Old, quiet memories in a wild, new world
The Takasegawa Canal
Ian Ropke writes…
This month, if you have the time, consider strolling down the Takegawa Canal along the lively, yet always interesting, world of Kiyamachi and Pontocho. Though the Takasegawa is called a river in Japanese, it is actually a canal, built with thousands of laborers. This is quite amazing, when you consider that the canal runs from Nijo all the way down to the Yodo River in Fushimi/Chushojima, a distance of some 15 kilometers. The water in the river was siphoned off from the Kamogawa River, and the canal ran parallel to the river until Jujo Street, at which point it crossed the river and continued in a southeasterly direction until it merged with the Ujigawa River.
The giant Takasegawa Canal was the brilliant idea of one man: Suminokura Ryoi (1554-1614), a prominent 16th/17th-century Kyoto merchant and overseas trader, who was responsible for a number of visionary projects in Kyoto. A colorful figure of great confidence, Suminokura boldly proposed and funded the construction of the canal, which had a huge impact on Kyoto commerce and also greatly facilitated his own business activities. He was born in Kyoto, to a family of physicians and money lenders. In the 1590s, he obtained an official license to engage in overseas trade from Toyotomi Hideyoshi and quickly built up a fortune trading with Annam and Tonkin (both located in present-day Vietnam). [Read more…]