Hachiman-bori Canal (八幡堀)

Hachiman-bori Canal is located in Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture, and measures approximately 15m wide and 6km long.

When Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI built Yawata-jo Castle during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period, the canal was built as part of development of a castle town to serve both the military function of castle defense and the commercial function of water transport in the Lake Biwa area (as a logistics center during the period). In the Edo Period, it contributed to the development of the city by Omi shonin (Omi merchants), i.e. Hachiman shonin (Hachiman merchant).
The canal is lined with storehouses with white earth and mortar walls and merchant homes and is designated as a part of 'Omi Hachiman City Preservation District for Groups of Historic Hachiman Buildings,' together with 'Shinmachi-dori,' 'Nagahara-cho dori' and 'Himure-hachimangu Shrine.'

History

With military success in the Shikoku Conquest in 1585, Hidetsugu TOYOTOMI was given Omi, a 430,000-koku fief (feudal domain estimated to produce 2.15 million bushels of rice annually), where he built the Hachiman Castle in Mt. Hachiman and opened a castle town. In the development project, the lakeside area was reclaimed, and Hachiman-bori Canal was dug around Mt. Hachiman. In the drive to create a free commercial town, he encouraged merchants and artisans living close to Azuchi-jo Castle to relocate and created a residential area that was divided into squares. Samurai families were to live on the north side of the canal, and the common folk were to be located on the south side, which was divided further, with merchants on the western part of the area and artisans on the northeastern side. The canal served both as defense for Hachiman Castle and also as a route for transportation in Lake Biwa, contributing hugely to the growth and prosperity of the town.

Although the castle was closed in 1595 with Hidetsugu committing suicide, the town continued to thrive, reaching a peak of prosperity with commercial operations of the Omi merchants. Taking advantage of Hachiman-bori Canal's geographical advantage, Omi merchants adopted a trade scheme called 'Shokoku Sanbutsu Mawashi (circulation of goods among regions)' in which they shipped local goods (tatami straw mats, mosquito nets, rice, rice wine and others) via land and water and returned with goods from other regions, which in turn were shipped elsewhere, and through this cycle contributed to industrial development in various parts of the country. The regional merchant culture gave birth to the 'Sanpo-yoshi' principle ('good in three directions' meaning that commerce should not only benefit the buyer and the seller but also society as a whole) -- a business concept that emerged from the experiences of the merchants who engaged in trade with other regions of the country.

In the Showa Period, the practice of 'kawa-zawae (river dredging)' to remove sludge disappeared with the decline of Hachiman-bori's importance as a canal and resulted in sludge sedimentation on the canal bed and foul odor in the area. In 1970, the local community association petitioned the municipal government for a plan to renovate the canal, in which the canal was to be filled and turned into a park and parking space. However, the Omihachiman Youth Chamber of Commerce sought to restore the canal as the pride of Omihachiman and pressed for reconsideration of the plan, organizing a petition drive and volunteer cleaning campaign aimed at the restoration of the canal. In 1975, the 'Yomigaeru Omihachiman no kai (Association for Restoring Omihachiman)' was formed, and the canal preservation and restoration movement grow in scale to involve the citizens at large. In 1976, full-scale dredging works started, and the project was completed in 1979. In 1982, the canal was named 'City of Water and Greenery Model District Development Project' supervised by National Land Agency, under which the canal's stone embankments were restored and pedestrian walkways and waterfront plazas were created. In 1988, the 'Group to Preserve Hachiman-bori Canal' was formed, and its members engaged in weeding for improvement of the canal.
In 1992, the canal was designated part of 'Omihachiman City Preservation District' for Groups of Historic Hachiman Buildings, together with 'Shinmachi-dori,' 'Nagahara-cho dori' and 'Himure-hachimangu Shrine.'

The area has also become a favorite filming location for period dramas set in the Edo Period when boats were a popular mode of transportation and river and maritime shipping thrived ("Abarenbo Shogun," "Onihei Hankacho," "Kenkyaku Shobai," etc.).

Location & access

Address
Miyauchi-cho, Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture 523-0828
Transportation
25 minuites on foot from the North Exit of Omihachiman Station on JR Biwako Line or 8 minuites on Omi Railway Bus (bound for Chomei-ji Temple) to Osugi-cho bus stop
Parking space
For 40 medium-sized cars and 10 large vehicles