As you can tell from this title, we’re talking about Pokemon manholes today. Specifically, the ones that were installed very recently in temple town several stops away from Nara Park.
But before that, I do want to talk a bit about manholes.
Manholes are a bit of a novelty in Japan to start with. If you’ve been to multiple cities and consciously looked down on the streets, you might notice that the manhole you’re stepping on (or next to) has a different design than the one in a different city. Yes, pretty much every city or region has their own manhole design that reflects something they’re famous for - a landmark, local specialty, historical figure, etc. And it’s ok if you missed it, there are tons of social media accounts that document them.
Pokemon manholes, or Poke Lids, sort of took it to the next level.
(Poke Lids sound a lot cuter than manholes)
From what I recall, the idea came about at a Pokemon Parade in Yokohama. They were only supposed to last the duration of that year’s event. But the idea probably gained enough traction to garner permanent ones, and that they did. Shortly after, a surge of them began popping up in other parts of Japan. The first areas to install them were Ibutsuki in Kagoshima. And the first entire prefecture to get prefectural-wide lids was Kagawa Prefecture. Eventually they slapped out the ones in Iwate Prefecture, and now there’s hundreds of them... somewhere.
To be honest, I haven’t been keeping track.
I particularly remember the Ibutsuki ones, as they were released a few months after I had returned from a trip there. (beautiful onsen town!) And I had vowed to seek them out the next time I was in Kagoshima...
(spoiler alert: it didn’t happen - I drove out to Cape Sata instead lol)
It also gained lots of traction due to it being a set of Eeveelution lids. And the fact that it wasn’t in a big city where it was easily searchable gave people looking for them a sense of adventure. Or just outright annoying, depending on how you see it and what mode of transport you have.
But of course, in the age of google maps, it really didn’t take long for people to unofficially log their location. (This was a time before Poke Lids had a website logging its location)
Either way, these lids were meant to help with tourism - the Pokemon chosen is suppose to reflect the place it represents. In the case of Ibutsuki, the initial sound of Eevee sounds like the initial sound in Ibutsuki (the “ee” sound). A bit of a stretch if you ask me, but it certainly does the job to put this town on the map for Pokemon fans like me.
Though... I guess I don’t really count if I already know Ibutsuki before this?
The Kagawa ones are a bit less of a stretch, but equally so. Slowpoke, or the Japanese name “Yadon” sounds like the word “udon”, which is a prefectural specialty. In their defense though, Slowpoke had already been somewhat of an official Pokemon mascot to Kagawa before the lids were install. The last time I was in Takamatsu (before they installed the lids), you can find Slowpoke goods for sale at gift shops. So I’d give them a pass on that.
I’d say a lot of these are name-related initially. Iwate Prefecture got slapped on with a bunch of rock-type Pokemon as “Iwa” in Japanese meant rock.
And then... I don’t know. They just kind of gave up?
Or at least figured it wasn’t going to work out. They probably realized there’s a bunch of Pokemon out there that they still need to slap on, but not enough Prefectures for them to go around making them meaningful. If the existing prefecture has an associating Pokemon Tourist Ambassadors (TIL that this is even a thing), they will make one lid for that Pokemon. And the rest features other Pokemon, while featuring local specialties.
That’s pretty much what they’ve done at Ikaruga in Nara Prefecture.
They had announced 5 new Poke Lids in January 2021, so it’s fairly recent. And as you will see in my photos, they all look very brand new. They’re also kind of strategically placed so that there’s not so much foot traffic or cars that will roll on by without a care in the world, so it helps preserve the designs.
The best part is that they’re all within walking distance from one another.
From Horyuji Station
I took the JR Yamatoji Rapid Service towards Nara Station and Kamo Station. You should not need to switch trains, as the rapid serves every station after Oji Station - including Horyuji Station.
When you get out of the ticket gates, you should turn left - if I recall correctly. You want to be heading north. We will be following the path north to Horyuji Temple. All the Lids are scattered on the way to this temple, which is about a 10-15 minute walk, depending on how fast you walk. This entire path is flat and accessible, though there is one overhead bridge you need to across to reach a Poke Lid faster (avoidable though if you just walk further for the traffic lights instead, and back-tracking).
Hunting Poke Lids
Upon exiting the station, don’t walk off just yet! Your first Poke Lid should be very close (almost next) to the stairs you just came down from. Have a look around first!
Now, you want to make your way westwards onto a bigger road. On google maps, it says that it is Route 5. Basically, just navigate through the small neighborhood streets westward until you hit a big two lane road. Then head north.
This is where the chunk of your Poke Lids will be. There are three of them on this road.
There are two on the right side (southbound traffic), and one on the left side.
You will come on to your second Poke Lid on the right side, past a bank. It’s actually tucked next to on a gate on a driveway into a building next to the bank.
Coming onto a third and fourth one - they’re actually right across from each other on opposite sides of the road. They’re both underneath an overpass pedestrian bridge, next to a bench/small rest area.
That’s the overpass bridge from the left side of the street you want to look for. This is facing north - towards the direction we are going.
These are the shops on your right side you should be seeing before you hit the overpass (the overpass is behind me in this photo - confusing, I know - sorry!):
Your third Poke Lid, like I said, is by some benches near the overpass:
Let’s go onto the overpass:
Decent view of the south end here! Not great, but good enough.
It’s not particularly a huge road... but there’s a lot of traffic here even on a weekday, so I wouldn’t recommend jaywalking across. Not that I’d recommend this at all to begin with! (don’t jaywalk!!!)
Your fourth Poke Lid, is over the bridge I was just on (if you’re able) and down the stairs right next to the overpass. Also by the rest area on that side of the overpass.
Now we're down to the last one. Keep to the left side of the street until you get to this restaurant with the sign boards that point to Horyuji Temple. This is actually part of a Nara cycling path, thus why there's many signs.
Keep following this street until you see more signs:
And here we are, the entrance of Horyuji! We're already at the shrine.
But we haven't found the 5th Poke Lid yet, you say. Oh don't worry, we're close. Just wait!
The 5th Poke Lid
Cross the street go to the right side - there's a souvenir shop, information center and a parking lot. When you see the entrance to the information center, then you're close by. The 5th and final Poke Lid is tucked near a sitting area just a ways away from this building:
Here it is! The fifth Poke Lid:
They saved the "best" pokemon for last. Such a majestic dude.
This blog is getting a little bit long, so I will end this here. But I do want to take you through the entire Horyuji complex with me, and some of smaller temples further into Ikaruga Town - so stay tuned for my upcoming blog on that!
As always, thanks for checking this blog out!
Once traveling is safe again, I hope all of you will get a chance to see these new Poke Lids in person and explore Horyuji like I did! Until next blog!! :)