Tokyo Damage Report

sewer-education trade-show


Magicians! Barney! Huge, inflatable bowing mascots! Power Rangers! Throngs of kids running around in glee. . .


this can only mean one thing. . . . tokyo SEWAGE WORKS EXHIBITION 2005!!

That a sewage expo would have cute mascots aimed at children in japan is not suprising. Anymore. But, that parents would actually think to BRING their OWN kids to the event, well, that’s something.


Even Doraemon got in on the act, with a special wall-mural-comic-strip teaching kids about waste management systems!! Of course, I have always had my suspicions about Doraemon.

In related news, there was a whole team of Power Rangers doing a demonstration about chemical waste recycling. Each ranger represented a different chemical which was released by the process. Here we see Carbon Dioxide Ranger amusing the children with his Super Rocket Astro Toxic Sludge Chop.

Only half of the exhibit was an amusement park for kids. The other half was a more standard industrial trade show, from which I learned that

  • japanese people apparently poop small, brightly colored plastic balls. Honestly 99% of the exhibits used these

  • the only exceptions were here,
  • and here
  • .


  • After looking for over 2 hours, I finally found some actual poop, at the SUPER SIRIUS booth. SUPER SIRIUS, as the salesman enthusiastically told me, was a system of special ovens which cooks human waste in such a way that it converts it (the waste) to fuel, suitable for producing energy. They also operate a network of vans which collects the waste from “subscribers” (old folks’ homes, apparently).
  • The new thing is genetically engineered bacteria which break down waste-water so that the “not too fucked up” part of the waste-water can be released back into the wild (i.e. oceans and tokyo tapwater). The bacteria seem to be easy to come by but the hard part is “aerating” them (by which I mean, making sure that germs get oxygen to live on. Unless it is carbon dioxide that they need. Either way, the important point is, if the germs are in the exact middle of a 2,400 gallon vat the size of a city block, it is dammned hard to deliver individual molecules of gas to them, and so a lot of devices addressing this need are being invented right about now).
  • Fully half of the trade-show was devoted to pipes, drills, and sewage construction equipment, including not one but two custom-made 4-color manhole-cover companies. Totally colorful manhole covers seem to be a japanese specialty. Whether you want your company logo on it, or a very traditional samurai drawin in exact Ukio-E style, holding out a crysanthemum which says “Do not pour oil down here or I will cut you!! I will CUT YOU GOOD!!”, japan is to custom manhole covers what l.a. is to custom lowriders.


But, in the absence of realistic display turds, I am afraid the sewage treatment machines were not the most interesting thing here. The most interesting things here were actually humans. Specifically, KONPANIONs. Although “companion” sounds like someone you would rent in Las Vegas, in Japan it has a different meaning: it means “Young Lady In Rented, Ill-Fitting, Plastic And Slightly From The Future Miniskirt And Vest Combo Who Thrusts Brochures At You All Day.” I mean I was aware that video game conventions have a long and honorable tradition of dressing random females in bikinis to spur sales, but I had no idea that this trend had also spread to industrial sewage treatement conventions.

This got me thinking, what is the deal with that job? I asked one lady, who told me that the companions are not briefed even a little about the company whose booth they are working at that day. They just get a rental costume and some brochures, and as soon as someone starts trying to chat them up, they deliver their prey to a fully dressed man who sells the prey some items. That sounds plausible but questions still remain ? how many companion companies are there in the tokyo area alone? Is there a “top company” that all the women dream of working for, the way models all dream of working for Chanel? Is there a “bottom company” that all the popular companions pick on the poor woman from that company in the dressing room, and she goes home and cries? Do they have some kind of “bowling alley shoe freshener” device that they spray in the rental uniforms?

Anyway, all this is just sort of a long an roundabout way of leading up to the following conversation, which I had at the Kawasaki booth:

ME: (in japanese) hi, so what exactly is your job?


ME: do you sell sewage treatment for a living, or?

COMPANION: I have a brochure!!!

KAWASAKI MAN: (speaking fluent english) hello how ya doing!! I see you are talking to our beautiful saleslady!

ME: um well ah

KAWASAKI MAN: sorry but she does not know anything about our product. Her job is to attract the man like you! Seriously, what do you think about her?

ME: um ah

KAWASAKI MAN: kawasaki is a very important company, so we can hire top quality companions. Don’t you think we have the cutest ones here?

ME: what do I think of your brochure ladies?

KAWASAKI MAN: yes, exactly! (arches eyebrows)

ME: well, probably in the beginning they wanted to be a pop idol or supermodel, and gradually they settled for being a trade-show model, and now they are selling sewage. So basically I think that they are very ironic.

KAWASAKI MAN: ah, but she got you to come here, didn’t she? After all, I am just middle-aged man! No one will stop for me! But we are very clever so we hire the companion!

ME: it is the male instinct!! (suddenly switching to japanese) You are exploiting the male instinct!!

KAWASAKI MAN: no, no, it is not like that!

ME: in the future, there will be more female executives, so I forsee that there will also be an increase in young male companions, don’t you think so?

KAWASAKI MAN: er, could be. . . (totally not arching an eyebrow at the prospect)

ME: well, anyway, I am stopping pretty much at all the booths, even without companions. I am excited about the fast-changing world of sewage management systems.

KAWASAKI MAN: in that case, let me demonstrate our newest magnetic-powered aeration filter! It defies gravity! The official demonstration is not scheduled but I will make an exception for you because this is a really amazing system, you will love it!

ME: that is great, thank you!


page for kids on why sewers are important, with excellent mspaint art.

link to companion website where you can browse headshots and feel really creepy.

link to uniform rental website.

custom manhole cover how-they-make-it page, and

tiny gallery of custom manhole covers

KOUWA company. makers of totally brutal pipe-drilling machines that look like siege engines that have to bee seen to be etc.

ACEMOLE, makers of guess what these are i bet you can’t . .


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