The Lake Biwa Canal Plan 1885-1890/ Civil Engineer: Tanabe Sakuro (1861-1944)
Tanabe Sakuro (1861–1944) was a Japanese Civil Engineer. He studied under Henry Dyer at the Tokyo Imperial University. His most famous achievement is the Lake Biwa Canal that runs from Lake Biwa to Kyoto city. The canal is partly underground and on the bank of the canal he built Japan’s first Hydro-electric power station. Sakuro had lost the use of his right hand in an accident, but he learnt to use his left hand to write and graduated in Engineering in his early 20s.
The Governor Kitagaki appointed him as the project’s chief engineer. He was appointed a Kyoto government official in 1883, at the young age of 21. He was such a young genius that the prototype of the concept for the Canal had already been done as his graduation thesis at Kobu Daigakko (The Imperial College of Engineering) “Biwako Sosui Koji no Keikaku (A Plan for Lake Biwa Canal Construction).”
In 1888 when hydraulic power was successfully generated at Aspen in the United States for the first time in the world, Tanabe immediately visited the site. Tanabe contributed a great deal towards the decision to construct a hydroelectric plant during the Lake Biwa Canal construction. As a result, the Japan’s first hydroelectric plant started its operation here in Keage .
Through the excavation of the first and second Canal, the second largest hydropower station in the world was completed, he made an important contribution to the formation of the basic development framework of modern Kyoto.
(Picture of Tanabe Sakuro in his 21)
Brief history of Tanabe Sakuro :
- 1861: he was born in edo as the eldest son of magojiro tanabe, a western gunnery expert and disciple of shuhan takashima.
- 1883: he graduated from the imperial college of engineering.His graduation thesis was “lake biwa canal project.”At the request of the governor of Kyoto prefecture, Kunimichi Kitagaki, he became goyo-gakari of Kyoto prefecture and was engaged in the construction of lake biwa canal.
- 1888: he went to the United States.And visit hydro power plants
- 1890: lake biwa canal was completed. In autumn, he married shizushi, the first daughter of Kunimichi Kitagaki.
- 1891: completion of the keage power plant, the first hydroelectric power plant in Japan. Sakuro Tanabe became a professor at imperial university (current Tokyo university).
- 1894: he was awarded the Terford Medal by the British society of civil engineers.
- 1896: he was asked by his father-in-law, kunimichi kitagaki, who served as director general of the Hokkaido government, and resigned as a professor at the imperial university.As the director of the railway department of the Hokkaido government, he was in charge of planning and constructing the Hokkaido government railway.
- 1900: he became a professor at Kyoto imperial university.
- 1923: he retired from Kyoto imperial university.After his retirement, he continued being involved in railway construction plans in various places such as Osaka municipal subway.
- 1944: he died.
(A statue of Dr. Tanabe Sakuro near the Keage Area of The first Canal)