Tap water in Japan, is it safe to drink?
Drive around Japan in your camper and you will get thirsty soon.
So, should you keep buying bottled water, or is it safe to drink tap water everywhere? Even outside big cities like Tokyo and Osaka?
The short answer is Yes
Yep, you can safely drink water from the tap anywhere in Japan. Inside, outside, in parks and from taps in public toilets and stations. It is perfectly normal for many people to do so while on the road, and for kids playing outside. Most Japanese drink tap water at home too, and so do I.
How about the long answer?
Should you follow that? As anywhere in the world, that depends on your body. Not all tap water has the same mineral content, for example. It can be perfectly safe to drink but still upset your stomach. Annoying to say the least. Surely not worth your precious holiday time, especially when a camping car does not usually have a toilet on board in Japan. What?! Yes, do read about differences between rental campers in Japan and elsewhere. So the long answer would be No, better avoid systematically drinking from the tap on your holidays, also in Japan. If you like, read many more details about Japanese tap water.
Where to buy your drinking water
You can buy bottled water anywhere and convenience is king. So at convenience stores you get 2 liter bottles at anytime of day or night. Two liter for under 100yen, say 1 dollar, so the price is no problem. Either fill up your camping car every now and again, or include them in even bigger volumes from a real supermarket.
Environmental considerations: stop plastic bottles!
Plastic bottles are handy but they pollute so we do not want to buy (too m)any. Personally, I prefer drinking from the tap for this reason. Actually, as you may have noticed, before I used to recommend doing just that.
How? Buy a new, clean jerrycan at the start of your trip, and 1,5 meter of plastic hose tube for easy filling-up from taps and washing bassins on the road. In most mall-complexes you will find DIY-related stores and you do not need any Japanese skills to buy these items.
But it is still a bit of an extra hassle for most of us. And not all sources in the countryside feel safe to tap from. Even though they should be. Because if not, they will have a signboard telling you that. In Japanese, sometimes with English added. In any case you can guess the meaning easily if you see a tap with a sign on it. So now what?
The verdict: tap or buy
As in good politics, the answer is in satisfying both camps. Buy several 2 liter bottles of water at your first shopping stop. Drink them, and re-fill them when you come across a good-looking tap. It will be safe, convenient and better for the environment too. You can refill your small water bottles for hikes and explorations too.
So no need to buy that plastic jerrycan anymore. How about that handy piece of hose tube for easy refilling? Best case, camper rental companies should provide it with your rental. As Go Camper Japan I will try to get that organised, be sure to ask when you pick up your car.
Handy tips and advantages of plastic water bottles:
- relatively small and square 2 liter bottles are easy to stow away in the small compartments of your camper
- they are not so heavy to carry when shopping
- when cooking outside, on that picnick-table-on-the-edge-of-that-cliff-at-that-viewing-point, you can just bring one along
- you can use them for waste-water and easily dispose of it. At a public toilet for instance.
- any more suggestions? Please share them as a Comment!
More about water, washing and cleaning
Other water-related camper car subjects are:
no bathroom aboard, now what?! How to.. wash and bath on the road
all about enjoying public hot springs the correct way, in Onsen Etiquette
going to the bathroom: about Japanese toilets