-貞山運河研究所は、貞山運河の魅力を再発見し、地域振興に活かします-

Introduction

Teizan Canal is located close to the seashore in Miyagi Prefecture. It is composed of 5 sections, of which the first to be constructed was Kibiki Channel, beginning at the end of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period, in 1597, and was completed just 1 year after the Sekigahara War, so this section is more than 400 years old. However, the next two sections were not begun until during the Meiji Period (towards the end of the 19th Century) so there was a span of roughly 300 years until the canal we see today had been completed, extending as a single waterway either side of Matsushima Bay.

The canal has a long and interesting history but few people understand its true merit. Before the Earthquake and Tsunami comprising the Great East Japan Disaster of 11 March, 2011, the canal was associated along its length with a very rich natural habitat. Both banks of the canal were lined with beautiful black pine trees contributing to a calm rural landscape. In several places (such as Gamo Tidal Flats and Idoura) many wild birds gathered, so the Teizan Canal was part of a very important natural environment.

The region along Teizan Canal is part of a broad coastal flood plain region of Miyagi Prefecture associated with 7 cities and 3 towns, a population totalling more than 1.5 million people, which is 65% of the population of the whole prefecture. Numerous houses were built along the canal, bringing many people into intimate contact with it. No-one previously has particularly considered this canal as an important resource for this area, although some municipalities hold events associated with it. Since they see it every day, the residents along the canal regard it as mundane and are not particularly conscious of its value.

The disaster had a huge effect on the canal and its residents, being hit directly along its entire length by the tsunami, which severely damaged the canal banks. It also disrupted the nearby environment and destroyed historical structures. However, some researchers have pointed out that the Teizan Canal reduced the damaging effects of the tsunami, so its importance in disaster prevention should be considered in a more systematic way.

Presently, reconstruction work is under way to repair the canal banks, construct a protective tidal embankment and plant trees. The extent to which the canal and its environs can be returned to their state previous to the disaster is unclear, but from now on it is very important to make practical use of the canal as an important local resource to help revive the local community and to help with preparations for future disasters. The Teizan Canal Research Group aims to work with local communities, government organizations and schools to make practical use of the canal as a resource focussed on the tourist industry.

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