Nibutani Dam

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Nibutani Dam
LocationBiratori, Saru District, Hokkaidō, Japan.
Construction began1973
Opening date1997
Dam and spillways
ImpoundsSaru River
Height32 m
Length550 m
Total capacity27,100,000 m³
Catchment area1,215.0 km²
Surface area400 hectares

Nibutani Dam (二風谷ダム, Nibutani-damu) is a dam on the Saru River in Hokkaidō, Japan, which stands at Nibutani in Biratori town, Saru District. Work on the dam began in 1990.[1] It was completed in March 1997,[1] despite objections from the local Ainu people.[2]


The building of the dam pit the Japanese government versus local Ainu. In a legal case filed by two Ainu landowners, Tadashi Kaizawa and Shigeru Kayano, the farmers claimed the government had illegally seized their land in February 1989.[3] The expropriation of land for dam violated their rights as Ainu for the protection of their cultural heritage as the fact that the dam construction would destroy sacred sites and ritual grounds had not been adequately considered in the forced taking of their lands.

In a landmark decision by the Sapporo District Court,[4] Chief Judge Kazuo Ichimiya stated that the Ainu people had established a unique culture in Hokkaido before the arrival of the Japanese and therefore had rights that should have given consideration under Article 13 of Japan's Constitution, which protects the rights of the individual, and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[5] The Japanese government until this point had refused to acknowledge the Ainu as indigenous people. Since the dam was already complete, the 3-judge panel did not nullify the land seizure. However, the decision included extensive fact-finding that underscored the long history of the oppression of the Ainu people by Japan's ethnic majority, referred to as "Wajin" in the case and discussions about the case.[6]


  1. ^ a b Gladman, Aaron (June 1997). "News Briefs" (PDF). World Rivers Review Volume 12 Number 3. International Rivers Network. Retrieved 2009-05-19.
  2. ^ Large, Tim (2001-01-01). "FEATURE - Sacred river doubly dammed by pork-barrel Japan". Planet ARK. Reuters. Retrieved 2009-05-19.
  3. ^ Mark A. Levin, Essential Commodities and Racial Justice: Using Constitutional Protection of Japan’s Indigenous Ainu People to Inform Understandings of the United States and Japan, New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, Vol. 33, 2001
  4. ^ Nibutani Dam Decision (Levin trans.)
  5. ^ [Constitution of Japan], Art. 13; [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-07-05. Retrieved 2008-07-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)]
  6. ^ Nibutani Dam Decision (Levin trans.); see also Mark A. Levin, The Wajin’s Whiteness: Law and Race Privilege in Japan, Horitsu Jiho, Vol. 80, No. 2, 2008


Coordinates: 42°37′46″N 142°08′55″E / 42.6294°N 142.1486°E / 42.6294; 142.1486