Historic Sites of Modern Times

UQ Lake Biwa Canal (National Historic Site)
Location: Sakyo-ku, Higashiyama-ku, Yamashina-ku, Kyoto City; Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture

In 1881, after transfer of the capital to Tokyo, the governor of Kyoto Prefecture, Kitagaki Kokudo, organized plans to access the plentiful supply of fresh water in Lake Biwa, by excavation of a canal between the lake and Kyoto. The motivation for the scheme was the possibility of boat transport of goods between the lake and Uji River, and for development of industry in Kyoto. With the help of a young engineer, Tanabe Sakuro, construction of the canal became the first domestically-organized engineering project of the modern era. Passing through the grounds of Nanzenji Temple, the brick, arched aqueduct was built in conjunction with the first inclined railway in the country. Trolleys on two rails, one for up and one for down, carried boats across the undulating landscape of the Keage district, in Higashiyama Ward. Lake Biwa Canal was built entirely by Japanese, shortly after western technology was first introduced into the country. As the first purely domestic civil engineering project, the canal is a valuable historic relic of considerable significance.

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