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The Highest Dam of Japan: Kurobe

Written by Sei Mou. Published on July 19, 2012.

A lot of people narrow their eyes when hearing the name of Kurobe Dam, mostly because there were 171 deaths during the construction of the dam. A good way to get to know this part of the history is by watching the movie The Sun of Kurobe (黒部の太陽 ).  It was  called the ‘accident of the century’ by then. The accident occurred when they were digging up the Kanden tunnel for transportation of machines and material.

Japanese Alps at Kurobe

The Japanese Alps.

I really would like to feel sad about the accident, but besides the famous Kurobe No.4 we are talking about here, its neighbor Kurobe No.3 had almost double the amount of victims. Plus there are more than 30,000 suicide a year and countless natural disasters in Japan to keep us busy, you end up knowing how not to take death seriously any more.

Grand Dam of Kurobe

Grand Dam of Kurobe.

Besides the many deaths caused, Kurobe dam is considered a big success in Japan. It is by far the tallest dam in Japan, with a very impressively beautiful artificial lake. The lake is surrounded by Japanese alps, and on the way to the dam you are to experience the 1 and only Japanese trolley bus.

Kurobe Lake

Kurobe Lake.

If you are interested in awesome illustrated explanation about the construction of the dam, take a look at this PDF made by one of the engineer there. Thanks to those engineer, we are now standing on top of Japan’s biggest hydro power plant, from 110 meters high there are 10 tons of water pouring out every second; the electricity generated by Kurobe No.4 itself is 1 billion KW per year.

Highest Dam of Japan

The highest dam of Japan.

One thing you cannot miss is the rainbow created by the foggy water of the dam. The beauty of the dam is always combined with the noise and liveliness of the water, as well as the amazingly quiet artificial lake on the other side. If you have some time to kill here, take a cruise on the lake, it is of course the highest cruise boat in Japan. Everlasting Rainbow of the Kurobe Dam

The Everlasting Rainbow.

The river, the lake, the rainbow, the snow on the mountain, the greenery on the mountain, the concrete. All these seemingly random facts achieved Kurobe dam’s success in tourism industry. They are currently having 1 million people visiting a year.

Floodgates of the Kurobe Dam

Floodgates.

Although built in the 1950s, Kurobe No.4 is quite advanced in technology. Its generators are all deep underground, which serves as a protection from common avalanches in the gorge, it also helps for nature conservation reasons. Some old pictures were exhibited on site at Kurobe dam, make sure you take a look at those gigantic and fascinating generators.

Rainbow and Ruins of the Kurobe Dam

Rainbow & Ruins.

On the other side of the rainbow, some ancient looking haikyo was welcoming us. Assuming many places like this in the mountains around were abandoned during the construction. Just as they re-located 1.24 million residents building Three Gorges Dam in China. Although the scenery looks beautiful, the environmental concern still exist, as it has been the case for all dams. In the case of Kurobe, the water washing away the bottom of the river is the main source of criticism.

Beautiful Lake of Kurobe

Kurobe Lake.

As photographers, we are too busy capturing things all the time, in the end we sometimes forget to think about the subjects we are documenting. On the other hand, standing in the shoes of our dear leaders, we are always too busy building and destroying things, in the end we are left with a lot of regrets and consequences that can never be repented. I would not go as far as to say we are on highway to hell already, because if we are, it indeed is a misleadingly beautiful highway. Let us keep shooting, less talking.

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