2006年12月 1日 (金)

Biwako Circumnavigation

  • Japanese(琵琶湖周航)
  • Ohmioohahsi1_2
                           Biwako Omi-Ohashi and Hieizan

    The existence of Lake Biwa is so important for Shiga Prefecture. The whole prefecture is geared to environmental preservation and the water quality improvement. Every enterprise registered in Shiga Prefecture are afraid of causing an environmental waste problem. However, Ryotaro Shiba pointed out the envirommental destruction of Lake Biwa due to the so-called civil engineering and construction age of  1960's to 70's in his book "Kaido wo Yuku, vol. 24, Omi stroll" in detail.

    The Ministry of Construction presented the idea of building a dam in the center of Lake Biwa in 1965. The plan was withdrawn due to the local opposition three years later. However, the plan to meddle with Lake Biwa with civil engineering and construction projects was taken over by the Shiga Prefectural government, and Governor Nozaki announced a plan to build an artificial island in Hama-Otsu in 1972. Moreover, the unfair land transactions occurred for the coast by the civil engineering and construction capital of local in these days, but came to light in 1974.

                         Hieizan from the east shore of Biwako            

    In the election of the govenor of Shiga Prefecture held afterwards, Masayoshi Takemura (looks like Moomin papa) who clamored for the "Protection of Lake Biwa" dramatically won the election against most expectations. Incumbent governor Nozaki was a follower of prime minister Kakuei Tanaka at that time who carried out the reconstruction of Japan islands with civil engineering and construction projects. I also cast a vote for Mr. Takemura under the sense of mission. Now, I reside in the region that became the stage of the land rolling at that time.

    Residents of Shiga prefecture in those days had a sense of crisis due to the envirommental destruction of Lake Biwa for the first time, and banished the phosphorus synthetic detergents under the movement of the inhabitants. Governor Takemura also repelled a violent obstruction campaign by Japan Soap & Detergent Association, and passed alias "Lake Biwa Ordinance" in 1979. I think that Governor Takemura's contribution was great for creating the foundation for Lake Biwa environmental preservation. He stopped the trend of local governments blindly following the national government's plan for civil engineering and construction. 

    However, Governor Takemura later joined the Liberal-Democratic Party. Most of his supporters at that time were disappointed at his apostasy. He became the minister of finance and it looked that he attained his long-cherished ambition. But I wonder if he really thought better becoming minister of finance of national government compared with the shine in the governer of Shiga Prefecture.

    Like this, there were many environmental crisis in Lake Biwa during recent years. It was so good to get rid of building the artificial island and dam in Lake Biwa. Rowing around Lake Biwa is still possible today as in the old days without any physical obstructions. This was made very famous by the song, "Biwako Shuko no Uta" (Lake Biwa Rowing Song).

    Course of Biwako Shuko no Uta
    (From Imazu-cho homepage. )

    < Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song) >
    This song about rowing around Lake Biwa starts with "♪ We're childlen of the lake". This song is often sung at the end of various parties at schools and companies in Kyoto and Shiga. It became famous nationwide thanks to Tokiko Kato in 1971. There are a lot of people who know this song, even though they have not been to Lake Biwa.

    The writer who wrote the lyrics of this song is well known, Taro Oguchi. He was a member of the rowing team in the old Third High school in Kyoto (present Kyoto University). The lyrics were first revealed at an inn in Imazu while they rowed around Lake Biwa in 1917 (Taisho 6). Crew members sung it along the melody of a popular song at that time. This was birth of the Biwako Shuko no Uta (Lake Biwa Rowing Song). Afterwards, lyrics were supplemented, it became the dormitory song of the Third High school, and it became student's song one likes to sing.

    Taro Oguchi was born in 1897 (Meiji 30) in Okaya, Nagano prefecture. He entered the Third High School in Kyoto, then went to the University of Tokyo. He had a versatility such as taking the patent of "Cable and wireless multiple telegraphic communication telephone method". However, he died too early when he was 26 years old. The circumstances about him are detailed in the homepage of the Imazu-cho town hall.

    It was in 1971 when Tokiko Kato sang this song and became a hit. However, it was unknown who composed the melody of this song, at that time. The original melody of this song came from "Hitsuji Kusa" (Water Lilies) by Chiaki Yoshida. This became known in 1979 by the investigation of ardent pursuers.

