Thomas Waters

Last updated
Thomas James Waters
Born(1842-07-17)July 17, 1842
Birr, County Offaly, Ireland
DiedFebruary 5, 1898(1898-02-05) (aged 55)
Denver, Colorado, United States
Former Mint of Japan, Osaka Kyu-Zoheiryo-Chuzosho-Shomengenkan-20070323.JPG
Former Mint of Japan, Osaka

Thomas James Waters (July 17, 1842 – February 5, 1898) was an Irish civil engineer and architect. He was active in Bakumatsu and early Meiji period Japan.

Irish people Ethnic group, native to the island of Ireland, with shared history and culture

The Irish are a nation and ethnic group native to the island of Ireland, who share a common Irish ancestry, identity and culture. Ireland has been inhabited for about 12,500 years according to archaeological studies. For most of Ireland's recorded history, the Irish have been primarily a Gaelic people. From the 9th century, small numbers of Vikings settled in Ireland, becoming the Norse-Gaels. Anglo-Normans conquered parts of Ireland in the 12th century, while England's 16th/17th-century (re)conquest and colonisation of Ireland brought many English and Lowland Scots people to parts of the island, especially the north. Today, Ireland is made up of the Republic of Ireland and the smaller Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland hold various national identities including British, Irish, Northern Irish or some combination thereof.

Civil engineer engineer specialising in design, construction and maintenance of the built environment

A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering – the application of planning, designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating infrastructures while protecting the public and environmental health, as well as improving existing infrastructures that have been neglected.



Waters was born in Birr, County Offaly, in Ireland in 1842, as the eldest son of the local surgeon. In 1864, while in his early 20s, he appears to have become involved in the building of the Royal Mint in Hong Kong. Through his uncle, Albert Robinson, he came into contact with representatives of Thomas Blake Glover, a noted British merchant resident in Nagasaki. Glover arranged for Waters to be employed by Satsuma Domain to construct steam-powered sugar mills on the island of Amami-Oshima, and he then moved to Kagoshima to design western-style buildings in 1867. After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Waters was hired by the new Meiji government and commissioned to build the new Imperial Japanese Mint in Osaka, which was commenced in 1868 and completed in 1870.

Birr, County Offaly Town in Leinster, Ireland

Birr is a town in County Offaly, Ireland. Between 1620 and 1899 it was called Parsonstown, after the Parsons family who were local landowners and hereditary Earls of Rosse. The town lies within a parish of the same name in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Killaloe.

County Offaly County in the Republic of Ireland

County Offaly is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Midlands Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. It is named after the ancient Kingdom of Uí Failghe and was formerly known as King's County. Offaly County Council is the local authority for the county. The county population was 77,961 at the 2016 census.

Royal Mint minter of coins in the United Kingdom

The Royal Mint is a government-owned mint that produces coins for the United Kingdom. Operating under the name Royal Mint Ltd, the mint is a limited company that is wholly owned by Her Majesty's Treasury and is under an exclusive contract to supply all the nation's coinage. As well as minting circulating coins for use domestically and internationally, the mint also produces planchets, commemorative coins, various types of medals and precious metal bullion. The mint exports to an average of 60 countries a year, making up 70% of its total sales. Formed over 1,100 years ago, the mint was historically part of a series of mints that became centralised to produce coins for the Kingdom of England, all of Great Britain and eventually most of the British Empire. The original London mint from which the Royal Mint is the successor, was established in 886 AD and operated within the Tower of London for approximately 800 years before moving to what is now called Royal Mint Court where it remained until the 1960s. As Britain followed the rest of the world in decimalising its currency, the Mint moved from London to a new 38 acres (15 ha) plant in Llantrisant, Wales where it has remained since.

After successfully completing this commission, he was invited to Tokyo and officially accepted as foreign advisor by the government, where his title was "Surveyor-General". He helped design a branch of the Japanese Mint in the Ginza area of Tokyo, designed and built the headquarters building for the Imperial Japanese Army and a bridge in the Tokyo Imperial Palace grounds, Tokyo. However, his largest commission came after a devastating by fire in 1872 destroyed the Ginza district. Tom Waters, his brother Albert Waters, and English colleague A N Shillingford, supervised the rebuilding of the Ginza area with a broad central thoroughfare, lined with a series of one- and two-story Georgian brick buildings there. [1] The district was henceforth known as Bricktown (Rengagai), and came to be regarded as a symbol of modernity and westernization in Japan. [2]

Tokyo Capital of Japan

Tokyo, officially Tokyo Metropolis, one of the 47 prefectures of Japan, has served as the Japanese capital since 1869. As of 2018, the Greater Tokyo Area ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The urban area houses the seat of the Emperor of Japan, of the Japanese government and of the National Diet. Tokyo forms part of the Kantō region on the southeastern side of Japan's main island, Honshu, and includes the Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands. Tokyo was formerly named Edo when Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarters in 1603. It became the capital after Emperor Meiji moved his seat to the city from Kyoto in 1868; at that time Edo was renamed Tokyo. The Tokyo Metropolis formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo. Tokyo is often referred to as a city but is officially known and governed as a "metropolitan prefecture", which differs from and combines elements of a city and a prefecture, a characteristic unique to Tokyo.

