The Niigata Sea Paddies

25 Aug

The port city of Niigata on Japan’s Honshu Island is the country’s largest agricultural city. Situated on the Sea of Japan on the northwest coast, it is called “the City of Water”. Famous for quality varieties of rice such as Koshihari, its political and business leaders have long been concerned about maintaining and enhancing its primacy.
The shortage of farming land grew into a serious problem by the early twenty-first century. The scientist put in charge of a project to find a solution was a middle-aged professor of engineering named Nakano Eiji.

This short, light-weight scholar with thick eye glasses presented his detailed plan for an extended farming platform jutting into the Sea of Japan to many political and business leaders of Niigata. He was an untiring advocate of the radical plan. The head of the largest bank of the region, President Maki Ikko of the Bank of Niigata, was the most determined opponent of the solution to the problem of land shortage. His financial institution refused to support the fanciful plan.

Eiji made a special presentation to the powerful power-holder in the latter’s office overlooking the central business district of the city.

“The platform will provide an abundance of rich paddy land for growing rice by our masterful farmers,” argued the engineer. “I have consulted with scores of scientific specialist from our universities about the possible problems that might be involved in the construction and the operation of the platform.

“We will build the structure with newly discovered nano-materials such as carbene and aluminene. The water of the ocean will become useable through desalination in a half dozen advanced plants on the edges of the deck. Carbon nanotubes will be able to provide tons of clean, fresh water for the culture of our famous Koshihari rice, the finest in all Japan. We will become a greater producer of rice than even the champion and leader up to now, the island of Hokkaido. It will always be possible to add acreage onto the platform, along the coast or further out into the Sea of Japan.”

The banker interrupted with a pointed question. “We all know the history of our local weather conditions, and the many floods and major storms in the past. How can you guarantee this long platform against natural disaster of some variety?” harshly shouted Maki Ikko, his voice sharp and cutting.

Eiji, standing beside a virtual electronic projection of the rice paddy platform, smiled politely and humbly, but with self-assurance on his shining face.

“The structure shall maintain stability and gravitational balance through its equilibrium stations fitted with giant gyroscopic mechanisms. Modern technology provides the knowledge and devices for maintaining and safe-guarding the safety and stability of the constructed platform. There will be an ability to withstand sea storm or earthquake, or any other possible catastrophe, I assure you,” said the small man who had first conceived the idea of extending rice production into the Sea of Japan.

A brief, bitter “Thank you.” was all that Eiji was told. He realized that the banker had just dismissed him.

There was one pivotal individual able and willing to assist the dream of a sea platform of rice paddies. That was the mayor and political chieftain of Niigata, Ueda Dai. This favorite of the voting public met often with Eiji and grew evermore enthusiastic in his support of the project.

“The skeptics can say whatever they want,” the politician told the engineering professor in his city hall office. “You and I know that this agricultural platform is the promise of the future for all Japan. Our islands have a very limited amount of arable soil left to be exploited. We will become increasingly dependent on imports for our food supply in years to come. Look at how much we are already buying from the American market!

“I can foresee a day when we will have scores of food-growing platforms sticking out into the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. In all directions, we shall build structures in which crops and herds of animals can be raised. Our homeland will then be independent of foreign agriculture, unlike our competitors such as China and India.

“But Niiagata is the pioneer and we shall be setting the standard and taking the lead. Everything here must be done without error of any kind. We will be depending upon your leadership, Professor Nakano. I intend to nominate you to be the one supervising the construction and management of the rice platform. There is no one with comparable knowledge or experience. What do you say to my proposal?”

Eiji felt sudden exhilaration. His face flushed with emotion. “I will give it all I have,” he solemnly promised. “But don’t we still have the enormous difficulty of finding the financing needed for the platform?”

The tall, stocky mayor grinned and revealed what he had kept secret till then. His brownish face glowed as he spoke.
“I can tell you that I will be taking the bullet train to Tokyo tomorrow morning. My contacts in the Interior Department report that many experts think that the project is feasible. There is growing support for a first attempt at application of what we know about desalination of the ocean. Japan must not be allowed to lag behind other countries in terms of applying advanced, innovative technology. We have it and should be early users of what is coming in future years everywhere.

“I am very optimistic on our prospects, Professor.”

“So am I, sir,” said the latter.

The news media were full of the victory that Mayor Ueda Dai had won in the capital even before he returned to his home city. It was heralded as promising a new stage in the evolution of Niigata. The entire world would see it as a place of unprecedented, bold daring in technological progress. Dai came home to the applause of most citizens, except for the cautious traditionalists who dreaded adventurous risks. The latter had a leader and spokesman in the conservative financier, Maki Ikko.

