Johannis de Rijke

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Johannis de Rijke
Tcitp d490 joh de rijke whangpoo conservancy.jpg
Born (1842-12-05)December 5, 1842
Noord-Beveland, Netherlands
Died January 20, 1913(1913-01-20) (aged 70)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Occupation civil engineer
Statue of Johannis de Rijke, at Sendohira River Park, Fukuhara, Tatsuta-chō, Aisai, Aichi Japan

Johannis de Rijke (December 5, 1842 – January 20, 1913) was a Dutch civil engineer and a foreign advisor to the Japanese government in Meiji period Japan.[1]

Early life[edit]

De Rijke was born in Noord-Beveland.[2] He was the third of seven children born to farmer and part-time dike worker Pieter de Rijke and his wife, Anna Catharina Liefbroer.[3] He obtained a position with the Dutch Ministry of the Interior as an apprentice to Jacobus Lebret, under whom he studied mathematics, earthwork construction, and hydraulic engineering practices.


In 1865, De Rijke worked for Cornelis Johannes van Doorn building the Oranje lock which closed off the IJ from the Zuiderzee at Schellingwoude near Amsterdam. De Rijke was the chief construction foreman.[4] When Van Doorn was invited to travel to Japan in 1872, he encouraged De Rijke to join him in re-designing the port of Osaka.[3]


In September 1873, De Rijke arrived in Japan together with Van Doorn and George Arnold Escher. During the next thirty years, these three civil engineers developed a range of flood control and water management projects. He improved the ports of Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagasaki, Ujina (Hiroshima), Hakata (Fukuoka),[4] Mikuni (Sakai) and Niigata.[3] His breakwater at the port of Yokkaichi is recognized by the Japanese government as an Important Cultural Property.

De Rijke also developed plans to improve riparian zones of several Japanese rivers. Notably, his groundwork and planning caused separation of the Kiso River, Nagara River and Ibi River near Nagoya, also known as the Kiso Three Rivers (木曽三川, Kiso Sansen).[5] Importantly, De Rijke was responsible for the construction of a tunnel channel from Lake Biwa to Kyoto.[3] He is also credited with building the Tokyo Kanda River sewer network.[1]

After 1891, De Rijke was appointed an Imperial officer of the Meiji Home Ministry, where he rose to the position of Vice Minister in this Japanese government bureaucracy.[6] He later served as an instructor in the Imperial College of Engineering.


In 1876, De Rijke traveled to Shanghai to help develop plans to improve the navagability of the Yangtze River.[7]

In 1901, he returned to China to participate in the Yellow River flood control project.[1]

Later life[edit]

De Rijke was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasures, 2nd class, and returned to the Netherlands in 1903.[4] In the Netherlands he was appointed Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau and on January 13, 1911 to Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion. In Belgium, he was knighted in the Order of Leopold

He died at the age of 70 in Amsterdam. He is buried in the Zorgvlied cemetery in Amsterdam.[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric; et al. (2005). Japan Encyclopedia. De Rijke. p. 152. ISBN 0-674-01753-6. 
  2. ^ a b c (in Dutch) Rijsbergen, Dennis. "Johannis de Rijke, ridder van de rijzende zon," Beroemde Zeeuwen. 27 August 2009; retrieved 2013-4-5.
  3. ^ a b c d e Pinedo, Danielle (January 13, 2000). "Oer-Hollands; In Japan is Johannis de Rijke nog altijd een beroemdheid" (in Dutch). NRC Handelsblad. 
  4. ^ a b c Chubu Regional Construction Bureau, Ministry of Construction, Kiso River Lower Reaches Works Office. "The Father of the Riparian Work on the Kiso-Sansen: Johannis de Rijke" (PDF). p. 2. 
  5. ^ Karan, Pradyumna Prasad. (2005). Japan in the 21st century: Environment, Economy, and Society, p. 136., p. 136, at Google Books
  6. ^ Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tokyo, "Dutch-Japanese relations, Dutch Civil Engineers in the Meiji Period"; retrieved 2013-4-5.
  7. ^ Yellow River Conservancy Commission, "Speech by Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange," 2005; Archived May 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.; retrieved 2013-4-5.
  8. ^ Chubu, p. 6.
  9. ^ Noord-Beveland, Standbeelden Johannis de Rijke, Colijnsplaat; honor conferred January 17, 1913.