Ginza district of Chūō-ku, Tokyo

Ginza (銀座) is a district of Chūō, Tokyo, located south of Yaesu and Kyōbashi, west of Tsukiji, east of Yūrakuchō and Uchisaiwaichō, and north of Shinbashi. It is a popular upscale shopping area of Tokyo, with numerous internationally renowned department stores, boutiques, restaurants and coffeehouses located in its vicinity. It is considered one of the most expensive, elegant, and luxurious streets in the world.

Imperial Japanese Army Official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan, from 1868 to 1945

The Imperial Japanese Army was the official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan from 1868 to 1945. It was controlled by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and the Ministry of the Army, both of which were nominally subordinate to the Emperor of Japan as supreme commander of the army and the navy. Later an Inspectorate General of Aviation became the third agency with oversight of the army. During wartime or national emergencies, the nominal command functions of the emperor would be centralized in an Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ), an ad-hoc body consisting of the chief and vice chief of the Army General Staff, the Minister of the Army, the chief and vice chief of the Naval General Staff, the Inspector General of Aviation, and the Inspector General of Military Training.

However, Waters soon faced increasing competition from foreign architects and newly trained Japanese architects and engineers. He ended ties with Japan around 1878.

He worked briefly in Shanghai, China before working as a mining engineer in the South Island of New Zealand. He then joined his brothers, Ernest and Albert in the United States where they became involved in silver and gold mining in Colorado. He died on February 5, 1898 at the age of 55, and his grave is located at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver, Colorado.

Shanghai Municipality in Peoples Republic of China

Shanghai is one of the four municipalities under the direct administration of the central government of the People's Republic of China, the most populous city in China, and the most populous city proper in the world, with a population of 26.3 million as of 2019. It is a global financial center and transport hub, with the world's busiest container port. Located in the Yangtze River Delta, it sits on the south edge of the estuary of the Yangtze in the middle portion of the Eastern China coast. The municipality borders the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang to the south, east and west, and is bound to the east by the East China Sea.

South Island Southernmost of the two main islands in New Zealand

The South Island, also officially named Te Waipounamu, is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand in surface area; the other being the smaller but more populous North Island. It is bordered to the north by Cook Strait, to the west by the Tasman Sea, and to the south and east by the Pacific Ocean. The South Island covers 150,437 square kilometres (58,084 sq mi), making it the world's 12th-largest island. It has a temperate climate.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

Further reading

Dr Meg Vivers has published articles [3] [4] and a book [5] about Thomas Waters.

Related Research Articles

Japanese architecture

Japanese architecture has traditionally been typified by wooden structures, elevated slightly off the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. Sliding doors (fusuma) were used in place of walls, allowing the internal configuration of a space to be customized for different occasions. People usually sat on cushions or otherwise on the floor, traditionally; chairs and high tables were not widely used until the 20th century. Since the 19th century, however, Japan has incorporated much of Western, modern, and post-modern architecture into construction and design, and is today a leader in cutting-edge architectural design and technology.

Boshin War Civil war in Japan, fought from 1868 to 1869

The Boshin War, sometimes known as the Japanese Revolution, was a civil war in Japan, fought from 1868 to 1869 between forces of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the Imperial Court.

The foreign employees in Meiji Japan, known in Japanese as O-yatoi Gaikokujin, were hired by the Japanese government and municipalities for their specialized knowledge and skill to assist in the modernization of the Meiji period. The term came from Yatoi, was politely applied for hired foreigner as O-yatoi gaikokujin.

Thomas Blake Glover Scottish merchant in Bakumatsu and Meiji Japan

Thomas Blake Glover was a Scottish merchant in Bakumatsu and Meiji period Japan.

The first Japanese students in the United Kingdom arrived in the nineteenth century, sent to study at University College London by the Chōshū and Satsuma domains, then the Bakufu (Shogunate). Many went on to study at Cambridge University and a smaller number at Oxford University until the end of the Meiji period. The primary motive for this was an effort to modernise Japan in the long run. Since the 1980s, Japanese students in the United Kingdom have become common thanks to cheaper air travel.

William Gowland British archaeologist

William Gowland was an English mining engineer who carried out archaeological work at Stonehenge and in Japan. He has been called the "Father of Japanese Archaeology".

John Wilson was the Anglicized name of Captain Frederick Walgren, a Swedish sailor and o-yatoi gaikokujin who was active in the development of British-Japanese ties in the late 19th century. Walgren was born in Genarp, Skåne, Sweden on 8 July 1851. He entered into British service, changing his name to Wilson. Wilson initially resided in Nagasaki, Kyūshū, living next-door to Thomas Blake Glover. The Wilson family subsequently resided in Nagasaki and Kobe. He married a Japanese national on 11 January 1883 at Christ Church, Yokohama, the Anglican church located in Yamate, overlooking the Port of Yokohama, Japan. His wife upon baptism Anglicised her name from Naka Yamazaki to Sophia Wilson, and adopted her son, Nils Wilson. Their children were August, Frederick, Maria, Christina, Hilda, Hannah and John.

