page:
contents page
previous next
zoom out zoom in
thumbnails double page single page large double page
fit width
clip to blog
 
page:
contents page
previous next
zoom out zoom in
thumbnails double page single page large double page
fit width
clip to blog

VILLAG E V S STAT E

problems of ageing and depopulation sharpened following construction.11 Even from his very different perspective, Takemura Kotaro, a negotiator from the Ministry of Construction's Development Bureau, admitted that towns may flourish briefly thanks to the employment that is brought by construction works, but that, once the works are finished, they suddenly become silent: "I t is illusory to think that a district may be brought to life by a dam."12 Ultimately, Japan's dams wil l have to be demolished, and i n the long term the disposal of old concrete dams and their massive silt accumulations wil l be an environmental problem of immense proportions.13

ies' as part of the prolonged campaign to foist the dam on Kito village, but a significant new factor then began to operate - a growing recognition o f the depth o f the fiscal crisis of the Japanese state.16 By mid-1997, consideration o f two major public works programmes - shifting the capital and constructing new shinkansen rail lines - had been frozen, and i t was becoming clear that the funds for large infrastructural projects, doled out i n the 1980s with few i f any questions asked, would no longer be available. The combination o f fiscal, political and environmental considerations made i t less and less likely that Hosogochi Dam would ever be built. The dam proponents were forced to take a perceptible step back from the project when the allocation for 'works' i n the 1997 budget was down­

Mayor Fujita insists that there is no real democracy i n Japan, that the Ministry o f Construction is no different from the Mafia, and that local government i n Japan has scarcely progressed i n the 150 years from the time when mayors were simply appointed by Tokyo.14 He quotes with passionate conviction the words of the German constitutional scholar Jhering to the effect that throughout the world the basis of human rights is law, and "al l laws ... are won by struggle, having to be seized from those that would deny them."15

IVhen a {(once-in-l50-y ears' record amount of rain did fall one day in 1916,

it was the dam that caused the resulting damage, not the rain.

graded to 'survey'. Then i n June 1997 came the announcemen t quote d at th e beginning o f this article. The dam would not be built.

I t would be hard to exaggerate the significance o f this outcome. Beyond the immediate drama o f this village, victorious now i n its long

Archimedes could not have wished for a point more remote than Kito from the centres o f power i n late twentieth century Japan for a lever to be inserted. The contest between the mayor o f this mountain village and the concentrated might o f the national and prefectural bureaucracy is as uneven as any contest could be, and the 100 years o f modern Japanese history is bleakly lacking i n any precedent for such a victory. The idea that Fujita, saying "No" to the Tokyo design and preferring to nourish the village's traditional and more ecological economic activity, might constitute a lever capable o f shifting the Japanese edifice seems improbable. Still , there is no doubt that after decades o f stubborn resistance the position of Fujita and his community is stronger than ever, and i t is his stand, not the bureaucracy's, which is supported by the growing national consensus i n favour of a new, decentralized, environmentally sensitive, more modest approach to the coming twenty firstcentury.

By 1995, 4.5 billion yen had been spent on various 'stud-

drawn-out saga, were a number o f important questions. Whether i t would presage a turning o f the national tide after decades o f lavish spending on socially and environmentally damaging public works projects remained to be seen. The simultaneous draining of the Isahaya tidal flats i n Nagasaki Prefecture made i t hard to envision any pattern i n the Kito outcome. Yet i n so far as i t is difficult to think o f any precedent i n the hundred and more years o f modern Japanese history for such a victorious defiance by a local government and its community against the concentrated forces o f the national and prefectural bureaucracy, its consequences are lit erall y incalculable . I f politica l devolution , loca l empowerment, fiscal responsibility and environmental sensitivit y are to be the watchwords o f the twenty-first century, then that century has begun i n Kito .

Gavan McCormack is professor o f Japanese history i n the Australian National University. A regular visitor to Japan since the early 1960s, his most recent book is The Emptiness o f Japanese Affluence, published by M.E . Sharpe, New York, 1996.

References.

1. For studies of Kito, see, for an official version, Kensetsusho Shikoku chiho kensetsukyoku, Nakagawa no chisui keikaku, July 1995; for accounts by Mayor Fujita: Fujita Megumi, 'Damu ni nerawareru mura kara damu n i tayoranai mura e', Gekkah Musubu, (Roshinantesha), No.305, May 1995, pp.35-44, at p.36, and interview in 'Jumin, songikai, sonrijisha ga sani-ittai de hantai suru damu', Mizu joho, Vol.15 No.2, 1995, pp.7-13; for a study prepared by the local opposition movement 'Tokushima jichitai mondai kenkyujo, ed. Gara no sumu kawa, 1996; for recent journalistic reports; Sasaki Shun,'Arasou shucho jich i toinaosu", Nihon keizai shimbun, 28 October 1996, Fujiu Kyoko, '"Damu" to no shito 20 nen', Aera, 23 December 1996, pp.25-7. The English language Japan Environment Monitor reports regularly on Kito. 2. 'Dango no byori' , Series 3, Part 1, 'Zenekon oshoku no shinso, Tokushima shimbun, 13 January 1994. The plan for the dam, to be known as Hosogochi Dam, has been modified several times, and by the 1990s had the following dimensions: height 105 metres, width 354 metres, retention capacity 68 billion cubic metres (effective capacity: 53 million), estimated cost was about Y l 10 billion. 3. Tokushima shimbun, quoted in Garo, cit, p.37. 4. Kensetsusho, 1995, cit. 5. Mizu joho, cit, p. 10. 6. Table compiled in Garo (p.44) from the Kokudocho survey 'Kokuminsei no kenkyu', covering the years 1953-93. 7. Igarashi Takayoshi and Ogawa Akio, Kokyojigyoo dosuruka, Iwanami shinsho, 1997, pp.20-25. 8. Fujita, Gekkan Musubu, cit. at p.36. 9. Koj i Tajima, 'Rural depopulation debate continues', Asahi Evening News, 20

December 1995. 10. The A^ahi reported in 1994 that 10 million cubic metres of silt had accumulated in the Nagayasuguchi Dam i n its 37 years o f operation, more than twice the estimated 100-year level, and that it was going to cost Y9 billion over the first decade of the coming century just to dredge out onetenth of that. The silt would then simply be dumped in a remote valley. ('Nagayasuguchi damu - dosha jokyo ni 90 oku en', Asahi shimbun, 3 February 1994). 11. See report of 'Kyushu Dam Summit' held i n Fukuoka in August 1992, in

Kyodo Isushinsha, ed. Mizu ni kiku, 1994, pp.259-60. 12. Ibid., p.260. 13. Igarashi and Ogawa, pp. 199-200. 14. Conversation with the author, Kito, 4 March 1997. See also Fujita texts cited above. 15. Rudolf v. Jhering, Der Kampfuns Reich, edited by V. Ehrenberg, 21st edition, Vienna, 1925, translated into Japanese as Kenri no tame no toso. Iwanani bunko, 1931, 1965. 16. For discussion of this point, see my 'Et si le Japon faisait faillite?', he Monde

Diplomatique, August 1996, and 'Is Japan Facing Financial Armageddon?', New Asia-Pacific Review, Vol.3 No.2, 1997, pp.10-15.

228

The Ecologist, Vol . 27, No . 6, November/December 1997

Supplements for this issue