A total of more than 1 million collectible cards featuring pictures of manhole covers with unique local designs have been issued in Japan since distribution began in April last year, a group promoting the cards has said.

“No item published by the sewage industry had topped the milestone before,” an official of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said about news of the cards success.

The manhole card project was initiated by the Gesuido Koho (sewage publicity) Platform group (GKP), which is made up of officials from the ministry and the Japan Sewage Works Association.

The collectibles, which are 6.3 cm wide by 8.8 cm long and resemble baseball cards, are issued by local governments.

On the front is a photo of a manhole cover together with its geographic coordinates. An explanation of the background of the design is written on the reverse side. The cards are available for free at designated locations, including sewage treatment facilities and tourist information centers, with one card given to each person in principle.

In April last year, the first series of 30 different manhole cards from municipalities in 18 of the nation’s 47 prefectures were released. Following the release of the fifth series earlier this year, a total of 227 different cards from 46 prefectures are now available.

In Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, information about one manhole cover’s design has been translated into English and is printed on the back of the card together with Japanese.

Some of the cards proved extraordinarily popular, with stocks running out less than a month after release and requiring a reprint, according to GKP.

“The manhole cards are popular probably because they are issued under the same format and people can get them easily,” a GKP official said. “Active campaigns by local governments have paid off.”

A travel agency in Saitama Prefecture has developed a bus tour that allows participants to collect manhole cards. A total of four such tours have been carried out since June.

The sixth series of the cards is scheduled for a December release.

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