The premonition and expectation that something is about to happen

In the 1980s, when Japan's economy was making an impact on the world, cultural anthropologist Umesao Tadao proposed a state of information known as ‘konnyaku information.’ He likened it to the fact that konnyaku has very little nutritional value but is healthy, and argued that there is a lot of information that stimulates people and activates their senses and creativity, even if it has no direct meaning or benefit itself. Society not only needs simple logic as found in business proposals, but also complex information that includes premonition and comfort that something is about to happen, just by coming into contact with it. It has been more than 30 years since there was a broad information theory calling for a shift from a ‘message-based information society’ with only easy-to-understand meanings, to a ‘massage-based information society’ in which power is acquired just by coming into contact with the information, but what subsequently happened to that process?

Adjacent to the great Ishikari River, Sorachi is one of the breadbasket regions of Japan. Including the period when coalmining flourished, we see a cross-section of its history, in which food and energy were the most important foundations of society. In southern Sorachi, pioneers moved up the Ishikari River early on, and the infrastructure for daily life was established along with the development of the Horonai and Yubari coalmines.
The Meiji settlers were confronted with wild northern nature, completely different from that of Honshu and further south. Even after the harsh winters, when spring finally arrived, it was not uncommon for the intense flow of the great river – into which melting snow from the vast watersheds had poured – to swallow up the fields they had worked so hard to cultivate. The Ishikari River, which flows from the northeast, makes a major turn towards the northwest at Ebetsu, where it is joined by large tributaries such as the Yubari and Chitose rivers, and its unrestrained behavior knew no bounds during the period when flood control work had just begun. Even during the long rainy season in autumn, the river is rampant. The land of Sorachi continues to bear the legacy of the struggles of our predecessors.

If we further extend the time scale by a million years, this stretch of land was formed when space between an island on which the Hidaka Mountain range and the Yubari Mountains were located, and an island on which the Lake Shikotsu volcano was located, was filled in with sediment. Excavated fossils of the Takikawa and Kitahiroshima sirenians tell us that southern Sorachi was once part of the sea.
In southern Sorachi, where islands were connected in prehistoric times, there is a movement underway to connect people and create something new. Although we have drifted far away from the ‘Japan as number one’ of the 1980s, I believe that as well as the direct meaning and benefit of the kind of information presented in a comprehendible manner as news coverage, it is also a world that resonates abundantly with full-bodied sensations and comfortable communication. With my heart filled with such premonition and expectations, I would like to report on the new trends in southern Sorachi.

Words by Taniguchi Masaharu
Photo courtesy of Noen
Translation by Xene Inc.