Wastewater management systems are as crucial to modern urban landscapes as they are invisible to the people they serve. The Sewerage Science Musuem in Osaka seeks to draw back the curtain and foster appreciation for the importance and complexity of the city’s sewers.
Upon arriving at the museum, visitors can check out the petting aquarium near the entrance, then choose whether to go down to the basement or up to the five floors above. The basement offers a variety of ways to begin the wastewater learning journey. You can learn about ancient sewers around the world, play a head-to-head video game that takes you on a rally race through Osaka’s own “underground river,” or climb around in the Labyrinth of Sewer Pipes. The basement also includes the Underground Explorer, and 4D audiovisual capsule that takes you on an adventure through underground sites around the world, from the Paris Métro to a skeleton-filled cemetery (may cause motion sickness; tickets available at museum entrance).
The upper floors contain displays and activities that provide further information about the importance of water and the science behind sewage management. The third floor is dedicated entirely to advanced wastewater treatment technology and, in particular, showcases the Maishima sludge center. Visitors can also peruse the sewer and water library, then test their knowledge with a sewer quiz.
The fourth floor focuses on the mechanics of water removal and features hands-on simulations of various rain intensities (going up to 100ml per hour), a video game involving storm drain maintenance to protect the city from flooding in a deluge, and a special interactive exhibit where visitors become sewage and find themselves exploring the Osaka’s sewer system with a special short trip through the sewage treatment process. This is your chance to both enter a giant toilet seat and learn all about the modern miracle of wastewater management simultaneously!
The fifth floor is the museum’s “Water Wonderland,” providing information about the unique properties of water, as well as the relationship between water and the global environment. This floor includes a 12-minute 3D movie in the “Theater of Water.” The entire sixth floor is a thermostatic botanical garden were bananas, tomatoes, pineapples, cucumbers, and more are grown hydroponically using processed water and the heat from the treatment process.
The Sewerage Science Museum was built on the site of the Ebie Sewage Treatment plant in 1995 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Osaka’s modern sewage works. It welcomes 100,000 visitors per year, and is always free.
Update as of March 2021: The Sewerage Science Museum is closed indefinitely for renovation.
Know Before You Go
The museum is open 9:30 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Sunday. Easy-to-follow signs offer directions from Yodogawa Station. Admission is always free. Most exhibits are only in Japanese (including the 4D experience of underground sites). As well, the museum is largely pointed at children, except for very detailed engineering flow charts of sewage sludge treatment by the company. Those descriptions, with my diagrams and flow rates, is complex but very interesting.