Harie Shozu no Sato (Village of Living Water): —Waterside life with kabata wells—

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Have you ever heard the word kabata? In the Harie district of Takashima City in Shiga Prefecture, on the western shore of Lake Biwa, underground water flowing from the Hira mountains gushes forth naturally, and for generations local residents have used this spring water for their daily chores. They call it “living water” (shozu). Before the diffusion of tap-water services, they used this spring water for everything from drinking and cooking to doing the washing. The places in houses or in the community where this “living water” bubbled up were called kabata (a kind of well). These kabata were cherished as places where water could be obtained from nature and where people gathered for a chat. After the diffusion of sewerage and tap-water systems, the kabata went out of fashion. But in recent years, with growing awareness of the need for environmental preservation and increased importance placed on water and the harmonious interaction between human settlements and nature (satoyama), this system of utilizing spring water has been attracting much attention. In particular, when NHK produced a program and DVD about Harie’s kabata, titled “Satoyama: Japan’s Secret Watergarden,” in 2004, it drew an enormous response from both Japan and overseas. I myself remember being very moved by that program, and I had wanted to visit the district for some time. Recently my wish was fulfilled, and a representative of the Harie Shozu no Sato Committee kindly showed me around.

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