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Date 12 April 2022

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※The April edition was produced on the basis of information accurate as of March 15.

A Perfect Day in Tokyo 4/2022

Social studies field trip for adults
The Pumping Station at the Former Mikawashima Sewage Disposal Plant (Arakawa-ku)

You can enjoy cherry and azalea blossoms in spring
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Wastewater treatment is an essential part of daily life. The Pumping Station at the Former Mikawashima Sewage Disposal Plant is Japan’s first modern sewage treatment facility, constructed a century ago in 1922. It was a facility designed to pump up sewage that flowed deep underground to send it to the wastewater treatment facility aboveground. Even after it stopped operating in 1999, the buildings and equipment were carefully repaired and reconstructed in order to preserve them. Designated an Important Cultural Property of Japan, the Pumping Station at the Former Mikawashima Sewage Disposal Plant now offers staff-guided tours.

The tour of the Pumping Station follows a network of pipes that used to carry sewage. The first structure that captures your eyes is the chinsachi (grit chamber) consisting of two deep and elongated basins. This was the first pond the sewage entered. Wastewater generated from the area covering Shitaya, Asakusa, and Kanda was collected here to remove soil and other solid wastes. Its unreinforced concrete walls and arched structure utilized the latest technology and limited materials available at that time for maximum effect. You will be amazed by the creativity and ingenuity that went into it as well as its stately appearance.

The grit chamber is linked to pumps by underground sewer pipes, which cannot be seen from the ground. But by wearing a helmet and descending a flight of stairs, you can get inside the sewer channels that were actually used then. The vaulted sewers are just high and wide enough to accommodate an adult. Being there makes you feel as if you have wandered into a scene from a spy movie.

Now, return to the ground level and visit the last spot of the tour—the pump pit. Inside the large red-brick building, as many as ten sewage pumps are lined up. Cutting-edge technologies imported from abroad, including measuring instruments, are used profusely in this facility, suggesting how important and promising it was at that time.

The tour lasts about one and a half hours. Tracing its history and the thoughts of our predecessors may change your image of sewage treatment.

Two sewage pipes
connected from the grit chamber merge into a single channel

The Pumping Station at the Former Mikawashima Sewage Disposal Plant is a 3-minute walk from Arakawa-nichome Station on the Tokyo Sakura Tram (Toden Arakawa Line) or a 13-minute walk from Machiya Station on the Keisei Main Line or Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line. Located inside the Mikawashima Water Reclamation Center.

[The Pumping Station at the Former Mikawashima Sewage Disposal Plant]
Phone: 03-6458-3940.
Open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (on Tuesdays and Fridays).
Closed during the year-end and New Year period.
To enter the facility, you need to make a reservation via the website or phone.
Website (external link).

*This article is also available in other languages. (日本語中文한국어)