Kitagaki Kunimichi (北垣国道)

Kunimichi KITAGAKI (September 17, 1836 - January 16, 1916) was a statesman and baron of the Meiji period. His childhood name was Sutezo. His changed his name to Shintaro after he came of age. He called himself 'Seioku' in his later years.

1916: He died.

Achievements and evaluation
Lake Biwa Canal

When Kitagaki assumed the position of governor of Kyoto Prefecture, the town of Kyoto was losing its liveliness as an urban community because of population drain to Tokyo, Osaka and so on, which was caused by the transfer of the capital to Tokyo, and so on; and also because of industrial recession. Kitagaki planned, as a measure to promote industries in Kyoto, the construction of Lake Biwa Canal for irrigation, water supply, water transport and powering water wheels by building a canal between Lake Biwa and Kyoto.

The design work for the canal was advanced by Sakuro TANABE, a graduate of the Imperial College of Engineering (later Faculty of Engineering, the University of Tokyo) and an engineer of Kyoto Prefecture; it was completed in four years and eight months of major construction works. He went on an inspection tour of the United States while the construction works were in progress, and he introduced hydroelectric system which had not been in the original plan; he built Keage Power Plant, Japan's first hydroelectric power station for business use, and in 1895, commercial operation of Japan's first streetcar (Kyoto Electric Railway) started in the section between Kyoto and Fushimi.

His days as a director of the Hokkaido Government Office

The harbor of Hakodate Port, which had been shallow since long before, had deposition of sediments so that it became impossible for large vessels to reach the shore; in 1892, in response to the submission of "Proposal for dredging and repairs of Hakodate Harbor and construction of a dock," a request for repairs of Hakodate Harbor, Kitagaki directed dredging work of the harbor and construction of sand control dyke, breakwater and lighthouse as well as improvement works including construction of a wharf by reclaiming land from the sea. They were completed in 1898.

In March 1894, when he was the director of the Hokkaido Government Office, he planned to build Hokkaido Government Railway both for colonization and defense of Hokkaido. He invited Tanabe, who was his daughter's husband at that time, and asked him to conduct investigation for construction. Tanabe conducted the investigation and directed the construction of the section between Sorachibuto (present day Takikawa City) and Asahikawa City in Kamikawa Line (a part of present-day Hakodate Main Line) in the beginning, and also other sections which later became parts of Soya Main Line and Nemuro Main Line.

Evaluation

Financial resources for the construction of Lake Biwa Canal were not only the finances of the country and Kyoto Prefecture, but also municipal bonds, contributions, and special-purpose tax on citizens; he worked hard together with citizens of the prefecture. He also devoted himself to establishment of Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry and so on to contribute to the founding of the modern industrial city of Kyoto.

Kitagaki is highly regarded, among successive governors of Kyoto Prefecture, by many political or business leaders of today's Kyoto.

The story of the construction of Lake Biwa Canal, which Kitagaki and Tanabe had worked together hand-in-hand, was once on an elementary school textbook of social studies published by Osaka Shoseki Co., Ltd.