Benjo ditches
Those aromatic memories of the old days
posted 9-11-2018

Many who lived on Okinawa since the end of the war in 1945 up into the 1980s can recall one of the most distinct (or is that di-stinked) olfactory experiences - the Benjo ditch. That ubiquitous feat of civil engineering - carrying away the poop and the pee from every domicile - running down the sides of streets in town and the rural roads. I remember it well from my days in the 1970s and even into the late 1980s in some areas.

Let's ponder the benjo ditch.

In case you’re not familiar with the term “benjo ditch,” it is a shallow, gently-sloping ditch that was once used to funnel water and human waste from the cities in Okinawa (and Japan) out to the fields for use as fertilizer. In some cases it funneled it straight out into the ocean. The ditches lined the roads in town, and if lucky, you’d find most of them covered with small concrete slabs. Some were not - and you got to watch stuff just bump its way out of town as you walked along.

During my years on island back in the 1970s sights like this were not uncommon. You had to really pay attention to your driving especially on rural byways.

Some of 'em weren't as tidy as what I saw in the '70s. Going back a decade or two a person had to be very careful getting home across the "bridge" - especially difficult if a guy was navigating with a load of awamori in his belly!

Rob Oechsle, who lives on Okinawa at the time of this writing, has provided a look at how waste is handled now-a-days here in the 21st Century.

FLUSH THAT TOILET, and GO TAKE A SWIM !!! -- The Naha City Sewage Treatment Plant and the Naminoue Swim & Recreation Beaches sit almost next to each other along the East China Sea.


For over 20 years, 24 hours a day, all of the sewage from toilets all over Naha, Urasoe, and points beyond, pour into the treatment plant outlined in RED on the attached photo.


All LIQUIDS are filtered, disinfected (all pathogens killed), then sent BACK to the Naha metropolitan area via a dedicated system of water pipes used only for (1) flushing the toilets in all Government and Commercial buildings throughout the cities, and (2) sent to non-potable water systems that are used for watering all parks and green spaces.

All SOLIDS are separated, disinfected (all pathogens killed), dried, packaged, and sent off to the FARMS in Okinawa to be used as organic fertilizers.

NOT ONE DROP of wastewater, overflow, run-off, or discharge is dumped into the sea. NOT ONE DROP.

And there you have it ! A world away from the good old days of Benjo Ditches, Grey-Water run-off, and the lovely smells many of you remember from when you lived in Okinawa.

See you at the Beach !

(Thanks for that, Rob!)

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