Jul 10, 2018

Taming Nature? Worth the Construction or Not?

If you go to just about any river in Japan, you’ll see levees or concrete walls similar to this:

Taming Nature?  Worth the Construction or Not? photo

Likewise, a lot of mountainsides (especially along roads) are covered in concrete and/or nets to combat rock- and landslides.

I’ve heard a lot of expats complain about how built up Japan is. In fact, if you're interested in those arguments, Alex Kerr's book Dogs and Demons edicates many pages to the political construction machine that led to Japanese attempts to tame nature at the expense of wildlife and aesthetics.

Certainly, I understand the argument that over-construction can be harmful to flora and fauna and that it can mar the landscape. Japan is such a naturally beautiful country, and massive build up takes away from that.

Still, nature reminds us of the harm she can do. All you have to do is look at the havoc wreaked by the torrential rains throughout the country this past week. But imagine how much worse it might have been without the extensive network of levees, causeways , and other disaster mitigation structures.

I, for one, am grateful for the government’s work in building around rivers, especially since my home is about 300 meters from a major waterway. We have had some torrential storms since I moved here, but not once have I been worried about flooding because of the extensive disaster planning and construction that has been done to mitigate those hazards.

Does the Japanese government go overboard with construction projects? Absolutely. But so does every government that engages in pork barrel politics. I would not put the construction directed towards protecting local populations from natural disasters in the same bucket as those pork barrel projects though.

So I would say, Yes, it's worth the construction.

Note: As a side benefit, the causeways that run along rivers make for the best, most peaceful walking paths: 

Taming Nature?  Worth the Construction or Not? photo

What do you think about Japan’s attempts to tame nature? Worth the money, effort, and sacrifice to natural beauty and wildlife homes?   Feel free to use the comments section below!



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).