The efforts to promote tap water through the Tokyo Tap Water Project are evident around town. A water fountain shaped like a water droplet installed near Tokyo Station, a tap-water-tasting booth at a festival—all in the name of spreading the word about a tasty and very cheap source of refreshment.
At one of these events, I’d heard that about 60% of the human body is made of water, so in pursuit of finding out where much of that water was coming from, I went to the source—not the Tone River but rather the historical source, as laid out at the Tokyo Waterworks Historical Museum.
When you walk inside, the first “person” you are greeted by is Drippy, the droplet-shaped mascot of Tokyo Waterworks who also happens to be an Aries. Admission is free, but since the exhibit explanations are mostly written in Japanese, the museum lends out free audio guidance equipment in English, Chinese and Korean as well as in Japanese.
First, you’ll want to take a look at the exhibits on the second floor, where you’ll step back into Edo-Era Japan. Here, you can gaze at maps of the original “Josui” waterworks system, which was first commissioned by Tokugawa Ieyasu in the 16th century, and look upon excavated Edo-Era wooden water pipes.
In one corner on the second floor, I was surprised to hear whispering and clanking. Sure that the museum was haunted, I turned a corner to find recreations of traditional Edo houses, complete with speakers broadcasting sounds of everyday life and examples of water use in the Edo Era.
Before heading back downstairs, you might also want to take a taste of Tokyo’s own tap water from the unassuming water fountain at the far end of the room.
On the first floor, you’ll find more about modern waterworks, from the Meiji Era up to the present. While the first floor does have modern-era wells and cast-iron pipes on display, it is heavier on videos, which depict technical and historical aspects of the waterworks. One video in particular that caught my attention showed waterworks employees who are trained to listen for faulty pipes through the ground.
The Tokyo Waterworks Historical Museum holds events such as concerts, historical movies screenings and kid-friendly experiments related to waterworks, so check out the events page on the Japanese version of the Tokyo Waterworks Historical Museum for more information.
After having visited the Tokyo Waterworks Historical Museum, with every glass of fresh Tokyo tap water I drink, I always try to spare a thought for Tokugawa Ieyasu and the fine folks at the Tokyo Waterworks.
Tokyo Waterworks Historical Museum
Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (last entry at 16:30)
Closed: Fourth Monday of every month (or following day if Monday is a holiday), December 12 – January 4
Entry fee: Free
Address: 2 Chome-7-1 Hongō Bunkyō-ku, Tōkyō-to〒113-0033 (8 minutes by foot from several stations, including Ochanomizu Station, Suidobashi Station)
Telephone: 03 (5802) 9040