Experience with Natural Disasters

Not only Taketomi Island, but also most of the south western islands in Okinawa have a number of typhoons through the year. Fukugi, an evergreen broadleaf tree, is a famous wind-breaking tree there. Fukugi grows high and straight as if sticking up into the sky, and so many wide and thick leaves decorate the tree. Deep green color really matches against the traditional red tile roofs, the tropical sunshine and the blue sky. This strong tree which grows really slow protects the houses from salt carried by the strong wind like typhoon or just an ordinary one. Fukugi is used not only for building materials, but also for a dyeing material because its bark contains a yellow chromatophore. In spring it blossoms many yellow-white tiny flowers about 1.5 cm in diameter.

Windbreak of Fukugi
Fukugi flower
Wooden axis of a house

The structure of the houses has some skills as well. The axis of Fuhya (a main building) and Tohra (an annex for kitchen use) are basically built with columns known as "Kyahgi" (or Inumaki) at intervals of one or half ken(=1.82 meters), then the beams and crossbeams are to be connected with two kinds of batten, and its technical term of this construction skill is usually called "Nukiya. "
Each four corners have a sturdy columns surrounded by a board wall in order to be proof against typhoons. For the houses with straw thatched roofs, the roofs are made to be slightly lower, the eaves are made to be low to "Amahashi," and four corners around "Amahashi" are hardened to be board walls. In addition, paths and streets are constructed lower than gardens so that the puddles would not form after rain. Paths are covered with coral sands for the water to percolate downward through the soil. However the recent drainage works have made the rainwater not to be able to percolate downward in some places and it sometimes run into the garden. When the time of next construction comes, we would make full use of our ancients' wisdom by following in the footsteps of them.

Kikume stone
Large and wide roof

Typhoons were such a threat to the people, but the water shortage was greater then any other disaster they could receive. Since this coral based island has no mountains and rivers, needless to say that water was precious. It was until a submarine water supply pipe was established that as the admonition goes "a drop of water is a drop of blood," people had never kept water running while they were brushing their teeth. Once they would provide a water tank on top of Unbufuru Hill(the highest hill on the island though it had only 24 meters above sea level), and had their everyday water by a natural water flow to each family. Although they have nothing to worry about water supply now, elderly people never neglect to teach their descendants and new comers of the island to teach how precious natural resources are and how to treasure all of them.

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