The Omagari Lock Gate
Photographed in 1951 by an American Military Doctor
Mar. 4th, 2018
Translated by Stefan Ramos
In the above photo are two hirata boats and a motor boat passing through the Omagari lock gate (which used to be called the Jogawa River southern lock gate) in the Kitakami canal. They are continuing on towards the direction of the Narusegawa River (in the background of the photo). In the bottom photo is a family helping with the lock gate guard’s work of opening and closing the gate. The one-story building on the right is the guard’s official residence.
Along the Kitakami canal, which extends 13.9 kilometers and connects the Narusegawa and Kyukitakami Rivers, there are differences in water levels. The water level on the canal side is lower, so ship navigation becomes dangerous during high tide. The lock gate was installed with the objective of regulating these water levels.
In 1907 (Meiji 40), a wooden lock gate was established at the converging waterways of Kama and Omagari on either side of the Jogawa River with the objective of preventing sediment influx and counter-currents during floods. Because of the destruction from the high tide in 1913 (Taisho 2), a second concrete lock gate was built and construction finished in 1916 (Taisho 5).
The double doors of the lock gate are made of wood. The gates were opened and closed by turning a man-powered device called a kagurasan (capstan). The origin of the word kagurasan is unknown, but the framework is set up with squared timber. There is a thick log in the middle that acts as an axis; into the axis are inserted two wooden poles that when pushed by people would wind up the rope connected to the top part of the doors. This would open and close the doors. There was one kagurasan attached to each door, so this work would happen on the other river bank as well.
After the Meiji period small-sized steamboats went into commission on the canals. As a water route that connected the Shiogama and Ishinomaki ports, the Kyukitakamigawa River basin transported people and goods. Even after the war into the 30’s (1955-1964) of the Showa period, one could see the tranquil scene of motorboats pulling hirata boats carrying building materials like wood, river sand, and well stones.
The doors of the Omagari lock gate were switched with steel doors in 1966 (Showa 41), and many remember the mechanization of the opening and closing equipment. It is unknown for how long the prefecture stationed a guard there, but the gate deteriorated, lost the ability to open and close, and was removed. Now sometimes boats coming and going choose to sail at high tide. (Local Historian, Seiji Henmi)
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You can browse the published photos on the photographer’s eldest son, Alan Butler’s, website “Miyagi 1951”. https://www.miyagi1951.com/
Please feel free to contribute any information regarding these photos to Mr. Henmi at 090(4317)7706.