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Benjamin McCracken (USA)
Many buildings in this Harie district have a kabata, which residents use to draw water for everyday tasks. We went to see for ourselves the unique, intimate relationship between the lives of the area’s residents and their water.
This is the sign above the volunteer station in Harie. It says "The Village of Living Water." They provide tours of Harie's unique kabata culture. A kabata uses spring water, carp and streams to bring fresh water into homes. The entire system is self sustaining and is the perfect synergy of man and nature.
This is one of the guides in Harie. Like all of the guides, he was very knowledgeable about the Harie and its kabatas. He could also speak English and was very funny and entertaining.
At the volunteer station they will give you a pass that actually allows you to go into Harie residents' homes and see their kabatas. You cannot enter people's homes without it.
At the volunteer station they will also give you a hand-crafted bamboo cup that you can use to taste the water from the various springs around Harie. The cup is yours to keep at the end of the tour and makes a great souvenir .
This pamphlet (available at the volunteer station) explains how the network of springs in Harie is created by the mountains and Lake Biwa. Basically, water coming down from the mountains meets with the water table from the lake, and that water is drawn by the people in Harie. The guides give a wonderful explanation.
This is one of the many canals that flow through Harie. The guide explained that these are very clean and that children play in them in the summer time.
The guide shows me into an outdoor kabata.
This is a very typical kabata. You can see that it is used like a typical sink. The great part is that everything that goes into the kabata, like food scraps, are filtered by the carp.
Every kabata is fed by a spring, and every spring has a different taste. It is really amazing how great the water tastes, even compared to spring water from a bottle. There is certainly something about drinking directly from the source.
Here the spring water is coming in from the top right. It flows into the basin, into the vegetables, down to the carp, and then out into the stream running outside. It truly is a unique system.
This is a sign explaining that the water in this village is a treasure and everyone visiting should treat it as such.
The streams running through Harie are quite beautiful. They are filled with flowering aquatic plants.
This is Baikamo, one of the flowering aquatic plants in the streams in Harie. It has beautiful white flowers. Even though this picture was taken in February, there were still some flowers.
I am always amazed by the beauty of coi (carp). There were some colorful coi in Harie's streams.
The owner of this spring runs a line outside so that anyone passing by can have a drink. The water was delicious. There was not one bad tasting spring in Harie, but some were exceptionally good.
What is really amazing is that even springs close to one another have different tastes.
Here you can see the fresh spring water coming out. It is safe to drink and very delicious.
The guide was well prepared and had umbrellas for us when it started raining.
This is another example of a kabata.
People use their kabatas in many ways. One thing that everyone does is put fresh vegetables in the spring water. This helps keep the vegetables fresh. In this particular kabata, the owners were keeping bamboo shoots fresh.
In this kabata the owners wash dishes and also brush their teeth in the kabata. The scraps from the dishes feed the carp. There are very mild, eco-friendly soaps they use so the carp and the other organisms are not harmed.
This is an example of a modern twist on the traditional kabata. The owner of this kabata incorporated it into her garden.
One stop on the tour is a tofu store that uses Harie's spring water to make its tofu.
The tofu store keeps the tofu fresh in the spring water.
The fresh tofu is delcious and is definitely a must try.
This is the water from the tofu store running back out to Lake Biwa.