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108 4 E n g i n e e r i n g Pa i n i n t h e J i n zŪ R i v e r B a s i n W ith the beginning of the Meiji wars (namely, in 1895 and 1905), miners started extracting lead and zinc at a frenzied pace from the Kamioka shafts of the mountainous regions of Toyama and Gifu prefectures. This technological complex, and the engineered environments it birthed, seamlessly connected to the Jinzū River basin, which also fed downstream paddies that, in their own way, were engineered environments as well. Smelting and ore flotation devices that allowed miners and processors to extract ever-higher percentages of their desired metals caused pollution problems in nearby agricultural lands. But these pollution problems , particularly their consequences for human health, were the product of hybrid causation. Naturally occurring oxidization and ionization processes in riparian ecosystems created the toxins that caused human pain; but “it hurts, it hurts disease,” or cadmium poisoning, was also the proximate consequence of Meiji state pronouncements regarding being a “good wife and wise mother.” Women who were both productive and reproductive tended to suffer disproportionately from cadmium poisoning: obeying meant sacrificing for the state. Similarly, women who sheltered themselves from the sun, in a culturally ingrained habit to preserve their white complexions , deprived themselves of nutrients that could have protected them from industrial disease. The web of causation: mining technologies, engi- Engineering Pain in the Jinzū River Basin 109 neered environments, natural alchemy, state pronouncements, menopause (which also made women more susceptible), and cultural habits enmeshed and intertwined to create disease and pain downstream from this important wartime mine. M i l i ta r y E c o n o m i e s a n d t h e Ka m i o k a Z i n c M i n e Surely, of all my years traveling in Japan, the most memorable train that I have ever ridden was the Kamioka Railway “one-man car” that transported me to the Kamioka zinc and lead mine, deep in the mountain recesses of southeastern Toyama and northern Gifu prefectures. Inside the train, a charming replica of a brazier, with a fake burning fire with a kettle warming over it, kept me hypnotically preoccupied as it rocked back and forth. The train jostled and jolted as it wound through the mountains, its diesel engine roaring loudly as the car gained altitude. What I remember most are the lengthy tunnels that broke up the view of the Jinzū and Takahara rivers and the rice-farming villages that adorned their banks. Toyama Prefecture is rice paddy country, with fields filling every fertile nook and cranny: between apartments and supermarkets, near Pachinko parlors, and under freeway overpasses. Farmers worked these fields alongside frog-hunting egrets and crows. The farmers, egrets, and crows all looked about the same size as I clunked and clanked by on the old train. Though rural, the area was not wild, not in a wilderness sense, but it was less inhabited than many parts of Japan. The hillsides were thoroughly covered with commercially planted groves of trees, standing in neat, well-kept rows. When I arrived at the Kamioka mining complex, the first thing I did was take a picture of a prominent sign in front of the processing facilities that said, “Photographs Prohibited.” Righteously, like a muckraking journalist who had arrived four decades too late, I snapped several digital images of the mine. But later that afternoon, when I could swear that I was being shadowed by company thugs as I tried to hike the perimeter of the sprawling Kamioka complex, I erased those few images. But then I realized that, if accosted, I could claim to be an idiot foreigner who could not read Japanese. In the end, I took hundreds of images and left the site completely unscathed. The Kamioka zinc and lead mine is another site where industrial technologies interfaced with engineered, hybrid environments to touch nerves that cause human pain. The same hybrid causations at work at Ashio, which 110 Engineering Pain in the Jinzū River Basin we examined in the previous chapter, were also at work at the Kamioka zinc mine. The story of the Kamioka complex, however, is less about labor than it is about highly productive and decisively destructive technologies, in particular flotation separation machines that sorted ore so minutely that poisons and dangerous metals such as cadmium...


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