NYT on 八ッ場


MARTIN FACKLER “Bridge May Rise Even if Waters Don’t, After Japan Rethinks Damhttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/16/world/asia/16dam.html


In Naganohara, more than 20 construction companies employ about 400 people — about 10 percent of working-age residents. Local people say the town has already suffered hundreds of job losses as ballooning national deficits forced cuts in public works earlier this decade by Junichiro Koizumi, then the prime minister.

“I’m not wedded to the idea of building a dam here, but we need the public works to keep everyone employed,” said Katsuyoshi Hoshino, the president of Miyako Construction, based in Naganohara, which has 10 employees.

The town has tried to come up with its own alternatives for creating jobs, like turning the hot springs into a “Diet Valley” of weight-loss spas for young women.

Local people admit that few of their ideas offer the financial benefits of the dam. While many of the town’s original homes on the valley floor seem cramped and run-down, those being built on the mountainside are large and modern, with solar panels on their roofs.

“The dam is like a drug that is making us addicted,” said Takuji Toyoda, 57, who owns a hot-springs inn. “The money keeps pouring in every year to build things for us.”

In fact, some residents blame the dam and its construction for destroying the town’s original economic self-sufficiency by forcing farmers to give up their fields and driving tourists away from the hot springs.

Kichitaro Tomizawa, 69, a rice and vegetable farmer, said he resisted leaving his large, unpainted wooden home because it had been in his family for four generations and was the place where as a 3-year-old he last saw his father, who died in World War II. But he said that once his neighbors started relocating, he had no choice but to follow, because it takes entire communities to maintain the irrigation ducts used for rice farming.

Mr. Tomizawa’s five-acre farm sits near the bottom of one of the huge crucifix-like concrete pillars built to support a $60 million bridge that is to rise 250 feet above the valley floor — high enough to stand above the reservoir, should it ever take shape.

When pressed, few local people admit to liking the dam. But few can imagine how the town will sustain itself without the project.

“We’ll have to find some other way to survive,” said Mr. Hoshino, the construction company president. “But I can’t see that way now. The future is dark.”