CHANNEL Honganji Suido

Empowerment by Honganji Suido


Text: Kyoko Tanaka
Photo Credit: Higashi Honganji


Honganji Suido is a water pipeline that was built by the Higashi Honganji Temple for the purpose of fire prevention. This single pipe carries water from a water supply reservoir at Lake Biwa that is 4.6 km away. It was designed by a civil engineer, Sakuro Tanabe and was completed in 1897 by the hands of 260,000  workers. The total budget was 14,4303 yen, which was about 25% of the annual budget of Kyoto governor. 

Higashi Honganji experienced 4 great fires during the 100 years until the end of Edo period (1603-1868). The water pipeline was built with a great hope and needs by the people to avoid another great fire. Although the dilapidated pipe it is not in use anymore, it had been carrying water until 2008, by utilizing the mere vertical interval of 50 meters. Just this, no other power source. Plenty water shot out from the fire control equipment in the temple. 

Giving thought to the great civil engineer who designed this, I took a walk through this 4.6 km path.

I started from Sakuro Tanabe statue at Keage pond, to the west along Sanjo-dori Street. I felt like being part of the water by lightly walking down the declining street. Most of this pipe is buried underground. The spot under the bridge at Sanjo Shirakawa is one of the few places that the pipe is being exposed. Above the fresh river flow, there is the proof of a great technology created more than a century ago.


Moving on, passing Chion-in, Gion and further to the west through Gojo-dori Street, I arrived at the bridge of Gojo Ohashi along Kamogawa River. There is another rare exposed bridge. The pipe here is wrapped with white clothes to prevent leakage. I walked for about an hour until here. Imagine how much amount of work was needed to build this bridge back then.


A red and white carp welcomed me at the finishing spot of the pipe at Higashi Honganji Temple. The pipe use to fill the pond and fountain of the temple, even at the Shoseien Garden. It runs around under the temple's premise for 3.5 km!


'In terms of fire prevention, Honganji Suido is valued for its concept of carrying water without any power source' explains the temple's communication manager. An annual event 'Let's walk along Honganji Suido' attracts many visitors to explore the amazing technology made under ground and to emphasis on the needs of regenerating the pipe.

Being the capital state, Kyoto had many battles and fires. How much sorrow had been with the people looking at the buildings collapsing with fire. Only if there were enough water? We cannot live without water. Honganji Suido and the efforts of people back then has made it possible to take in that grateful resource. I hope there will be more chance to carry down this historical value as real.

Goken-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 

Sujaku-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

Higashitamamizu-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto

<Shinshu Otani-ha Higashi Honganji>
ADDRESS: Karasuma-dori Shijo-agaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
PHONE: +81(0)75-371-9181
HOURS: (March-October)5:50-17:30 (November-February) 6:20-16:30