The latter thought it wise to stay quiet for the time being and only act behind the scene.

He held a hidden card in his connections to the Niiagata Rice-Growers Association and its chairman, Fukui Akio.

The bank president made a personal trip to see the agriculture leader at his office in the Uwasekigata area of rice-farming north of the city boundaries. He rode into the rural area in his bank’s best electro-limousine, a chauffeur driving him to the appointment.

Fukui was a short, obese man with a shining bald head. He was waiting at the front door of the hearquarters building to greet and welcome the important bank officer. “Please come in. We can talk and have some lunch on the little porch next to my own office.”

The pair were soon sitting in the pleasant summertime sun, enjoying a light ramen snack along with some sake.

Maki Ikko casually brought up the business that brought him out of the city to the coastal rice strip.

“My bank has opposed the plan to intrude into the Sea of Japan with a soil-covered platform and carbon nano-pipe desalination stations. No one beyond myself and my personal assistants see what the inevitable consequences of the rice paddy experiment will. Let me tell you that the probable results of projected construction will be.

“First, we will have a problem with the farmers already planning to work soil on the platform. Many of them do not have the means to pay rent or fees that will be required before they have grown any rice that they can sell on the market. And we must not forget the small farmers who today till tiny rice paddies here on the island of Honshu. They shall suffer from falling prices when the new oceanic rise grown on the platform begins to enter the wholesale markets. What will be the fate of your members here in our region? Can they withstand the merciless competition that the new platform promises to give them?

“I doubt they would enjoy being ruined economically. What do you think, Mr. Fukui?”

The latter, obviously wounded by the telling argument of the banker, looked away toward the ocean, visible through a large, panoramic window.

“I am surprised that your members, the farmers of Niigata Prefect, have not come out with public protests and demonstrations against the construction of this dangerous innovation sticking out into the sea,” muttered Maki Ikko, staring squarely into the dark eyes of the leader of the rice cultivators.

The pair soon parted, the banker riding back to the city in the luxury car.

The Rice-Growers Association went into action immediately, picketing the beach where the beginnings of the platform were being set down and the construction project’s start could be seen.

News of anti-platform actions soon came to dominate what appeared in all the mass media of Japan.

Attempts were carried out by teams of rice farmers to blockade the streets leading to the construction site.

A general information campaign informed the people of Niiagata of the arguments in favor of halting the building of the new paddy fields sticking out into the sea. Passionate appeals cried out for sympathy and cooperation.

“We, the ordinary rice-growers, are the bedrock of our region’s economy. Do not let us sink below the water, save us from the threat of ruination and extinction.” Such were the pleas made to the population of the coast.

In time, serious deeds of sabotage occurred where the platform was being set, as well as in locations where building materials were stored. New costs had to be faced by the outfits that were creating the extension into the ocean.

Eiji related his worries and fears to the Mayor of Niiagata whenever the opportunity surfaced for him.

“The growers’ association has turned solidly against us and the project,” he complained to Ueda Dai in the latter’s City Hall office. “It is horrible to me that we are almost helpless to put a stop to what our enemies are doing. Are we going to be forced to abandon our plans and our dream? Can’t we strike back in some way, and compel them to let us complete the construction?”

The Mayor seemed distant and abstracted as he spoke. “We must not be pushed into any counterproductive reactions to what our foes are doing,” he mused. “Popular opinion will not support unlawful tactics by the rice-growers association. We can depend on general support that will grow stronger as time goes by.”

“I hope you are right about that,” muttered the engineer who had designed the rice paddy platform.

The banker was the one who first proposed the use of violent means to halt the new platform.

The two ringleaders sat drinking sake on the porch of the rice-growers’ organization.

“I have been mulling over in my mind what would happen to the plans of our enemies if their pet project was blown to dust with bombs full of explosive plastiques,” slowly stated Maki Ikko. “It would have to be done, of course, so that there was no trail of evidence discoverable that led back to either you or me.

“What do you think? It would solve our problems, if it could be successfully carried out.”

Fukui Akio’s face seemed to light up and glow. “But who is able and knowledgeable to accomplish it? I don’t believe we should even consider bringing in the criminal underworld of zabeitsu to do such a dangerous deed.”

The financier made a cynical grimace, then explained what he meant.

