Tokyo Flooding

Photographer Christoffer Rudquist explores the temples and tunnels of Tokyo’s vast network of storm drains. Built between 1996 and 2003, this $3 billion structure is an ingenious defence against catastrophic flooding.

  • Words + Photography: Christoffer Rudquist

Surprisingly – for an area built on a flood plain and an active volcanic belt, and beset by frequent typhoons – the small fishing village of Edo would, by the 18th century, become the de facto capital of Japan. Yet Tokyo, as it became known in 1868, is now the largest megacity on the planet, swelling over some 13,500 square kilometres to house more than 50 million people, despite the myriad of geological challenges it faces.

A panel in the pump room.

Flooding is nothing new to Tokyo and its surrounding area, but with the region’s rapid urbanisation since the middle of the 20th century, the threat of catastrophic flooding has grown ever more severe; a typhoon in 1991, for example, flooded 100 square kilometres, over 30,000 homes and caused the deaths of 52 people. With existing defences struggling and urban space at a premium, the government’s engineers looked underground.

The result was the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel, a series of vast concrete silos built between 1993 and 2006 that each drain five rivers – stretching from the Oootoshifurutone in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, to the drainage pump station at the Edo River in the city itself – connected by a 6.3km-long channel.

One of the gas-powered pumps, rated with an output of 10,300kw, that are quieter and smaller than the diesel pumps used in similar, smaller flood drainage systems.

With each silo around 70 metres tall and 30 metres wide – large enough to fit the Statue of Liberty or a space shuttle inside – it is the biggest storm drain in the world. Though the cost of the project – $3 billion – was remarkable, the consequences of not undertaking the project would have been greater. As Takayuki Yabe, the system’s subsection chief, explains, “If it was not built, there would have already been cases in which flooding damage was enormous.”

Article taken from
Articles

Further Reading

The Frontiers of First Aid

Combat medic LCpl Hangam Rai - who has himself narrowly escaped death in Afghanistan - takes Avaunt through the essential kit for survival on the battlefield.

Castro, Cousteau and I

In 1985 Jacques Cousteau visited Cuba. He stepped off his legendary ship, Calypso, and into the welcoming arms of Fidel Castro. From the Plaza de la Revolución to the bottom of the sea, Paula DiPerna looks back on the months she spent with the unlikely pair.

Up Close: Ergol #6

Photographer Vincent Fournier’s ‘Space Project’ series displays a fascination with space through an archive of the most significant hubs in the world.

Art in the Wilderness

Wildlife artists Olly and Suzi have travelled to the high Arctic, desert and jungle to push themselves and their art to the limit. The difficulties they have encountered have become intrinsic to their work.

Peter Freuchen

Shot here by Irving Penn in 1947, we commemorate the life of the Danish explorer, author, journalist and anthropologist who discovered Inuit culture, resisted the Nazis and won 'The $64,000 Question'.

Up Close: Pools

Photographer Stephan Zirwes’ ‘Pool’ series illustrates the incredible waste of potential drinking water – not only in private pools but also in the privatisation of a public asset for commercial reasons.
Browse by Category