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Fascination of the Teizan Canal

The Teizan Canal has a latent fascination in view of its many special features, such as its period of development, total length, natural environment, the many areas involved, and the background of the time of its development. There are three main points.

1. It’s the longest canal in Japan
The Teizan Canal is a general term for a combination of three channels (Kibiki Channel, Shin Channel and Ofunairi Channel) and the Tona and Kitakami Canals, which comprise a total length of 49 km. There are many canals in Japan but most of them are less than 10 km long. For example, the Otaru Canal in Hokkaido is a well-known tourist attraction but it is only 1.3 km long; the Tone Canal in Chiba is 8.5 km long; and two canals in Kobe (the Hyōgo and Shinkawa canals) are each about 3 km long. The Teizan Canal is thus very different from the other canals.

Although 2.6 km of the 49 km of the artificially constructed Teizan Canal were covered over when Sendai’s new port (Sendai-Shiogama Port) was built, the remaining 46.4 km are still in use as a navigable waterway for small vessels.

The three channels of the Teizan Canal form an uninterrupted length of 31.5 km, which in itself is the longest canal in Japan.

The two canals comprise a total length of 17.5 km and were constructed as part of the modernization policy of the Meiji Era. Many canals were built during the Meiji Era, but this is one of the longer ones.

The waterway from the Abukuma river (Iwanuma City) to the Kyu Kitakami river (Ishinomaki City) takes the following route:-

Mouth of the Abukuma river ↔ Kibiki Channel ↔ Natori River ↔ New Channel ↔ Nanakita river ↔ Ofuna-iri Channel ↔ Shiogama Bay ↔ Matsushima Bay ↔ Tona Canal ↔ Naruse river ↔ Kitakami Canal ↔ Old Kitakami river

If the routes through Shiogama and Matsushima Bays are included, the Teizan Canal is the core of a waterway extending a total length of 60 km between the Abukuma and Kyu Kitakami rivers. There is no other waterway in Japan approaching this length.

2. There is historical value
Excavation of Kibiki Channel, the first section of the Teizan Canal to be built, began in 1597, at the end of the Azuchi-Momoyama Era, about 420 years ago. That was an era of major upheaval, from the Toyotomi period to the Tokugawa period. This section was completed one year after the Sekigahara War. Subsequently there was a pause before the remaining sections were built and the canal was finally completed about 300 years later, in 1889 (Meiji year 22).

During the Edo (Tokugawa) period, Japan became more politically stable and the construction and maintenance of many castle towns was begun. Canal construction was begun as part of this process, for the transportation of goods. One of the most famous canals at the beginning of the Edo period is the Takase river in Kyoto (completed in 1614; length 9.7 km) and Dōton Channel in Osaka (completed in 1615; length 2.5 km). Kibiki Channel was completed several decades before these two canals. From this, the Teizan Canal holds a very important position in canal history.

3. It has a number of special features
The canal passes through seven cities (Iwanuma, Natori, Sendai, Tagajo, Shiogama, Higashi-Matsushima and Ishinomaki) and two towns (Shichigahama and Matsushima). However, since Rifu is also adjacent to Matsushima Bay it can be included as a third town associated with the Teizan Canal. Almost the entire canal is maintained by Miyagi Prefecture as if it were a river except for one part. Also, part of the Ofuna-iri Channel (in the suburbs behind Sendai and Shiogama ports) is designated as a Bay Area.

Most of the Iwanuma, Natori, Sendai and Higashi-Matsushima regions of the canal are rice-paddy areas. However, Yuriage (Natori), Arahama (Sendai), central Tagajo, Nobiru (Higashi-Matsushima) and Ishinomaki were residential areas before the Great East Japan Earthquake. Additionally, the regions behind Sendai and Shiogama ports was an industrial area.

Before the Great East Japan Earthquake, copses of black pine were planted along both sides of all sections of the Teizan canal, so the entire canal region was maintained as an idyllic rural landscape. Tidal flats in the region (such as those at Gamo and Ido-ura) were visited by many wild birds. There are also historical remains.


In the Nobiru area of Higashi-Matsushima, there are the remains of the abandoned Nobiru Port in the form of breakwaters, piers made of bricks, and the remains of sewers. Also, the confluence of the Old Kitakami River and the Kitakami Canal in Ishinomaki is the site of Ishii lock gates, which are still in use (managed by Kitakami River Downstream Office of the Ministry of Transport, Tohoku Region).

Although the Teizan Canal was damaged by the tsunami of the Great East Japan Earthquake,
if restoration is continued, it can retain many of its special features as in former years.

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