Forefathers’ hardships and efforts create the Shonai of today.
Tracing back through history, farmers in Shonai had actually attempted democratic trials at an early stage. As per a document from Shonaiakagawa Land Improvement District, there was a certain system, called Bansui, that supplied water to each paddy field in turn. The oldest record, from 1681, said that they already had a self-rule measure in order to prevent one farmer from benefitting from the water supply over other farmers.
“Speaking of water utilization in Shonai, we must mention dams. Ecchu, Tenpo, and Meiji Dams work not only as dams, but also function and are referred to as irrigation canals. They are remains from our forefathers, and their strenuous efforts in making them became history,” said Mr. Sasaki. Ecchu Dam began construction in 1702 to ensure a secure water supply. It took eleven years to complete. Tenpo Dam was established in 1837, and the construction in its steep environment required a thousand farmers a day as laborers. Temisawa Cylindrical Tank Diverter, described above, uses water diverted from Tenpo Dam, so it has been bringing benefits to Shonai for almost one hundred eighty years.
The organization which had managed these dams later became Shonaiakagawa Land Improvement District. “The expression, ‘Every miller draws water to his own mill,’ warns of a self-centered act. They had conflicts over water, but a sharing spirit also took root among people in Shonai. In the beginning of history, nature was for everyone. But in general, along with settlement and agriculture, people started to scramble over the rights to natural resources. To avoid battles, and to get rid of any inequality, our forefathers must have spent much time on negotiation and solving issues in a more peaceful manner than we do now. In Japan, there are more and more less transparent decisions and agendas, as well as a spread of apathy these days. They may endanger this democratic nation. Although, a long time before the concept of “democracy” was created, rural communities had invented water diversion works spontaneously. There is something we should learn from this.