In September, 2010, my wife and I went to the Tateyama and Kurobe areas, which are popular tourist destinations in the northern Japan Alps. Due to the marvels of modern technology―an electric bus and tram car taking you through tunnels, then an aerial cable car―you can take a comfortable ride to a huge dam high up in the mountains and continue to the highest point at 2,450 meters above sea level. The whole trip will take about six hours, that is if you do not stay overnight along the way. I would like to explain a little bit more on the special draw of Kurobe dam.
When I was a kid in the late 1950s, I remember watching documentary movies in the school gymnasium about building infrastructure, especially dams under difficult and dangerous conditions. Of course I have forgotten all the details, but I was really impressed by people first building access roads for transporting installation materials, then building dams and power stations, followed by storing water, and finally generating electricity. Simply put, they were cool and dynamic, perhaps reflecting a period of rebuilding and an expanding Japanese economy after the devastation of WWII.
Kurobe dam was completed relatively late in 1963 and was hailed as one of the most difficult projects of the 20th Century. The dam became a household name when a movie about the installation of the dam featuring top Japanese stars was released in 1968. So, visiting Kurobe dam had been my dream for a long time.
The dam was completed in 1963 after seven years of installation. This is the fourth hydro power station along the river “Kurobe”, generating enough electricity for about 330,000 households.
It takes about 15 minutes by foot on top of the dam to reach the other end.
As seen from a cable car station at more than 2,300 meters above sea level. The dam is on the left end of the lake.
This trip reminded me the importance of reusable energy. It seems that people are focusing on solar and wind energy at present, which are rapidly becoming feasible both in terms of technology and economy. It’s fine that we should go ahead in this direction. Now, what about harnessing energy from natural phenomena of gigantic scale, such as typhoons, volcanic eruptions or tectonic movements: mitigating natural calamities as much as possible at the same time. This is my dream.
I would like to end this essay with some beautiful photos from the highest point of our trip.
This photo was taken on September 2, 2010.
There is a Shinto shrine atop a mountain (just over 3,000 meters high) .