    Chiaki Yoshida born in 1895 (Meiji 28). He came from Niitsu, Niigata prefecture and attended Tokyo University of Agriculture. He announced " Hitsuji Kusa"(sheep grass) to magazine "Music World" in 1915. But he also died early when he was 24 years old. Taro Oguchi's lyrics fitted this melody well, so the famous piece of music "Biwako Shuko no Uta" was born in 1917 (Taisho 6) when this melody had become popular.

      Taro Oguchi          Chiaki Yoshida
    (From the Imazu-cho homepage)

    < Sailing around Lake Biwa plan 40 years ago >
    I and my friend planned to sail around Lake Biwa during the 'Bon' holidays in 1966 (Showa 41) with the Snipe class yacht for two people. That year was our second year of employment at our company. The start of planning of Sailing around Lake Biwa was not a translation of yearning to the song of the Biwako Shuko no Uta for a long time. Because the friend was born and grown up in Tokyo, I think that he had said that let's do something in Lake Biwa because he came to Shiga for the first time.

    We decided to carry out the sailing trip during three days of the Bon holidays, and talked about our plan to our senior in the company who owned the yacht. He supported our plan and talked his abundant experiences of sailing around Lake Biwa. Moreover, he promised us to assist us and to lend us his yacht. Then, we received special training from him during three months after work and on Sundays, and we became full-fledged yachtsmen!

    The teacher did not get on and piled up the practice by two people while improving in skill. We had an ungraceful experience when the yacht capsized when it turned and we swam with clothing. The happening in front of many spectators wearing yukata at the view room of a hotel in Hamaotsu. We also learned that it's possible to restore the yacht easily by returning and causing it within 30-40 seconds even if capsized.

    Though it's natural for yachtsman, the yacht can advance to the windward. It advances to the windward by diagonally receiving the head wind, going up diagonally, turning about in a suitable point, and advancing in a zigzag line. I was greatly impressed that the yacht can sail according to the law of fluid mechanics though it took time compared with having fair wind.

    We had only three days during Bon holidays. It usually took four or more days for Sailing around Lake Biwa, but new employees could not take paid holidays so easily in those days. To make the route shorter, we changed the sailing plan and our senior colleague took the yacht to Katata on Saturday afternoon and we started from there in the evening.

    < Journal of our Sailing around Lake Biwa 40 years ago >
    After such a preparation stage, we went to Katata after work on Saturday, August 14, the day before the Bon holidays in 1966 (Showa 41),. We left Ukimi-do pier finally around six o'clock in the evening. However, the yacht did not advance quickly because of calm winds this night. We carried the yacht ashore after sailing until about ten o'clock, but the beach was private property for a summer house, so the owner got angry and told us to keep out. We again sailed a little more, and camped out on another beach.

      Starting point, Katata Ukimi-do (present figure: I remembered the pier was woody                                                    and half rotten at that time)

    On the second day, there was a little wind since the morning, and we left around six o'clock and advanced for about two hours.  We arrived at Omi-Maiko beach, the scene of Omatsu village in the song Biwako Shuko no Uta. It is a swimming beach busy mostly in summer. The monument of Hakutei (white beach) at Omatsu cape has been built now though it is not existed at that time. Okinoshima island floats on the opposite side, and this side is supposed to pass at our way back.

    Mt. Hira from Omi-Maiko beach.    The memorial of Hakutei at Omatsugasaki

    A strong wind blew this day from around ten o'clock and our yacht advanced smoothly with the good wind. Chikubu-shima seen far away soon became bigger. We were questioned by a patrol boat along the way, asking us about our destination and contact information. We knew later that the wind was considerably strong on this day in Lake Biwa and 14 yachts capsized due to the effect of a typhoon which had approached Kyushu. That's why our yacht advanced so quickly.

    Our yacht advanced rapidly without us knowing about the typhoon, so we could arrive at Chikubu-shima in the evening. We climbed a mountain, went to Hogonji temple and asked for overnight lodging because we heard the temple offered lodging to travelers. The goggle-eyed priest came out and he refused our request because there was an event at Bon Festival that day.

