Kurobe Dam and its Construction Anecdotes


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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/78/Kurobe_Dam_survey_2.jpg/450px-Kurobe_Dam_survey_2.jpg)

01_黒部ダムと虹

Water discharging and a rainbow

 

 

(Image: 2)

(Photo by (c) Photo AC)

2_安曇野から北アルプス

The Northern Alps of Japan

 

 

Here is the Northern Alps in Japan (A link to the location) which form mountain ranges at 3,000-meter (Approx. 10,000-feet) elevation. When you go deep in the mountains, carrying a heavy backpack, what on earth do you discover? It reminds you of “a snow man?” It’s interesting. You have got to watch too much TV. In the Japan Alps, unfortunately, snow men are not identified yet. (In fact, it is very dangerous to climb alone in winters, and never give it a try, please.)

 

It is a 186-meter tall (610 feet) colossal concrete monster that jumps to your eyes! The name is Kurobe Dam which is an extravagant man-made structure in the middle of the deep mountains. Some feel the combination between nature and artificial construction seemingly odd. However, the two different things blend into a picturesque scenery and you will be overwhelmed by the tremendous impact. A guy who are obsessed with this emotion tells me that he wants to visit the dam again and again.

 

You, my dear readers, please enjoy a spectacular view of the dam and I would like to introduce the very first story of the construction as well.

 

 

 

The Gargantuan Scale

 

 

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http://www.kanko-omachi.gr.jp/alpen_route/photo/s14.jpg

Copyright © Omachi City Tourism Association All Rights Reserved.

3_黒部ダム7月

Water discharging in July

 

 

The construction project of the dam began in 1955 when Japan achieved economic revival since the end of the Second World War in 1945 and vigorously pushed forward spectacular economic growth with few equals in world history.

 

Electric power is absolutely required for the development of economy and industry. Yet, Japan remained being serious electric shortage especially in the Kansai region including big city Osaka where power outrage sometimes happened. As a way to solve the problems at once, the construction of extravagant dam was planned. I would like to explain the dam with concrete figures, but sadly I cannot imagine many digits which are beyond my deposit balance in a bank account. The height of the dam, as above mentioned, is a 186-meter tall (610-feet) which is two-third of the Eiffel Tower. As to a number followed by a long string of zeros, I will try to give you simple examples and photos to explain the greatness.

 

 

 

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f6/Supergreat-FU07.jpg)

Public Domain

4_スーパーグレートFU後期型、スーパーフルキャブ

Mitsubishi Fuso Super Great

 

 

Water volume discharged by Kurobe dam per “a second” is 10 tons. However, few people quickly grasp how much water is. For reference, I use a picture of a heavy truck which can carry a load of 10 tons. Human beings look well smaller than the lorry. In Japan, driving the truck needs special drivers’ license.

 

 

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5f/Sapphire_Princess_at_hakata_port.jpg/800px-Sapphire_Princess_at_hakata_port.jpg)

5_サファイアプリンセス

Dear, Cameron! Of course, Cameron Diaz!

Would you trip on this Sapphire Princess together?

I’ll treat you!

 

 

By the way, how much water does the extravagant Kurobe dam reserve? The image 5 is a superliner named “Sapphire Princess” with a displacement of 116,000 tons which was built at the Nagasaki Shipyard in Japan. Kurobe dam’s total quantity of reserved water is nearly equal to over 2,000 “Princes”.

 

 

 

(Image: 6)

(Photo by (c) Ashinari)

6_神戸市の夜景

This is night view of Kobe city but the upper left and shore across the water are Osaka.

 

 

Total power generation of Kurobe dam per year comes near the electric energy consumed by 1 million general households a year. The photo is a world-famous night view of Kobe and nearby cities. Only Kurobe dam can supply this big electricity. It enables you to easily understand how great the Kurobe is.

 

 

 

As a Sightseeing Spot

 

 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUb5CjYSXTs

Movie of water discharging

 

 

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http://www.kanko-omachi.gr.jp/alpen_route/photo/s21.jpg

Copyright © Omachi City Tourism Association All Rights Reserved.

8_黒部ダム河床トレッキング

(Image: 9)

http://www.kanko-omachi.gr.jp/images/ml/en/dam_v.jpg

Copyright © Omachi City Tourism Association All Rights Reserved.

