The seven water wheels of Asakura have been in operation since they were completed in 1789. Built in the Edo period by local farmers, the wheels continue today to provide irrigated water to the surrounding 35 hectares of rice fields.
A testament to design ingenuity and skilled craftsmanship, the structure of the water wheels have endured to this day. They are the largest and oldest working water turbines in Japan and are recognised for their sophisticated and innovative design.
The three wheels have diameters of 4.8m, 4.3m and 4m, and each wheel is 1.5m wide. Forty to forty-eight buckets for lading water are installed on each wheel. The irrigation system is unique not only in Japan, but throughout the world.
The famed Asakura Water Wheels are comprised of seven wheels in total: two double water wheels (Mishima, and Hisashige) plus the famous Hishino Triple Water Wheel. Hishino is also known by locals as the “steam locomotive for the rice field”. The water wheels are a Municipally-Designated Tangible Folk Cultural Asset and became a Government-Designated Historical site in 1990.
This traditional equipment is still the pride of Asakura residents to this day. The wheels have been in operation for over 230 years and continue to be professionally maintained.
Visiting the wheels will take you on a journey through time. The structures melt into the Chikugo River landscape and offer a window into the period of its original construction. Even the locals cannot resist the urge to contemplate the wheel’s origins each time they pass through.
Asakura’s Water Wheels are easily accessible by bus from Amagi Chuo Teiryusho (central bus stop). Take the Nishietsu bus bound for Haki or Hita and disembark at Hishino bus stop.
By bicycle, the wheels are a 10km ride from Amagi Station and provide a good opportunity to discover the nature of the area at a slower pace.