Yūrakuchō town located in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Yūrakuchō (有楽町) is a business district of Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan, situated in between the Ginza and Hibiya Park, southeast of the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The district takes its name from Oda Nagamasu, younger brother of Oda Nobunaga. Nagamasu built his mansion here on land near the Sukiya-bashi Gate of Edo Castle granted by Tokugawa Ieyasu. The place name dates from the Meiji period. It arises from an altered pronunciation of Urakusai.

Imperial Hotel, Tokyo hotel

The Imperial Hotel is a hotel in Uchisaiwaicho, Chiyoda ward, Tokyo. It was created in the late 1880s at the request of the Japanese aristocracy to cater to the increasing number of Western visitors to Japan. The hotel site is located just south of the Imperial Palace grounds, next to the previous location of the Palace moat. The modern hotel overlooks the Palace, the 40-acre (16 ha) Western-style Hibiya Park, and the Yurakucho and Ginza neighborhoods.

Charles Dickinson West Anglo-Irish engineer

Charles Dickinson West was an Irish mechanical engineer and naval architect, who worked for many years at the Imperial College of Engineering, in Meiji era Japan.

Japan Mint building in Kita-ku, Osaka Prefecture, Japan

The Japan Mint is an Independent Administrative Institution of the Japanese government, responsible for producing and circulating the coins of Japan. The agency has its head office in Osaka with branches in Tokyo and Hiroshima. The Japan Mint does not produce paper money; that responsibility belongs to the National Printing Bureau.

Josiah Conder (architect) British architect

Josiah Conder was a British architect who was hired by the Meiji Japanese government as a professor of architecture for the Imperial College of Engineering and became architect of Japan's Public Works. After 1888, he started his own practice.


The Rokumeikan was a large two-story building in Tokyo, completed in 1883, which was to become a controversial symbol of Westernisation in the Meiji period. Commissioned for the housing of foreign guests by the Foreign Minister Inoue Kaoru, it was designed by British architect Josiah Conder, a prominent Western adviser working in Japan.

Tatsuno Kingo Japanese architect

Tatsuno Kingo was a Japanese architect born in Karatsu, Saga Prefecture, Kyushu. Doctor of Engineering. Conferred Jusanmi and Kunsanto. Former dean of Architecture Department at Tokyo Imperial University.

Kiyonori Kikutake Japanese architect (1928-2011)

Kiyonori Kikutake was a prominent Japanese architect known as one of the founders of the Japanese Metabolist group. He was also the tutor and employer of several important Japanese architects, such as Toyo Ito, Shōzō Uchii and Itsuko Hasegawa.

The Sempukan is a historic building in Osaka, Japan. It used to function as a guest house for the Japanese Mint Bureau. Designed by Thomas Waters, it is the oldest Western-style building in the city. The Meiji Emperor stayed at Sempukan during his visit to Osaka in 1872.

Mikishi Abe Japanese architect

Mikishi Abe was a Japanese architect and civil engineer, known for his PhD thesis on reinforced concrete frames, and for several concrete buildings. Abe was responsible for designing the first elevated railway using reinforced concrete. He contributed to many architectural and engineering works of the Hankyu Hanshin Toho Group.

British Embassy, Tokyo building in Tokyo, Japan

The British Embassy, Tokyo, is the chief diplomatic mission of the United Kingdom in Japan, with the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Japan being the chief of mission. The embassy compound measures about 35,000 m2, located at No 1 Ichiban-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, to the west of the Imperial Palace, and separated from the latter by a moat.

Okada Shinichirō (岡田信一郎) was a prominent Japanese architect who practiced in the early twentieth century. Okada taught at Waseda University and Tokyo School of Fine Arts. While he was well-known for tendency for European styles, he also produced work in the Imperial Crown style . One example is the Biwako Otsukan in Yanagasaki Lakeside Park, Shiga Prefecture.


  1. Ginza Travel Guide Archived 2008-01-06 at the Wayback Machine
  2. The American School in Japan: Tokyo 1902 [ permanent dead link ]
  3. Vivers, Meg. "Thomas James Waters (1842–1898) and the Mint at Osaka". Collection Moneta – 176: When Orient and Occident Meet. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  4. Vivers, Meg. "The Role of British Agents and Engineers in the Early Westernization of Japan with a Focus on the Robinson and Waters Brothers". The International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology. 85: 115–139. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  5. Vivers, Meg (2013). An Irish Engineer: the extraordinary achievements of Thomas J Waters and family in early Meiji Japan and beyond. Brisbane: CopyRight Publishing. ISBN   978-1921452109 . Retrieved 29 July 2019.

Find A Grave is an American website that allows the public to search and add to an online database of cemetery records. It is owned by