    Later we understood that the solemn ceremony named Renge-e was held on August 15 and that it was the most important event of the year for Hogonji temple. It's understandable that the priest refused our request for lodging that day. However, we didn't know about this important day, and held a grudge against the priest due to our folly of youth at the time. We had no choice but to sail on. We sailed to the east shore of Lake Biwa with a strong wind.

                 Chikubu-shima                     From the Biwa-cho homepage

    We smoothly reached the east shore with houses. We had no trouble thanks to the wind. I guessed this was the suburbs of Nagahama city, but it was Onoe village in Kohoku-cho located more north of Nagahama. We were lucky because our arrival point was fortunately a side of an inn, and we could stay there that night.     


    A person there asked us where we came from, and he was very surprised when we told him we came from Otsu by yacht. He said "Like Kenichi Horie !" Kenichi Horie in his younger days succeeded in the solo Pacific Ocean crossing by the yacht "Mermaid" in 1962 (Showa 37). As the book "Lonely Pacific Ocean " written by him had come out a little later, the person also had known Horie's success probably.

        Chikubu-shima from Onoe                   Onoe's creek

    By the way, I was still a high school student, when young Horie's heroic deed made big news. He described details in his book that, at that time, leaving the country with a yacht was not allowed in Japan though he left no stone unturned. Unavoidably, he said, "It's all around blocking though Japan was an island nation !", and left the country without formal permission.

    Therefore, it became a controversy that his heroic deed was right or wrong. Almost all students including me accepted his action and criticized the isolation constitution of Japan. However, my senior colleague who desired becoming lawyer in future didn't accept his action because it was against the law-abiding spirit. The law might have been changed without actually punishing young Horie though I didn't know in detail.

    Mr. Kenichi Horie is three years older than me. According to his homepage, he again crossed the Pacific Ocean like 40 years ago, from Nishinomiya to San Francisco in 2002 and expressed his gratitude to the citizens in San Francisco.

    As I had remembered that the name of the inn we stayed at that time included the word "Momiji (red leaves)", I again visited Onoe recently after 40 years. But I couldn't find any inn with a name including "Momiji", and there were Beniayu-kan and Onoe-so only. Moreover, Onoe was a simple fishing village and agricultural area surroundings at that time. It has since changed completely because the lake road was constructed. The vicinity where was apparently the reaching point of our yacht changed from a beautiful reedy coast to concrete walls, and the memory did not revive.

    On the third day, rain was strong since morning because of the typhoon in the Kyushu region, and we postponed sailing. Because rain had stopped before noon, we left then. The head wind first changed into the fair wind on the way, and we advanced to south rapidly.

    We passed by "Oki no Shiraishi "(white rocks in the offing of Hikone) that projected from the surface of lake, and saw sideways "Oki no Shima" (the island in front of Chomei-ji Temple in Ohmi-Hachiman) on the way. At last we reached "Miami beach", the famous swimming beach on the east shore of Lake Biwa in the evening. We spent this night in a tent because of crowding though we wanted to rent a bungalow.

               Oki no Shiraishi                             Miami beach

    The fourth day was the final day of our vacation, and we left Miami beach in early morning since we had to reach Hamaotsu by this day. We had a strong head wind. Therefore, we sailed the yacht toward Biwako Ohashi Bridge by zigzagging.

    We could smoothly pass between the bridge columns of the Biwako Ohashi on the first day when going northward from Katata. However, we had some troubles when passing under the bridge on the way back. The wind seemed to swirl under the bridge, destabilizing the yacht. It could have knocked us against the bridge column in the worst-case scenario. We tried passing through several times nervously, and when the yacht passed through safely, we felt relieved.

    The southern part of the lake was where we had already practiced sailing and was a familiar place. We felt relieved after entering the southern part after passing under Biwako O-hashi Bridge. We safely reached Hamaotsu, though it was zigzag sailing because of the head wind. And we visited the house of our senior colleague to report our return.  He also felt relieved that his two pupils had come back safely. As it was an time with no cellular phones and email, and moreover there was a typhoon, we worried him very much.

