@@@History of Japan Sabo Association

Short history of Sabo before the establishment of Japan Sabo Association

Records of Sabo works exist from the Nara and Heian periods. During the Edo period, mountainous areas were devastated because of the construction of temples and shrines in various places and urban development. Mountainous areas also provided resources for living in terms of cutting down trees in fuel-wood forests, excavating clay for porcelain, and developing mines and fields. This created social problems arising from expanded human activities.
The Fukuyama feudal domain controlled mud and debris flows in river valleys by constructing sediment trap works, and the Shogunate government promulgated the "Regulations of Mountains and Rivers in Various Domains" and took measures such as prohibiting the cutting down of trees in mountains and forests, and encouraging the planting of trees.
The government in the Meiji Era invited engineers from overseas to introduce foreign technologies and systems in various fields to provide the basis for Japan in the modern era. The government also invited river engineers from the Netherlands to give guidance on securing river transport and maintaining the functions of harbors. One of the engineers, Mr. Johannis De Rijke, believed that in order to improve the lower reaches of rivers the foremost importance should be placed on the control of sediment flows from the upper reaches. He gave guidance on sites for Sabo in various places for 30 years, and repeatedly made Sabo proposals to the government. Therefore Sabo projects were considered important by the government. Gradually, however, the government placed more importance on the control of floods in the lower reaches of rivers because of the development of economic activities in Japan, and Sabo projects declined for a while.

Economic crisis and impoverishment of farming villages

At the beginning of the Showa Era, the depression that occurred in 1929 when the worldwide great depression began after World War I had a terrible impact on the nation. Farming villages suffered the most from the bad economy, with numerous unemployed and extreme impoverishment. In order to give relief to farming villages, the government started special civil works projects. Because Sabo projects had lower land costs and a higher proportion of labor costs than material costs, ensured the creation of job opportunities and cash income, and could be carried out throughout the nation, Mr. Toshiki Karasawa, Director-General of the Civil Engineering Bureau of the Ministry of Interior, decided to expand Sabo projects as the most appropriate projects for the purpose.

Sabo projects saved farming villages

Partly because the rate of subsidies for Sabo projects was raised to half (one-third general rules) in fiscal 1932 and the following years, the budget increased by four times compared to the previous year. Subsidized projects increased by more than six times. The amount and content of the budget improved remarkably. The projects were carried out for three years starting in 1932. Almost major Sabo works in the nation were based on consistent Sabo planning from the sources to the confluences of main rivers. In fiscal 1933, the rate of subsidies was raised to two thirds as prescribed in the Sabo Act, and the subsidized projects further progressed. It is no exaggeration to say that the basis of major Sabo works in the nation, which are currently representative of subsidized Sabo works, were formed by these projects. Thus Sabo projects were positively carried out especially in farming villages, and greatly contributed to the recovery from the depression and to the building of stable communities in farming villages.

Typhoon Muroto in 1934

Typhoon Muroto raged fiercely throughout the nation in 1934. The Kinki and Chubu regions suffered tremendously. However, much less damage was incurred in regions in which Sabo projects had been carried out to relieve farming villages since fiscal 1932 than in areas in which such projects were not executed. The effect of Sabo was fully realized and the people, who had suffered from disasters for many years, witnessed the result of Sabo works.

The time for establishment of Japan Sabo Association

Although the number of Sabo projects increased by four times as a result of the Sabo projects to relieve farming villages, there was a substantial reduction in the amount of funding after the completion of the three-year projects begun in 1932, and the situation returned to the former stage. Four members of the Nagano Prefectural Assembly, who knew from experience that areas with Sabo projects had suffered little damage, visited Mr. Akagi, who was the Engineer in charge of unifying nationwide Sabo projects in the Ministry of Interior, to express the wishes of the local people. They strongly requested that the budget for Sabo projects should not be reduced. The consultations suddenly furnished an excellent opportunity for the establishment of the JSA.

Establishment of Japan Sabo Association and its philosophy

Because Sabo projects are carried out in mountainous areas, the content and effects of the projects are not widely known. However, Mr. Masao Akagi, who had been advocating their major, critical role, decided to establish the "Japan Sabo Association" with the philosophy that "We will enlarge the range of Sabo projects by collecting and uniting all the concerted efforts of people who understand the projects, and by rousing public opinion."

Thus JSA, established in 1935 as a private organization, strengthened its organization and became actively engaged in Sabo-related activities. In order to further improve its organization, "Japan Sabo Association" as a corporate juridical person was established in February 1940. The JSA officially started functioning with Mr. Nobumasa Suetsugu, former Minister of the Interior and Admiral, as the first Chairman and Mr. Masao Akagi as General Manager.
The purpose of the association was described in its standing rules at the time of the establishment as follows:
"This association will investigate Sabo policy, and aim for the promotion and completion of Sabo projects in order to prevent and reduce disasters and promote exchanges between relevant parties."

Members of Japan Sabo Association

Japan Sabo Association established with the above-mentioned philosophy decided to accept municipalities or individuals who supported its purpose as members. At present, there are about 2,730 municipal members, more than 80% of the nationwide municipalities.

Establishment of local branches

Thus JSA started functioning and launched various activities to promote Sabo projects. In order to carry the philosophy of JSA into action, Mr. Masao Akagi strongly felt the need to establish similar regional organizations and recommended the establishment of branches in each prefecture. At the time of the establishment of the association as a corporate juridical person, there were already 35 local branches. At present, there are branches or prefectural associations in all 47 prefectures, which are engaged in their own activities working in cooperation with the headquarters.

Construction of Sabo Hall

For many years, the association held discussions about providing basis for JSA's activities, securing financial resources for activities, and constructing a Sabo Hall as a means to continue to exist permanently. In an extraordinary general meeting held in 1950, the construction of the Sabo Hall was decided on and we started preparing for its construction. Without relying on national government subsidies or private contributions, we counted on our members to cooperate to provide all the funds for its construction.
We have achieved our purpose renting out space in other areas than the areas used by the association, such as rooms and conference rooms, and also by providing the "Sabo Hall" for general meetings. We built the building in the hope that the term "Sabo" would become widely known by having the building used by many people. At present, in addition to the main building completed in 1957, new buildings were built in 1984 and 1993 to provide a basis for the activities of the JSA.

Role and new image of Japan Sabo Association

The purposes of Sabo projects are the reduction and eradication of erosion and sediment disasters so that people may live safely and enjoy an abundant natural environment, thereby helping form a basis for the nation's stable, active socioeconomic activities. Sabo projects also aim to preserve, maintain, and restore nature, and thereby have a very important responsibility.
Though the philosophy of JSA still remains the same, our activities have to develop in various ways to respond to the changes in society over the past 60 years, the requirements of society, and the changes in and diversification of the people.
In 1999, new articles were established for JSA and we started new activities. We decided to basically ensure the interests of our municipal and individual member, and further develop Sabo projects widely. In order to do so, with the aim of realizing "an association that is open and reliable to everybody," we accept suggestions and proposals from our members and others in various fields, reflect them in the management of the association and the administration of Sabo, exchange information, promote investigations, research and international exchanges, publicize and disseminate Sabo, and provide publications, classes and materials for publicity.

Management of the Sabo Hall

The Sabo Hall is widely used for conferences and meetings, and the Scho..nbach Sabo is used for multipurpose uses such as group meetings and seminars.

Guide to Japan Sabo Association