In the Sannomaru area of Mito, where traditional Edo-period Japanese buildings remain, there stands a rather out-of-place Western dome. The bright structure is a defunct water tower, which once played a crucial role in distributing water throughout the city.
In 1932, the modern water system was introduced to Mito. To best distribute all the water, the planners split the city into two zones. Though the upper city tower was a typical steel structure, the one made for the downtown zone was highly decorative.
The Gothic-style tower is over 70 feet tall. The entrance has elaborate decorations including two triangular windows and a plum, as plum is the flower of Mito. The letter 水 in the center represents both water and Mito (水戸).
Inside the building, the first floor has a spiral staircase that leads to the upper levels. On the third level, there are two reliefs of fire hoses, suggesting the water was also used to combat the occasional blaze. Reliefs also adorn windows on the first and the second floors. On the top, behind the blue dome, is the huge water tank.
The beautiful tower was designed and supervised by an experienced water engineer named Tsurumatsu Goto. He was so passionate about his project that he named his daughter who was born on the first anniversary of the groundbreaking ceremony Tomiko (塔美子), which translates to “tower-beauty-child.”
Though his creation is now defunct, the surrounding area is now used as a small park. A shed for the water flow system, also designed by Goto, stands next to the tower. A metalsmith hut remains nearby. The park also exhibits reconstructed rock gutters used in Edo-era Japan.
Know Before You Go
It's a 15-minute walk from the north exit of Mito Station (JR Joban Line, JR Mito Line, JR Suigun Line, and Kashima Rinkai Raiway).