Splashing around Tokyo’s water infrastructure

An overview of the various ways that Tokyo has been shaped by its relationship with water, from flood plains to aqueducts to dams and irrigation.

the tokyo files 東京ファイル


The two toilets shown above are typical of Japan: one is playfully guarded by Godzilla; the other has a faucet used for hand-washing that also refills the tank. This simple water-saving design is completely foreign to a visiting American. My friends refused to use the toilet/faucet, convinced that the water was “dirty”.

The “water-saving toilet” 節水型トイレ is an illustration of Japan’s intricate relationship with water. A stroll through Tokyo will reveal old water towers, tall levees, and extensive canals. Tokyo’s water infrastructure dates back to the early days of Edo, but it wasn’t until after WWII that its water became both plentiful AND safe. The American occupation led to a variety of public health improvements including immunization, vaccination, and cleaner water supplies (these are credited with preventing the deaths of 2.1 million Japanese (1). Until this time, water often flowed via uncovered aqueducts, allowing the spread of water-borne…

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