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Tokyo enlists civilian 'water monitors' to prove its water is tasty

By Scott R Dixon

Even though tap water in Tokyo is perfectly safe to drink, and in most cases indistinguishable from bottled water, the metropolitan government is concerned about the bad rap it gets from citizens who will not give it a try. In October, the Bureau of Waterworks, charged with providing clean and tasty water for Japan’s largest metropolitan area, wrapped up a 25-year-long project to connect the majority of Tokyo residents to great-tasting and specially treated water from the Tone River system.

According to an NHK article, the government agency wants to get the word out that their water is just as good as any store-bought bottled water and has asked 700 private citizens all over Tokyo to become “water monitors” and test their home’s tap water for minerals and judge its quality.

The Tokyo government has had plenty of complaints about its water in the past when customers frequently called in to express their displeasure with the “inferior quality” of the nastiness coming from their taps. (They should see how things are in other countries…)

To improve the taste of Tokyo, the water authority started a massive project back in the 1980s to place advanced treatment water facilities in five areas around Tokyo.

In addition to the normal treatment process, these plants would also add an extra purification step where disinfecting ozone would be added to the water to kill odor-causing bacteria. Activated charcoal is also added to encourage bacteria-eating microorganisms to breed. With the addition of the ozone and charcoal, the water agency can reduce the amount of chlorine, improving the water’s smell and taste.

But even with all that hard work, changing people’s minds about tap water is apparently harder than rerouting rivers and sanitizing the water supply for one of the world’s most populated cities. Of course, there are many reasons your water may taste bad, such as a bad water filter or poor plumbing at your apartment, but Tokyo really wants its water to have a better reputation.

When the Tokyo government polled about 3,600 people and businesses, only 52% said they were satisfied with their city’s water and 16% said they were dissatisfied. Not surprisingly, the main reason people gave was that they did not like the taste of tap water.

And since the best way to respond to this issue is to rally public opinion in your favor, the government agency will be starting an amateur water monitoring system in the next few weeks to have its own citizens prove the excellency of Tokyo water. About 700 of these monitors will soon be observing and recording the quality of their home’s tap water to show on the water bureau’s webpage for all to see.

The monitors will have a test kit and be able to detect different levels of minerals in the water and also be asked to judge their water’s taste and smell. The Tokyo government hopes that by people seeing a visualization of their tap water quality, it will inspire more of its residents to forgo bottled mineral water and drink from the tap, which is something we’re sure the environment will also thank them for.

Source: NHK

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Fresh Mount Fuji spring water without all the climbing -- The amazing disaster relief equipment of Japan’s Self Defense Force -- Smart Gadget Provides Clean Drinking Water in an Emergency

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This is good to know. It used to taste awful. Seems to taste better now, I won't be buying anymore bottled water.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If it doesn't have taste, it is good water. Water doesn't have a taste if it is pure.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Unfortunately they have to add chlorine to drinking water to prevent microbial infection while the water is on its way to the customer, especially in summer when the probability of such contamination is higher. This is just the way it works. Those roof-top water tanks can contain anything from microbes / algae (especially summer), dry leaves (mainly autumn) and the occasional dead insects, lizards and unlucky cats.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Don't they pay people to do the same thing on TV shows? "Mmmmmmmmm, this tastes good!" "Oh my god! This is the best taste ever!" And exactly what does water contaminated with radiation smell and taste like? Just askin.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Can we have some in Osaka as well? The water tastes horrible here. Using a filter to clean out the taste.

3 ( +2 / -0 )

I don't think taste is the point. They should be looking at what is in the water. I'm sure that anybody who has lived in Tokyo for a while has noticed a pink scum that builds up in drains and on the water level of the toilet. It is lead oxide! The geniuses that designed the infrastructure during the 1920's decided to use lead lined pipes for drinking water. They have spent the last thirty odd years replacing them, but still have a long way to go. And, of course, there is still large amounts of lead oxide within the piping system. In case you don't know, the common name for lead oxide is, Red Lead, which they use to use on hulls of ships until it was banned in many countries. I won't drink Tokyo water. I don't even want to bathe in it!

0 ( +5 / -5 )


I was also wondering what that pink scum was when I first came to Japan because I had never seen it before back in Europe and my first thought was minium (a Pb-oxyde) as well, just like yours, but then did some research which convinced me it is probably bacterial. Google for Serratia genus.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What about radiation?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )


It was way before Fukushima, if that's what you are alluding to.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yep those nasty tanks on top of buildings all over Tokyo are a real contributor to bad tasting water or worse!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If I leave any water in a cup in the office in Yokohama, there's always a small pink/ brown deposit when it completely evaporates. Go away for a week or so, the water is brown and cloudy when I turn on the tap for the first minute. Not exactly confidence inspiring…

I'll stick to water filters on all the outlets.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Water isn't 'tasty' if there is nothing added or contained in it. There's a reason for the expression 'watered down'. I've also never really understood the need to 'prove' something that does not need proving.

At the very least, it should be 'prove it does not taste bad' and not 'tasty' would be more accurate, though I realize, of course, it's not such a positive compaign to start off by asking people to prove something doesn't taste bad.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It may be safe to drink, but the water in Japan is almost certainly the reason why an enormous proportion of Japanese have bad teeth (ie) multiple fillings

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

the water in Japan is almost certainly the reason why an enormous proportion of Japanese have bad teeth (ie) multiple fillings

Evidence? My kids have grown up drinking Japanese mains water and they both have great teeth, no fillings.

It's my impression that the reason for multiple fillings in Japan is that many people don't go to the dentist - or take their kids to the dentist - until and unless they have toothache, ie it's already too late. When I mention to friends that I have a dental appointment, their immediate reaction is that I must have toothache; the idea of going in for a checkup and plaque removal is not widespread, though my dentist tells me she is managing to persuade more and more people to come in for regular checks.

As for pure water having no taste - true I suppose, but good luck trying to get 'pure' water out of the tap or even out of a bottle, apart from the distilled water you might use to clean your contact lenses. Where water comes from and how it's treated determine what's in it and how it tastes, that why different parts of a country (not just Japan) have hard water or soft water, depending what's in the ground the water passes through on its way to the reservoir/waterworks. And of course if it's sitting for days or weeks in the summer in a rooftop tank containing bacteria, mould and the occasional dead pigeon, that's going to affect the taste.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Specially treated water? Thanks, but no thanks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Having done extensive pipe replacent work in a small city near Tokyo, let me say this - If you could see the inside of the main water pipes for yourself, you would never drink unfiltered tap water again. After I started that job and saw how much of each pipe (some 50 cm. in diameter) was clogged with rust, I have only drunk water that has been filtered.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

700 water monitors, plus 500 food monitors, all unpaid. The government has to rely on amateurs to check what is sold to consumers here...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Cleo. Yes, in every situation there are exceptions to the rule. I didnt say all Japanese. The water here doesnt contain fluoride. On the other hand I see people here brushing there teeth 3 times a day, but I see little in the way of flossing. Lack of it could also play a part

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

When I came to Tokyo 40 years ago it was like drinking water out of a swimming pool, but I agree it is much better now.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Don't worry. The water is safe. So says Abe. That's why he is eating Fukushima rice. Die for your country.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Maybe when you have lived long enough in Tokyo you don't notice it any more, but for me, chlorine isn't tasty.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Next we'll find out that big cities have been mislabelling their water for years, and it's actually produced in China :P

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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