Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Remembering a dam trouble-maker

Tomoyuki Murohara died in 1970 after having spent the last 20 years of his life unsuccessfully fighting the Japanese government's plan to build a dam that eventually flooded the valley where he forebears had lived for generations.

The Shimouke Dam today.

His struggle—an act of defiance that would have been unthinkable to previous generations—began in 1958 and attracted national attention. He became positively famous in 1959 when he constructed "Beehive Castle" (Hachinosu-Jo), as someone dubbed the home-made observation post he built to protest and watch over the government's pre-construction prep work. The post was occupied 27/7 by Mr. Murohara and his followers.

"Beehive Castle," built in Oguni Town to protest the construction of the Shimouke Dam.

In 1965, however, his legal challenge against the government was thrown out and construction of the Shimouke Dam began, although Mr. Murohara, feisty guy that he was, kept fighting right up until the day he died.

(If you drive through the small towns near the dam, located on border betwee Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures, you can still see the occasional "Oppose the Dam" sign.)

This past Sunday, in Oguni Town (about half an hour from where Mellow Monk tea is grown in Aso City), relatives of Mr. Murohara, including his brother (83) and eldest son (65), unveiled a memorial to the local hero. The site is near the now-flooded valley Mr. Murohara struggled to preserve.

The Murohara memorial being unveiled on Sunday near the dam.

In attendance was the former dam project manager, Ken Soejima, who said he showed up partly to "atone for his sins."

—Mellow Monk

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