This chapter challenges some common understandings of Asian and Japanese societies' relationship to the natural environment. It begins with a consideration of natural forces that shaped the Echigo Plain—what it calls “natural construction”—and goes on to discuss some of the ways in which human society has sought to alter the plain to make it safer for human habitation, with particular emphasis on efforts to ameliorate flooding. It looks at Japan's history of reliance on the construction of riparian facilities to address flood hazard risks as well as to provide water for irrigation and urban populations. The chapter describes several civil engineering projects that illustrate the important role played by the controlling urge even in premodern times before turning to the Okōtsu Diversion Channel spanning the years 1870 and 1931. It argues that the Okōtsu Diversion Channel and similar projects provide evidence of the ways riparian construction altered the environment.
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