          Biwako O-hashi Bridge(present)          Sailing course(red line)

    After leaving his house we went to Hamaotsu and wished to eat a thick steak.. We went immediately to a restaurant and our Lake Biwa circumnavigation was completed. We found that we had advanced fairly quickly along a wide north lake with the distance, when the route was traced. However, this Sailing around Lake Biwa 40 years ago was very dangerous in a modern sense to which the safety consciousness developed, and it might be called reckless.

    It was said that men who were able to sail a yacht in Lake Biwa would be full-fledged yachtsmen because the wind was very complex due to the Hiei-oroshi and the Hira-hakko winds. We two became full-fleged yachtmen and had done such a great thing, Lake Biwa circumnavigation, with satisfaction. However, our interest in sailing weakened after that probably because of excessive satisfaction, and we came to play mainly on land.

    <The Song museum of Biwako Shuko no Uta>
    When I looked at the homepage of the Imazu-cho town hall, I found out that the song museum of Biwako Shuko no Uta was established in 1998 (Heisei 10) in Imazu. I visited on March 10, 2004. It is a small museum located at 3 or 4 minutes on foot from Imazu Station of JR Kosei line.

    The museum is managed by Imazu-cho Tourist Association. The admission fee was free and photographing was permitted. There was the framed lyrics of Biwako Shuko no Uta brush-written by Dr. Reona Esaki on the left wall when entering. Dr. Esaki also graduated from the old Third High school, so he must have been loved this song. The song reached my ear at the entrance and in the museum.

            "Biwako Shuko no Uta" Lyrics written by Reona Esaki

    At the center of the museum, a model of the same type of fixed-seat boat used by the rowing team of the Third High School was exhibited. This type of boat disappeared because rowing competitions no longer supported it as they shifted from the National Athletic Meet in 1960's. However, two fixed-seat boats were built in 1993(Heisei 5) by those who loved the Biwako Shuko no Uta and wished for the revival of Lake Biwa circumnavigation, and it was presented to Imazu-cho.

                     Fix type boat                        Photographs of Taro Oguchi

    Photographs of Imazu during the time the song was born, and materials about Taro Oguchi and Chiaki Yoshida were exhibited in the museum. Moreover, there was an explanation about water lilies, and it was interesting. The water lilies seemed to be the only type that grew naturally in Japan. From June through October, the water lilies were in full bloom at the time of sheep (around two o'clock in the afternoon) and this was the reason why this name "hitsuji kusa" (sheep grass) was given in Japanese,

          Materials of Taro Oguchi           Materials of Chiaki Yoshida

    According to the chronology, Taro Oguchi died at the age of 26 after he entered the Aviation Research laboratory of the University of Tokyo after graduating from the faculty of Science. After that he was scheduled to join the Matsumoto regiment because of the military draft. In the chronology of Chiaki Yoshida, he entered Tokyo University of Agriculture after suffering from tuberculosis. However, he left the university because of his worsening condition and died at the age of 24 after announcement of the Water Lilies song.

    The song of Biwako Shuko no Uta became famous because it was sung as the dormitory song of the Third High School in Kyoto. But both the writer of lyrics and composer of the melody died too early, so the details of the birth of this song were not clarifyed untill considerably later. It was understood in 1979 (Showa 54) that the composer of Water Lilies was Chiaki Yoshida, and his real photo was understood in finally 1993(Heisei 5).

    It was described above that Taro Oguchi made applications for the patent related to telegraphic communication to Britain, Germany, Australia, Canada, and Sweden excluding Japan while in The University of Tokyo. He was an excellent student because it might have been great to apply for foreign countries in the age of Taisho era. The reason that he died next year though he passed the military draft inspection in 1923 (Taisho 12) was not understood from the chronology.

    It's unimaginable for two then unknown people to create such a popular song like Biwako Shuko no Uta which came to be loved by a lot of people, and to even have a museum for the song.

    <Biwako Shuko no Uta, sing in English!>
    Recently I found out the wonderful website relate to Biwako Shuko no Uta written by Philbert Ono. An English version of this song was created in June 2006 by Philbert Ono. Details here: http://photoguide.jp/txt/Lake_Biwa_Rowing_Song 

    <"We love Shiga">
    Philbert Ono made "We love Shiga" banner images (horizontal and square) in various sizes.
    Details here: http://shiga-ken.com/blog/2013/07/we-love-shiga-banners/                                                               

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