Manholes have been enjoying a great deal of popularity in Japan recently. Maintenance hole covers featuring famous anime and video game characters have become tourist attractions and Tokyo even went as far a gamifying the act of manhole inspection with big cash prizes.
Manholes even began featuring in pop culture, such as the long-running kid’s tokusatsu action series "Kamen Rider," in its 2018-2019 season "Kamen Rider Zi-O" during which the character Another Kiva appears. Without going too much into deep "Kamen Rider" lore, Another Kiva is basically the demonized version of homicidal jilted lover Yuko Kitajima, who also happens to use a manhole lid as her weapon of choice.
▼ A montage of Yuko flipping her lid
Although the character’s appearance only lasted two episodes, she made an impact. This was in no small part due to the acting chops of Yumiko Shaku, who manages to make throwing a manhole cover around look very natural. Shaku’s role in "Kamen Rider Zi-O" earned her the title of “Manhole Joyu” (“Manhole Actress”).
“I wasn’t aware of it, but 'Kamen Rider Zi-O' really went viral,” Shaku told media, “It was like my name was associated with manhole covers, and I’m thankful that I got a lot of work from it.” She added with a laugh, “I will do my best as the Manhole Joyu from here on out.”
She said all this at a ceremony honoring her inauguration as the Yokohama Sewerage 150th Anniversary Public Relations Ambassador on July 26. She was also given a replica manhole lid to pose with for photos. Since Shaku is a Yokohama resident herself, the selection was all too ideal.
Readers of the news celebrated Shaku’s achievement, and some wondered if we should take this opportunity to rethink the way we view and speak about manholes.
“And so, the legend of Manhole Joyu begins.”
“Oh, I remember her from Mecha Godzilla!”
“Manholes are falling apart these days, so good for her to help fix them.”
“‘Manhole’ is a very sexist term. We really should start calling them ‘maintenance holes.’”
“She got the title of Manhole Joyu really quickly.”
“She should learn to do the sewer voice too.”
“Sewer voice” (geisuido voice) is a Japanese term among the many that describe that extremely low, guttural death metal voice. It would be pretty cool if Shaku could do that too, but we imagine she’ll be too busy to learn it during her tenure as PR Ambassador which will continue until March 31, 2023.
With the modern sewerage system of Yokohama turning 150 this year, many celebrations and awareness raising campaigns are surely planned. Shaku will play a central role in promoting and appearing at these events while she’s in office.
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