Japan is known for the close relationship between its people and nature. Shinto, the native religion of Japan, includes the worship of natural phenomena and nature itself. It is not a surprise, therefore, that Japan is still predominantly covered in untouched forests. However, this rugged environment meant that the people of years ago had to be quite clever to make their place amongst the mountains. This is true, especially of one village, the village of living water.
The village of Harie(針江), in Shiga prefecture, is known as the village of living water. This name has been given to them due to their ingenious method of providing both themselves, and their crops, with fresh, clean water.
In Harie the people developed a new way of providing themselves with clean water, by building rooms called “kabata(川端)”. These kabata are rooms, usually not attached to the main house, where fresh spring water flows. The water does not naturally flow to the kabata, but is directed there by a series of channels, canals and bamboo slides. This is only possible due to the location of the homes, as it uses the natural link between the mountain waters and Lake Biwa.
People in Harie use the kabata for all their daily chores, such as cleaning fresh vegetables and washing their dishes. Kabata is also used to keep foods such as vegetables or tofu fresh, and so they are stored in the water. Even though this water is used to clean things the water that leaves the kabata is still clean, clear and fresh.. This is because of the kabta secret weapon, the carp! Each kabata houses carp, carp are natural bottom feeders and so the carp eat all the scraps that come from the plates and vegetables. In this way, perfect harmony is achieved between nature and man!
If you plan to visit Harie you can get a visitors badge which allows you to enter local people’s homes to look at their kabata. You will also get a small bamboo flash so you can sample the water in different parts of the village. It may seem shocking but the water can even taste different between homes, and it is all delicious. Once the people have used the kabata water it flows back into Lake Biwa or is redirected and is used for growing the areas rice, which is special due to the clear spring water.
If you get a chance to go and experience one of the many ways in which the Japanese people achieve harmony with nature. There is also an added bonus, with such clear water nature comes to the people of Harie, one of note is the firefly, which on a few nights a year give a dazzling display, it is not to be missed!