CHOFU, JAPAN — IN Japan, water is a precious commodity. A Tokyo housewife describes her care in using it:
"Ten years ago, when I moved with my family from Hiroshima to Chofu, in the Tokyo suburbs, I was surprised by the quality of the running water. I quickly learned that it is because the water is pumped directly from the regional subsoil, not filtered. This is an exception around Tokyo.
"I try my hardest to conserve water. I've put a brick and a capped bottle in the toilet tank. I never wash the dishes under running water. When I wash up or brush my teeth, I always turn off the faucet. I have tried to teach my children to do the same.
"Each day ends with a Japanese bath. As is traditional, we all bathe in the same water. Everyone washes up before getting in the bath. After bathing, I drink several glasses of water, which does me no end of good.
"For laundry, I try to reuse the bath water from the night before. Between springtime and autumn, it stays warm until morning. The rest of the year, I use cold water like most Japanese. Some of my neighbors have bought washing machines, but I prefer to do without one. I often have to scold my children, who want to wash their clothes after wearing them only once.
"I don't need much water to clean the floor, because we have carpets and tatamis, Japanese bamboo mats. But I'm not happy about the way the cleaners use huge amounts of water and detergent on our stairway. I have wanted to complain, but the cleaners are foreigners, and I can't speak to them.
"I have never lacked water. In 1987 a dry spell meant that in Tokyo they had to ration water. But in Chofu we had the subterranean water.
"If there were no longer enough water, that would be terrible, especially using the toilets. Everyone would again use the river. I'm already afraid that the water in our subsoil will give out, because they are paving over everything here and the rainwater can no longer seep in. I often remember the sweet water of my childhood in the north country, compared to Tokyo's bitter water.
"In Japan, we have a saying: Let things run away with the water, in that way they will be forgotten. I no longer believe this. Today, we cannot let the water run. We must protect it."