Rob Oechsle's discovery at a Nago Family Mart!
220 Year Old Fresh Water Well
Story and Photos by Rob Oechsle
Published Dec 22, 2019

A FAMILY MART STORY -- How a Nago Convenience Store Protects and Preserves a 220-year-old FRESH WATER WELL that was dug during the 1795 -1802 Reign of King Sho On.

Of the 16 Family Marts in Nago City, this is the one I stop at the most often, probably because it sits along old Highway 1, and is closest to the Nago Museum, and the famous Pinpun Banyan Tree. AND... because I like what they did to preserve a bit of Ryukyu Kingdom history.


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Before this NAGO Yubinkyokumae Family Mart opened in December 2008, the land owner insisted that they both preserve and provide access to the only freshwater well in downtown Nago City. They came up with a plan to put half the well outside the store, and the other half under the magazine racks on the inside.

ABOUT THE WELL

Why such a big deal ? Built only 100 yards inland from the late18th-Century shoreline, it surprised everyone by filling itself with FRESH WATER, instead of the brackish water they expected and which filled the other wells in the area.


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Mr. Yabu, owner of the land under the Family Mart, is seen here opening the old well for the first time since the Family Mart was built in 2008. It's usually locked up, and thus I had to make arrangements to have him come and open it.


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Lined at the bottom with what appears to be awa ishi - the fine, porous coral blocks cut from a Minatogawa Village quarry in southern Okinawa - and having a floor of white sand, the well has been in continual use for over 200 years.


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About 15 - 20 feet deep, the upper part of the shaft is now strengthened with a collar of concrete, while leaving the original white coral lining and sandy bottom intact. The water is drawn up through a plastic pipe, and used for only two things : Cleaning chores around the outside of the Family Mart, and to water the trees and flower beds on the landowner's property next door.


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Not shown are the plastic bags and other small bits of trash that had gotten blown under the lid and into the well by the force of typhoon winds. I spent some time cleaning it with him before taking the photos.

WHILE THE WELL WAS BEING BUILT

Although they don't know the exact year, they do know it was dug during the 1795 - 1802 Reign of King Sho On.

As was the case with a lot of royalty around the world, this particular king was put on the throne at a very young age --- 11. That's because his father (the crown prince) died before he could inherit the throne. So the kingship went right from his grandfather to him.

But, being so young, they appointed a Regent (a Mr. Sai Seisho) to run the show, and help the young king grow up right.

RYUKYUAN DEMOCRACY vs the CHINESE ELITE

One of the main things King Sho On's regent came up with was the very democratic idea of EDUCATION FOR ALL, and established a "National Academy" on the grounds of Shuri Castle, with 4 branch schools out in the rural areas that offered education without respect to social position, letting even farmers go to school.

THE CHINESE "OKINAWANS" REBEL

The Okinawan's horrifying idea of "equal education for all" was not acceptable to the "educated" Chinese scholars and diplomats who populated the KUME VILLAGE district of Naha City, and the fact that the new schools did NOT include a "Temple to Confucius" on their grounds pushed them over the edge... to violent rebellion.

The Chinese elite's rebellion was short lived, but the King's democratically-minded Regent was killed in the violence. After the Okinawans banded together and put down the insurrection, they stripped the Chinese-descended inhabitants of Kume Village of some of their many former privileges.

The young king died at age 18 in 1802, leaving behind a newborn who would never get to know his dad.

FROM THEN 'TILL NOW

It was while all of these troubles and upheavals were going on down in Naha and Shuri, that the now 220-year-old well of fresh flowing water was built in Nago.

Nice to know that every land-owner since the beginning has seen fit to incorporate the well, both inside and outside of every building that's been there... right up to FAMILY MART !


Mr. Oechsle (left) and Mr. Yabu at the well
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The old well is right HERE (Google Maps image)


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2019 Contact: ClickOkinawa.com