of Tokyo, put ten second-hand manhole covers on the market for 3,000 yen ($27; £20) with three different designs, and was surprised to receive over 200 applications to buy them, broadcaster NHK reports.
According to TV Asahi, the winners may have grabbed a bargain, given that new covers cost some 60,000 yen each, but some of the lucky collectors have still yet to decide what to do with them.
One buyer, who took the day off work to drive up from Tokyo to collect his 40 kg (88 lb) purchase, shares the dilemma of many people who make off-the-wall purchases: where to keep it now that he’s got it. “I’ll put it in my porch, then I’ll think about what to do with it,” he told NHK.
However, he hints that there may be a touch of buyer’s regret, and a drain cover may not be entirely welcome at home. TV Asahi caught up with him in his cramped Tokyo porch, where he told the broadcaster: “I’m in trouble. This is the last time.”
Japanese manhole covers attract the attention of collectors from all over the country due to their decorative designs. Last year a company released a set of drain cover collectors’ cards, complete with coordinates so that “drainspotters” could pay their favourites a visit.
It’s not a specifically Japanese interest, either. UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn lists “the history and design of manhole covers” among his hobbies.
Meanwhile, attempts to sell off other “collectable” ephemera have not been quite so successful. A rail operator’s attempt to create a market in used metro car hanging straps ended with 500 of the items selling for only 200 yen ($1.75; £1.35) each.
Reporting by Alistair Coleman, David Keeler
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