The Underground Springs of Saijo, “The Capital of Water”. (One of Japan’s Top 100 Famous Sources of Spring Water)

Born of a 2004 merger between the old Saijo city, Toyo city and two towns located in Shuso district (Komatsu and Tanbara), Saijo city, Ehime Prefecture is Located at the foot of Mt. Ishizuchi, the highest summit in west Japan.
The old Saijo city, located on the east side of the current city, is known as the “Capital of Water”. The spring water that can be found gushing from underground almost everywhere has been quenching thirsts since ancient times.

By using a method called “uchinuki”, which simply involves driving a 15 to 30 meter metal pipe into the ground, good quality spring water comes out. It is said that within the city area there are around 2,000 uchinuki.
The water of the old Saijo city has even been selected as one of Japan’s most famous sources of spring water. In addition to locals, there is no end to the people who come from far away to draw water. Around 90 thousand square meters of water surfaces naturally everyday and is widely used in daily life, in agriculture and for industrial purposes.

 

Near Saijo station, on the west side of the Cultural Centre, and close to the Aquatopia River System, you can find an “uchinuki” drinking fountain.

 

 

This can be seen everywhere – continuously flowing, beautiful water.

 

 

In addition, there are places where not only uchinuki water, but also spring water comes to the surface – the source of the Aquatopia River system being one.

 

 

This is the moat around the ruins of the “Jin’ya” encampment.
In 1636 (Edo period), the Hitotsuyanagishi family who were the castle lords of Ise Kobe became the feudal lords of Saijo. The second lord, Shigenao, constructed an encampment around which the town grew.
Later in 1670, Yorizumi Matsudaira (Ieyasu Tokugawa’s grandson), became the feudal lord. For around 200 years the town prospered as the capital town of the Daimyo’s fiefdom of 30,000 Goku (rice).
The moat and the ruins is still a place where residents come to relax.

 

 

There are many legends surrounding Kobo Daishi’s water. This is the first of the stories!

 

“This is an ancient story of when Kobo Daishi was on a pilgrimage in Shikoku. When he sat down on a stone for some rest, an old woman carrying water walked by. Kobo Daishi was feeling thirsty, so he asked for and received some water from the old woman. After he learned that she had brought the water from far away, he hit the ground several times with the end of his staff. As he did, beautifully clear water started bursting from the ground.”

 

 

As this is a place where water can be found welling up from nearly everywhere, I stumbled upon a scene that must be unique to this kind of area – a place for washing field-grown vegetables before shipping them on.

 

Farmers gather early in the morning and in the evening.
They say that the cold uchinuki water shuts in the flavor of the vegetables and keeps them fresh for longer.

 

 

Receiving blessings from the highest summit in western Japan, Mt. Ishizuchi… the waters of Saijo city keep on flowing.

 

 

Mother Nature, providing us with such beautiful, delicious water… Living in the big city, you don’t have many chances to feel the connection between water and life, water and nature.

 

This may well be an area that will teach us the importance of water.
The Capital of Water, Saijo city.  How about a visit?
Saijo city Tourist Information Website – uchinuki (Japanese):

http://www.city.saijo.ehime.jp/kankou/utinuki1.htm

 

The Water History Museum (Japanese):

http://www.city.saijo.ehime.jp/mizunorekishikan/index.htm

 
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Maki Ohashi

 

 

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