The 555 Underground

This house is new but the grounds have been inhabited for generations. And every time we dig, we reveal some new and confusing aspect of plumbing and drainage from the distant (or recent) past.

This week, we’re putting in a French drain (ankyo in Japanese) on the east side of the house, and preparing to lay concrete around the septic system and other pipes so they can be cut to the correct height.

In the process of putting in the drain, the RMCE guys dug a trench along the route the drain will take. Along the way they discovered some obstacles.

The power and ethernet pipes run from the center of the house over towards the barn. They are buried about 30 cm deep. (not shown on the map above) The ankyo will have to rest right on top of them.

Two valves; one contract.

Mystery of the Suido
There are two valves for the suido (city water). One turns off the house. I believe this one was installed in late July by the plumbers. It’s not very deep and we aren’t sure what route it takes to the house; it must turn a corner or two. The other valve turns off water to the garden sink. It has a flat handled valve and is a lot deeper. I assume this is the original service. How does the new valve get suido service? Do the old and new join together somewhere? I wasn’t paying close attention that July day – it was hot and I didn’t stay on site for very long.

Preparing to install the new valve back in July

Mystery of the Yama-mizu
We also uncovered the capped off end of the yama-mizu (mountain water) that used to reach north to the rice fields. The plumber capped that off in July; I gave the okay. And there’s another pipe that is probably the mountain water feed to the blueberry garden to the west of the house. We know there is at least one active pipe over on the west side – encountered last year when digging the drainage over there – and it’s got a feed from somewhere, so we assume this is it.

Bonus Mysteries
While digging to figure out what was what, Sakaguchi-san also pulled out three random, unconnected pipes! What were they for? Why were they there? We may never know.

There’s an old French drain that we only know where one end of it is. It runs parallel to the barn. How old is it? Where does it start? Why does it lead into a pipe next to the masu?

The drain has been rerouted by RMCE to match with the new drain. Now they both empty into the big masu junction near the sink where the septic system drains its treated water. Abe-san worked hard to get them to fit.

Mystery of Elevations
And all of this is a jumble of levels. The top of the masu is about 6 cm lower than the u-jiko drainage channel near it. The old and new suido valves are also several centimeters different in elevation. But RMCE has figured out the proper level for everything and they found ways to adjust so that we don’t have a minefield of indentations and tripping hazards. Abe-san and Shimizu-san excavated the old suido valve section and put in a new, longer pipe that’s level with the new valve cap.

These mysteries are fun to unravel as long as there isn’t a leak. (fingers crossed, knock wood, and other assorted lucky gestures)

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts and small adventures.