VOX POPULI: Ancient Rome, architects of the ancient masters of Edo water supply



The ruins of massive Roman aqueducts, built to supply cities with water from distant sources, are still found today in countries of Europe that were once territories of the Roman Empire.

When I first looked at one of these monumental sites, I whispered in awe, “Why the hell did the Romans build such amazing structures just to carry water?” “

This question revealed my lamentable ignorance. I mean, I never imagined what life could be like without running water.

In truth, the ancient capital of Japan, Edo (now Tokyo) could not have existed without technology allowing the installation of a vast underground network of wooden water pipes.

These extraordinary structures still operate today, both underground and above ground, supporting our daily lives.

But their deterioration due to age is a matter of serious concern.

According to a report by Asahi Shimbun, 40 years is the legal lifespan of water pipes, but about 17% of existing pipes are now older than that. The main reason is the lack of repair funds due to the decrease in the population of the country, which results in a decrease in the income of the water services.

I was recently alarmed by the collapse on October 3 of a bridge across a river in Wakayama Prefecture. The bridge carried pipes that supplied water to the town of Wakayama, where 60,000 households had no running water for a week.

It reminded me vividly how much the daily life of many people can depend on a single bridge.

The philosopher Tetsuro Watsuji (1889-1960) wrote in his seminal work “Fudo” that the ability to provide running water was what enabled the Roman Empire to build metropolises, while ancient Greece, which existed long before the birth of Rome, did not attempt this feat and its cities remained on a smaller scale.

The history of civilization has progressed along with population growth and the development of water services.

But depopulation will not change the fact that the water supply will always remain a lifeline.

It has been said in the past that “the Japanese think water and security are free”.

But today, raising funds has become an urgent task if we are to continue to use water.

–L’Asahi Shimbun, October 25

* * *

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that covers a wide range of topics including culture, the arts, and social trends and developments. Written by veteran writers from Asahi Shimbun, the column offers useful insights and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.


Previous Heavy rains cause roof leaks and raise liability questions
Next After 50 years, the mayor of Short Street hangs up his tools