“Over the years, I have formed business contacts with the leaders of the group that is called the Yakuza here in Nagiiyata. They are a powerful, interesting syndicate with a lot of cash at their disposal, always in need of banking services such as I can provide to them.

“Gambling, prostitution, drugs, stolen and illicit goods, and extortion through a protection racket are their main sources of income. They have capabilities in the area of force and violence that no one can estimate.

“What do you say if I consult with some of their bosses whom I know from past business operations?

“I am absolutely certain that I can convince them to cooperate and place an explosive bomb on the already completed section of the rice platform. Their services might cost some amount, but I think that I could disguise it as an undefined expensive of my bank. It will be easy to accomplish. What do you say to such a clever maneuver on our part? It can be carried out quickly and efficiently, I am sure.”

Fukui Akio, overwhelmed by what he had just heard, made no immediate response. Only after a period of thought did he say “Do what you believe best, my good friend.”

Maki Ikko telephoned the Niiagata head of the Yakuza, Kimura Genzo and arranged a meeting with him. “This concerns a very urgent matter,” said the banker to the syndicate official.

The pair came together in a private dining room of a Yakuza-owned tea house-restaurant. They got down to business once they finished their midday lunch.

“This has to do with the rice-growing platform being built up extending into the ocean. That is something that will be bad for all business going on in our city. It will harm the farmers with paddies right here on land, on the island of Honshu. This cannot be permitted to go on and be finished.” He looked into the eyes of the tough-looking giant across the bamboo table from him.

The large, athletic-bodied mobster smiled knowingly. “I take it that you could use some help in dealing with the problem posed by the agricultural deck being constructed into the Sea of Japan?” He stared forcefully into the eyes of the banker across from him.

“You understand me perfectly,” replied Ikko. “I do not think it would an astronomical quantity of chemical explosive to put an end to what has already been constructed out there. There will be plenty of funds available to pay the expenses that might be involved. It would all occur in absolute secrecy, of course.”

The two men exchanged harmonious smiles. Each of them recognized that the deal was sealed.

Eiji was overjoyed at how well and fast the platform project was progressing.

He had frequent conferences with the Mayor of Niigata, Ueda Dai. They discussed the future use and exploitation of the new farming acreage that would soon become available.

“I have already had talks with government officials from inland mountainous areas,” announced Dai. “They have agreed to supply us enormous amounts of useable soil that new lies uncultivated due to the location and steepness of the elevation. It will be a costly operation, but the soil will be shipped to us by rail and by road. The new farmers shall have fertile ground in which to plant their rice paddies. It will be gratifying to see all our efforts meet with success. There shall be a new prosperity for all of us to share.”

Eiji seemed affected by some unnamed apprehension. “Yes, my hope is that everything goes forward according to plan.”

Dai was awakened late at night by the throbbing of the emergency communicator built into his low bed.

He pushed a tab on the edge of his pillow and a voice was heard from the other end.

“Mayor, I need to talk with you about an urgent matter. This is Kimura Genzo speaking. Excuse me if I have disturbed your rest in any way, but T have an important issue to decide and I must do so in consultation with you.

“The future well-being of Niiagata is at stake, and I will need your knowledge and judgment to help guide what I decide to do on this.

“Your Honor, I have been asked to carry out a destruction of the sea platform going up out in the sea. My path forward has been unclear, but I am compelled to turn to you. There are interests involved that are rich and powerful. I am willing to deny them my cooperation, but I feel that I need your official support behind my decision of refusal.

“My conclusion is that such spectacular vandalism and destruction does not at all add anything to either the city of Niiagata or the fortunes of the Yakuza. My members and I must stay with the government and the political leadership. We cannot be a part of what would be so anti-social and anarchic. The Yakuza has its ancient rules that it must never stray away from. Such a chemical bombing would present a danger to the stability of Japan.

“Will you protect my syndicate from reprisal from the enemies of social order?”

Although flabbergasted by what he had just heard, Ueda Dai managed to say “Yes, of course I will support you.”

The completion of the rice platform, ten kilometers in length, was an occasion for celebration with music, fireworks, and public celebration.

Banker Maki Ikko had left town, taking care of important financial business down in Tokyo.

Fukui Akio and the Rice-Growers Association had to accept the new situation as hundreds of migrating farmers signed up for paddy plots on the new structure jutting out into the Sea of Japan.

Nakano Eiji was now a world-recognized figure, the father of agricultural development based on effective desalination.

Politics under Mayor Ueda Dai and the organized underworld under Kimura Genzo survived and prospered along with their native city of Niigata.


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