Tokyo used to be a water-based capital
Tokyo is now one of the largest capitals in the world. However, only four hundred years ago it was just a small fishing village, most of which lay in the basin of the River Tone. It suffered frequently from floods. The rapid development of the Tokyo (formerly called Edo) region owes much to the establishment of the Shogunate in Edo by the Tokugawa family in 1603. The family had implemented a program of water management, including the construction of a water transport system as well as the diverting of the Tone (and later the Ara) in order to prevent flooding. Under this program, some parts of the rivers were reclaimed and turned into paddy fields. Waterways were also constructed for the purpose of transporting agricultural and other products from all over Japan and from the Saitama hinterland. Another important project was the construction of circular moats to protect the castle of Edo.These works formed the foundation upon which, within just 130 years, Edo developed into one of the largest cities in the world, with a population over 1,000,000 in 1721 (compared with 500,000 in London and under 500,000 in Paris).

It is no exaggeration to say that the history of Edo's development is the history of the development of its water system. Towards the end of the Edo Period, the prosperity of water transport and the development of a socio-economic block along the rivers led to the creation of wealthy commercial areas along the Sumida River, which was where the mercantile culture of Edo also developed. The many Tokyo place-names that contain the words "hashi (or "bashi")", meaning "bridge", such as Nihonbashi & Kandabashi, "hori (or "bori" )" (moat), like Hacchobori and "ike" (pond), like Tameike, still remind us of Tokyo's history as a capital founded on water.

By the time of the Meiji Restoration (1868), Edo had been renamed Tokyo. It was a city in which steam locomotives and Western-style brick buildings had become symbols of contemporary civilization. The popularity of brick buildings was short-lived, because they were not suited to Japan's very humid weather. The rail network, however, established itself as the principal mode of transport.

The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 effectively destroyed Tokyo, which was rebuilt and modernized. The city was completely destroyed once again in 1945, this time by the air raids of the Second World War. The outer moats and downtown waterways were subsequently reclaimed. Following the city's speedy rehabilitation after the end of the war, and again during the preparations for the 1964 Olympics,Tokyo underwent a chaotic process of reconstruction in a period of high economic growth. Most of the smaller rivers and dykes were reclaimed and eventually replaced by roads and highways. In order to accommodate the rising population, houses were built on this reclaimed land.

Now,Tokyo is a land-based, rather than a water-based, capital. Relatively few people remember that Tokyo's enormous development was founded on water, thanks to the wisdom of our predecessors, who created an extensive network of moats and waterways, as well as engaging in river diversion, reclamation and irrigation.

Many of us today think of water merely as what comes out of the tap; simply because many of the moats, waterways and rivers are now below ground and out of sight. Together,we want to learn more about water, its role, its dangers and the blessings that it confers.

Water in Rome
We have been always interested in Rome, because the present waterworks was developed at the time of the Roman Empire. When we discovered ACEA (Azienda Comunale Energia e Ambiente)- a unique multi-utility company engaged in many aspects of water management, ranging from fresh water collection, abstraction and distribution to sewerage system management and a whole range of electrical energy undertakings -we promptly decided to visit this organization, in order to learn how Rome's water is managed.

Their Mr. Dominicis called for us at our small hotel and took us to the company's distribution center in EUR, the Centro Idrico, an unmanned but beautifully designed facility. He and Mr. Cesari told us many interesting things about Rome's water.

ACEA supplies water to the residents of over 60 municipalities as well as to the people of Rome. Most of it is spring water from a grotto at Peschiera, (400 meters above sea level). The water is gravity-fed, as it was in Ancient Rome, to the company's distribution center (37 meters above sea level) in EUR. The quantity of spring water produced, mainly in Peschiera and Capore, is as much as 15 tons per second, and it is so pure that the use of chlorine as a disinfectant is virtually unnecessary. Within the distribution center, the water is channeled into a spiral duct that winds around a central cylinder. This technique, which was employed in Ancient Rome, ensures that the water is constantly flowing and thus that it is kept clean.

We are looking forward to see the remains of an ancient Roman aqueduct that ran underground beneath the Villa Medici, which is at the top of the Spanish Steps and a water spring in Peschiera.

The Daily Record of Paddy Field D
Last year, for the first time, we (but not the farmers) accepted the challenge of growing rice with organic fertilizers and with little or no agricultural chemicals. This year, our membership, including students, increased from last year's eight to sixteen. What we call Paddy Field D is a 660-tsubo (22- are) plot of land lent to us by the Saitama Prefectural Government, and is part of the Minuma Paddy Field, 20 kilometers from the Metropolitan area. Last year, we had a good harvest of 7.5 hyo (450 kg) .

Historically,there are only a few countries anywhere in the world which have established rice farming as their key industry. Japanese people are now eating less and less rice. The area devoted to paddy fields, where people and nature live in harmony, has dramatically decreased and farmers are being encouraged to reduce the sizes of the paddy fields that they are cultivating.

In addition to the fall in the consumption of rice, rice farming itself is open to criticism, because it uses vast quantities of water at a time when one third of the world's population is suffering from drought. However, we believe that rice farming has been a key element in the establishment of the unique Japanese culture. We are learning how to farm rice because we want to pass on to future generations not only the rice growing technology, but also the paddy fields that have been so fundamental to the evolution of the Japanese way of life and which are essential to our ability to be self-supporting.

This said, rice growing is a really difficult undertaking. We had a problem with damaged roots, which made us realize that we had a lot to learn. This we are still striving to do. The measure of our success will be revealed in the next edition .....

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