Noticing More: Pump it up!

The longer we spend observing and walking through the ordinary streets of Tokyo, the more reasons we find to enjoy the contradictions that we notice. We previously mentioned the use of handmade brooms (here). This time we have Tokyo’s water pumps our radar and just like the brooms they seem like a discrepancy against the backdrop of modern Tokyo.

Super Ordinary Life Tokyo Water Pumps 1

These old hand operated water pumps are called te-oshi-pompu and the more you noticing them, the more you will see around Tokyo. Most are a rusty, probably defunct and on the surface, they may seem to be part of the city’s disappearing souvenir of the past. However, they have a practicality that will keep them around for decades to come.

Super Ordinary Life Tokyo Water Pumps 3
Super Ordinary Life Tokyo Water Pumps 2.jpg

Japan straddles a major earthquake zone and these humble te-oshi-pompu, are hard-hitting reminders of the vulnerability of the water infrastructure in the face of natural disasters. Each time a large quake rears, homes in effected areas can be cut off from a water supply for days or weeks at a time. That’s when the brilliance of te-oshi-pompu as an alternative water supply comes into play.

In our own ward of Setagaya, the local authorities subsidise maintenance of many privately owns pumps and wells on the proviso that the owners agree to open the pumps and wells to the public in times of need. Now admittedly, most of the pumps we have spotted in our area look inoperative. However, there a couple that look well-maintained and it’s good to know that there are there.

It’s great isn’t it? That what we regard as vanishing and old technology continues to be a functional and valuable alternative solution in times of great need.