Transformation during the construction of Lake Biwa Canal 4: from investigation to completion 1881-1890

4.1 The plan of the Lake Biwa Canal (LBC)

The plan of the LBC was proposed by Kunimichi Kitagaki, the third prefectural governor of Kyoto City and realized by Sakuro Tanabe, a young Japanese engineer. This section focusing on about the ten-year period from the LBC preparatory investigation to completion (1881-1890/Meiji 14-23) and showing the LBC route and function transformation during this period.


4.2 Chronological Chart about the LBC Construction

Year                                              Major Event

1881 /Meiji 14         Kyoto prefecture started preparation investigation work

1882 /Meiji 15        Mr. Minami made plan of LBC

1883 /Meiji 16        The plan was made in cooperation between Kyoto prefecture and the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce.

1884 /Meiji 17        The Ministry of Interior advised two plans.

1885 /Meiji 18        Construction of the LBC started from the Otsu area.

1887 /Meiji 20       The plan of the LBC changed in several points and an incline railway system was adopted at Keage Area.

1889 /Meiji 22       After Dr. Tanabe visited to the America. Kyoto council decided to adopt hydropower generation into the LBC Plan.

1890/Meiji 23        The completion ceremony of the LBC was held at Nakano-shima Island in Ebisu Port.


4.3 Details of the Plans

4.3.1  1881 Plan

On April 1881, Mr. Kitagaki started the preparatory investigation. After the investigation, they decided the seven purposes of the construction of the LBC and this figure shows the way of using water.

Seven Purposes:

1. Build mills powered by water wheels

2. Transport people and goods by ships

3. Divert water for irrigation

4. Use water mills to grind rice

5. Provide fire water

6. Provide stable drinking water

7. Clean the sewage


4.3.2 1883 improved Plan

The route of this plan had two channels for shipping and water mills were arranged at Nyakuouji and Shishigatani district.


4.3.3  1884 improved Plan

This plan diminished one shipping channel. There is one channel directly ran through several locks for shipping goods, and the other was used as irrigation water. This irrigation channel had separate channel for water mills at the Nyakuoji district.


4.3.4  During the Construction Process (1885-1890)- Final Plan

During the construction period, the LBC plan still changed in several points.

In 1887, the route in Kyoto part completely changed. The main channel for shipping named the Outo Canal ran down to the Okazaki area, and a branch channel for irrigation ran beside the Higashiyama Mountains. The main channel had an incline system, which was first used in Japan. This Incline Railway system was adopted by Dr. Tanabe after his visited to America.

In 1888 , the Kyoto council decided to adopt hydropower generation in the LBC after Dr. Tanabe’s Americann visit, and hydropower plants were planned beside incline system. After the completion of the last section, Outo Canal in 1890, all the LBC was filled with water and started to work.

Image References:

[1] 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.
[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.




2 Comments on “Transformation during the construction of Lake Biwa Canal 4: from investigation to completion 1881-1890

  1. Very clear points! It is good to understand the project in chronological order. I would also like to know more about the difficulties which Japanese engineers had encountered during that time. Besides, what caused the changes which were made in the final plan of the project? Could you explain more about them?

  2. It is striking to see you collecting so abundant historical maps, images and text archives which supports you to conducts such a comprehensive and detailed research. The historical political, economic and social foundations, purpose and reasons of the emergence of this water conservancy project in the 1880s Kyoto, the evolutionary proposals of the canal project, the key events in a chronological order and the key politician and engineer etc. are well elaborated which present a vivid scene of the whole story. Perhaps you could link all this topics more closely and logically by claiming the causality among them, or choose two or three aspects to have a further thorough study through adding your own explanation of the archives you chose.

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