The Sogi Power Plant is located in Kagoshima Prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu, Japan and at the time of its construction in 1907, sat at the cusp of cultural change in Japan. On one side, it lies at the tail end of the Meiji period, one of the fastest periods of industrial development and maturity in the world. On the other side, the Sogi Power Plant was on the tipping point between small-scaled hydroelectric industry for exclusive commercial use and the advancement of generating hydroelectric power for everyone.
Founded by Shitagau Noguchi in 1906, Sogi Denki (Electric) designed the dam to use water from the nearby Sogi-no-Taki waterfall to power the Okuchi gold mines, five miles to the north. The Sogi Power Plant exemplifies the typical style of dams during this time: low voltage, commercial use only, limited range, and in collaboration with foreign companies to help in the design and construction of their new factories.
The start of this technological transformation involved radical changes in Japan’s culture. The preceding Edo period, lasting from 1603 to 1868, proclaimed a strict social order, isolation in its foreign policies, economic growth, and a wealth in the arts and culture.
As the Edo period gave way to the Enlightened Rule or Meiji period, Japan was undergoing major transformations in its social class and economy as Western encroachment became more common and forceful. The heart of the industrial era began in 1852 in Satsuma, in modern Kagoshima Prefecture. The goal was to compete with European development and to defend against a potential colonial invasion, as witnessed earlier in China during the First Opium War. The Sogi Power Plant represents the culmination of cultural change and eventual collaboration between Japan and Europe.
Today, the Sogi Power Plant is unique among Japan’s national industrial heritage sites as the only power plant selected from the Meiji era. Active until 1965, the Sogi Power Plant produced electricity for Kagoshim Prefectur for near 60 years. Due to the need to fight frequent floods and generate more electricity a new dam was build downstream, Tsuruda dam. Today, the Sogi Power Plant sits at great risk, submerged seven months of the year due to the larger dam’s water reservoir.