Is Japanese water safe to drink?

Nothing is worse than arriving in a foreign country and realizing you forgot to check if the water was safe to drink.

Fortunately, when it comes to Japan, you are perfectly safe to go ahead and fill your water bottle before navigating out of the airport.

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Globally, Japan falls in the top 10% of countries whose water is safe to drink.

In true Japanese efficiency, their water goes through a rigorous quality check process, meeting 51 different quality standards set by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

Quality control at its finest

These tests include checks for toxicity and harmful contaminants and looking at the water’s tint, clarity, and smell – only then will it be given the seal of approval.

Compare that to bottled water, which only needs to meet up to 18 different sets of criteria, and I think we may be onto a winner.

The Japanese water supply system is considered one of the best in the world, and as we said, their regulations regarding tap water are far more stringent than those for bottled water. Tokyo has approximately 27,000 kilometers of underground water mains.

The filtration plants don’t only make use of regular treatment procedures but have also incorporated highly advanced systems. These systems use a combination of ozone and biologically activated carbon to purify the water further.

Japan has invested heavily in both its water source and output. There is ongoing management of the forest areas surrounding the source and continual maintenance around the actual waterworks.

Believe it or not, they have ‘investigators’ constantly looking for leaks. 

This is done by placing a stethoscope-like instrument on the road, allowing them to listen for leaks. It may sound crazy, but it works, as Japan’s leak rate is around 2%, one of the world’s lowest.

Easy access to clean and safe water

Is Japanese water safe to drink? 1

One of the advantages of traveling in Japan is that water is freely available.

Take a seat in any shop and have some affordable bowl of ramen or expensive pizza; a glass of water will be on the way before you have time to ask. There is an abundance of water or drinking fountains that can be found just about anywhere, from government buildings to department stores, as well as in all their parks.

Just a note: some fountains have 2 taps; the tap on the top is for drinking, while the lower tap is for washing your hands or for animals to quench their thirst.

But don’t worry; they are labeled to avoid any confusion.

You may notice that the water tastes differently because Japanese water is considered ‘soft’. Soft water contains fewer trace elements of magnesium and calcium than ‘hard’ water, generally found in the West.

Some foodies claim the ‘soft’ water makes dishes like tofu and soba taste delicious.

If we haven’t convinced you yet, don’t worry, as Japan is the land of vending machines, and your bottled water will be easily found!

Can you drink tap water in Tokyo?

Tap water in Tokyo is consistently safe to drink, in the same way raw eggs in Japan are safe to eat.

It is subject to strict regulations regarding water quality, and so is kept at a high level of safety.

Some information shows that Tokyo has higher water contamination levels than other cities in Japan, but they are still well within acceptable levels for general consumption.

Some people may notice a difference in the water’s taste or ‘hardness’, largely due to the difference in minerals naturally contained in the water. When this is the case, an easy fix is to use a water filter on the tap.

Some people find the difference between hard and soft water can lead to skin or hair issues when showering, but again it is easy to find water filter shower heads to help adjust the hardness and quality of the water.

Overall, while the taste and hardness may differ from what you’re used to, the safety and quality of Tokyo tap water is very high, and it is most definitely safe to drink.

Can you drink tap water in hotels in Japan?

Hotels in Japan have safe drinking water available from the tap. Tap water in Japan is generally considered safe and is well-regulated with filtering and purifying plants.

Some people find that hotel water can taste a little stale and prefer not to drink it, but it is safe if you choose to consume it. If you prefer not to drink it, most hotels have vending machines inside or just outside.

More expensive hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese hot spring inns) often provide complimentary bottled water. Another option is to use a reusable water bottle with a filter attached.

These are all options if you choose not to drink hotel water based on personal taste preferences. Regarding the most crucial question of whether tap water is drinkable, the answer is a resounding yes.

Tap water in Japan, including hotel tap water, is safe for drinking.