This study attempts to examine the state of flood emergency activities and levee construction and transformation of the relations between leeve construction and the inhabitants of the lower Tenryu basin. The author studied the activities of flood prevention cooperatives, which had a leading role in levee construction, and used historical documents to examine changes in construction practices from the end of the Edo Period to the end of the Meiji Era. The results are summarized as follows. 1. Most of the costs associated with improvements made to the Tenryu River were paid by shogunate funds, Gofushin, during the Edo Period, and by the prefecture during the Meiji Era. 2. Flood emergency activities and the repair of levees at the end of the Edo Period were carried out by villages that joined flood prevention cooperatives. Flood emergency activities and levee construction were undifferentiated. 3. During the middle of the Meiji era, flood emergency activities were continued by the flood prevention cooperatives, although levee construction was carried out by subcontractors, while structure, and flood prevention cooperatives had a role as contractors. This expanded the scale of river improvement by the Department of the Interior from 1885. Subsequently flood damage decreased in the lower basin after the middle of the Meiji Era. 4. Because leeve construction by subcontracting companies become a general practice and flood damage decreased, the role of flood prevention cooperatives in river-related construction became a mere formality. In reality, the restoration work that was planned by flood prevention cooperatives in 1911 after one bank of the Tenryu River was strengthened did not go well. Although the River Law was enacted in 1896 and riparian businesses came under national and prefectural control, the connection with the inhabitants of the lower Tenryu basin and riparian business faded away.
In the changing process of traditional geography through spatial science to social science, the concept of regions has undergone remarkable changes, not only in content but also in the point of view and research methods. Recently, many Western geographers have investigated the process of rapid social changes and competition with related sciences, because it is inevitable for human geography to continue to adapt to the ontology of contemporary society and to develop concepts in connection with the other social sciences. In this paper, the author refers to research trends on the concept of regions in German-speaking countries where geography has proceeded in a somewhat unique way since World War II. The results obtained are summerized as follows. 1. Giddens (1990) and Werlen (1995, 1997) define contemporary society as a late-modern society, rather than as a postmodern one, characterized by the three characteristics of disembeddedness time-space distanciation, and globalization. However, the former two seem to be inherent properties of late-modern society characterized by the remarkable development of information and transportation technologys. We should more clearly define the basic properties of the contemporary late-modern society. 2. Based on the paradigm shift of geography, the concept of regions and their significance in geography have also obviously changed. While the research objective of traditional geography was to determine physically existing regions and to understand their structures as a whole, space-science geographers mainly study the functions of space, especially of distance, when considering a region as an analytical construct. After the change to space-science geography, a region became to be considered as a social rather than physical construct. In the 1980s, the investigations of regional consciousness and identitity regions were added in German-speaking countries. 3. Although the concept of regions has been actively discussed by many geographers, no consensus has yet been reached. Some tried to determine the structural principle of systems within it, while others considered it as a mere figure of thought for geographers. Although Werlen (1995, 1997) argued that the spatial actions of actors can play a more important role than the studies of regions themselves, Blotevogel (2000c) considered that three overlying regions consisted of real regions, activity regions, and identity regions as “regions in a complete sense.” In Europe the unit of regions became more important than the unit of countries owing to the progress of globalization, especially in the EU. However, a few geographers regard regions as only remnants of traditional societies. 4. Based on the loss of the central concept of geography, geographers in German-speaking countries recognize that the field is rapidly declining. However, the author believes that regions will remain as a central concept of human geography in the future and thus should not be neglected. We must consider regions as areas constructed by society. With the geographically uneven development of capitalism, the international division of labor will become clearer. Therefore, it will be important to investigate regional structures due to the overlaying relations of a region with networks to other regions in national and global scale.
The aim of this paper is to discuss the geographical approach to local environmental movements through a case study of the Nakaumi Land Reclamation problem. It shows how the movement against the project has been dealt with in a TV program, in a local newspaper, and in a chronological document composed by a protest group leader. For example, a TV program broadcast on NHK emphasized that the Nakaumi Land Reclamation problem had been caused by deficiencies in the Japanese administrative system. On the other hand, the program neglected the protest movement in its explanation of the problem. A local newspaper misprinted the date of the direct petition to the prefectural governor of Shimane by local residents. Moving the date forward by one year weakens the cause and effect relation between the movement and the administrative decision to stop part of the project, which aimed to transform two brackish lakes into freshwater lakes. These are good examples illustrating the status of social recognition of environmental movements in Japan. To understand environmental problems, however, it is necessary to recognize environmental movements that make political issues of proposed environmental changes. This paper suggests three methods to approach the issue of environmental movements geographically: They are 1) to assess the effects of environmental movements on land use or landscaping, 2) to view them from various angles, especially from the viewpoint of environmental awareness of the individual participants in the movements, 3) to study them in the context of locality.