Japanese and Taiwanese gathered at Wushantou Reservoir (烏山頭水庫) in Tainan County yesterday to hold a memorial for a deceased Japanese water conservationist who turned the infertile land of southern Taiwan into an abundant "rice barn" several decades ago.
Those attending the memorial, some sitting in wheelchairs, held chrysanthemums and sticks of incense, while reciting Japanese songs in front of a statue of engineer Yoichi Hatta (
Hatta's statue, which overlooks the reservoir, was built by his subordinates in 1931, one year after the completion of the largest water conservation project in Taiwan, Chianan Ta Tsun (
The 900,000 or so local farmers who benefitted from the irrigation network named Hatta the "father of Chianan Ta Tsun (
Yesterday, dozens of officials from the Tainan-based Chianan Irrigation Association (
"The water supply system built 70 years ago is still functioning," Chen Cheng-mei (
According to research by Wu Wen-hsing (
In 1919, Hatta was ordered to design an irrigation network for Chianan Plain (
After spending nine-and-a-half years designing, raising finances for, and constructing the project, the team led by Hatta completed the dam in May, 1930.
Carried by a network of 16,000km of irrigation channels, water from the reservoir nourished more than 150,000 hectares of infertile land.
Historians have said that the irrigation work successfully turned the plain into what the Japanese called the "Taiwanese rice barn (台灣米倉)."
Chen Hung-tu (陳鴻圖), a lecturer at Fu Jen Catholic University (輔仁大學), said that Hatta's vision changed the face of agriculture in Taiwan.
"The three-year crop rotation (
But the contributions Japan made to Taiwanese people's livelihoods were neglected after the KMT government took power after its retreat from China.
A local resident in his 40s, Yen Hung-hui (
"When I attended school, I'd never been told these touching stories about the Japanese engineer who devoted himself to helping Taiwan," Yen said.
A Japanese-style grave adjacent to Hatta's statue belongs to his wife, Toyoki Hatta (
Hatta died when his boat was blown up on its way to Southeast Asia on May 8, 1942. Following her husband's death, Hatta's wife remained in Taiwan for three years. Heartbroken over the sudden and tragic loss of her husband, she jumped from one of the reservoir's water discharge pipes to her death.