Transformation during the construction of Lake Biwa Canal 2: Controversy before the Construction

Although this canal is a successful project, the road to realize this plan was not easy. At that time, the Public opinion was not necessarily favorable on this plan.

First of all, the famous educator Yukichi Fukuzawa did not agree. The reason was that “Kyoto is not a modern city but an ancient tourism city, just like Nara,” and “inappropriate landscape”. The “Suirokaku” which was designed in reference to water way of the ancient Roman age. It is now become a famous historical attraction with local characteristics, was being asked to give sufficient aesthetic consideration.In the midst of budget shortages, the construction costs for the “Suirokaku”, which is 93.17mlong and 4.06m wide, are 14,627 yen (approximately 1.6 billion yen in current amount), which is more than 1 percent of the total construction. The cost of construction was as large as that of the tunnel [1].

In addition, the people of Osaka thought that is was closer for the water to going out to the Osaka plain without bypassing the Kyoto basin from Yamashina. The majority of the Otsu people also thought that it was more advantageous to connect with Osaka than Kyoto [3].

Moreover, not all Kyoto citizens agreed with this project. The citizens thought that the canal is only beneficial to the residents along the canal and the Kamo-gawa river area, but it is said that there is no merit at all for the residents of the northwest, such as Nishijin area. However, the burden was placed on all the citizens of Kyoto. The total cost of the project was 1.25 million yen, about 2.5 times the annual budget of Kyoto at that time while all citizens had to pay taxes for this plan which caused a lot of objections [2].

(The “Suirokaku” locates in the Canal Branch Line)

(Financial Source of the First Lake Biwa Canal)


[1] Tanabe Sakuro. 京都都市計画. 第1編: 琵琶湖疏水誌 [City Planning of Kyoto: Summary of the Lake Biwa Canal]. Tokyo: Maruzen Group, 1920.
[2] Kyoto City Supply and Sewage Bureau. The Lake Biwa Canal Project Summary. Kyoto: Kyoto City Supply and Sewage Bureau, 1987.
[3] Kyoto Shimbun. 琵琶湖疏水の100年. [One Hundred Years History of Lake Biwa Canal]. Kyoto. Kyoto: Kyoto City Supply and Sewage Bureau, 1990.
[4] Tanabe Sakuro. 琵琶湖疏水工事圖譜 [A Plan for Lake Biwa Canal Construction]. Tanabe Sakuro, 1891.


3 Comments on “Transformation during the construction of Lake Biwa Canal 2: Controversy before the Construction

  1. It is described well the various public opinions of the canal, perhaps a map of the water flow to Osaka and Kyoto would help picture how this canal services these regions and how it may be thought of as unbeneficial?

  2. I want to ask for several clarifications: in what way was the LBC a successful project, despite all the public objections? You also implied in the first paragraph that the development of LBC would go against the ethos of Kyoto as an ancient, touristic city, and you have cited the “Suirokaku” as an iconic historical attraction to Kyoto. How exactly would LBC impact the historical aspect and ambience of Kyoto, and how is it related to Suirokaku?

  3. The variety of opinions from different stakeholders were described in a quite organized way. However, concerning the construction of such Lake Biwa Canal was controversial at the time, it would be much clearly if the values and conflicts among the stakeholders had which initiated the controversy. I also wonder the handling method of the government department which proposed such construction and did they have any response towards the controversy?

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