9_展望台の解説

A link to the English explanation of this photo

 

 

This huge dam is not only used for power generation but also is a popular sightseeing spot which attracts 1 million visitors a year! The biggest draw is “sightseeing water discharge” which is held from the end of June to the middle of September when the dam is swollen with a large volume of water. Sightseers can see the powerful water discharge (Image 3) at a short distance.

 

The positions from which you have a view have various features. You can look it down directly on the dam crest or look it up from the lower part of the stream while trekking. And there are two observation decks of Image 9. Upper one is for people to see the whole dam landscape and at a downside deck, you can look at torrents of water from up close. Of course, the stairs are also good places.

 

 

 

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http://img.4travel.jp/img/tcs/t/pict/src/35/08/29/src_35082947.jpg)

(Photo by (c) Mr.T)

10_黒部湖遊覧船

Sightseeing boat

 

 

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http://img.4travel.jp/img/tcs/t/pict/src/35/08/29/src_35082948.jpg)

(Photo by (c) Mr.T)

11_黒部湖の湖面よりダムサイトを望む

Dam crest

 

 

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(Photo by (c) Photo AC)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mountains and a dam crest

 

 

The dam lake is surrounded by greenery which enables you to enjoy natural beauty through trekking for example. The most recommendable choice is to ride a cruiser. The boat floating on the highest in Japan cruises on the lake whose altitude is 1448-meter above sea level (Approx. 4880-feet). That is why the contrast between the beauty of the lake and tremendous hugeness of 3,000-meter level (Approx. 10,000-feet) Tateyama mountain ranges has a great impact on you. This scene gives us wonderful harmony between nature and a man-made object.

 

 

 

The Tragedy of Dam Construction

 

 

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ja/thumb/2/29/KurobeKo.jpg/450px-KurobeKo.jpg)

13_黒部湖_空撮

Dam Lake

 

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ja/a/ac/KurobeGawaGenryubuTagged.jpg)

14_黒部湖_高高度から空撮

A lake surrounded by snow mountains is Kurobe dam.

 

 

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http://www.kanko-omachi.gr.jp/alpen_route/img/plan_04.jpg

Copyright © Omachi City Tourism Association All Rights Reserved.

15-破砕帯

Crushing zone

 

 

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e0/Kurobe_dam_-_a_cenotaph_of_victim_to_duty_by_construction.jpg/1280px-Kurobe_dam_-_a_cenotaph_of_victim_to_duty_by_construction.jpg)

16_慰霊碑

Monument to victims to their duty

 

 

As we can see the Image 13 and 14, a stream or river is stemmed in a basin surrounded deep mountains. This land form is the most suitable place to build a dam. However, the more suitable the place is, the more challenging problems the construction faces. It means a construction site itself is in deep mountains and dark valleys. As the Image 13, Kurobe dam is located in a mountain area which sinks down into the deep snow in every winter. You must be surprised to know that roads were newly built and a 5,400-meter (Approx. 17700-feet) tunnel was bored all the way to transport building materials.

 

The drilling operation started at Omachi City in Nagano Prefecture (A link to the location). However, an accident happened when construction workers continued digging at a point of one-third total length. They encountered a crushing zone where water gushed out and would not stop together with earth and dirt. Everyone thought this unexpected happening seemed to continue forever, and it finally lasted for seven months, causing many casualties. At other construction sites, many workers died in the line of duty. Total death toll rose to 171 people. This tragedy and following completion of the construction were even made into a movie as a leading actor of Toshiro Mifune.

 

We must remember that today’s prosperity is founded on ultimate sacrifices.

 

 

 

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

 

 

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http://www.kanko-omachi.gr.jp/alpen_route/photo/s10.jpg

Copyright © Omachi City Tourism Association All Rights Reserved.

17_室堂雪の大谷5月

Big walls of snow

 

 

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/TKalpenloute_linemap_japanese.png)

18_立山黒部アルペンルート

A link to English explanation of the course

 

 

(Image: 19

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9e/Kurobe_Dam_station_platform.jpg/1280px-Kurobe_Dam_station_platform.jpg)

19_黒部ダム駅に停車する関電トンネルトロリーバス

A trolley bus

 

 

 

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b5/Tateyama_ropeway_02.JPG/800px-Tateyama_ropeway_02.JPG)

20_立山ロープウェイ

Tateyama Ropeway

 

 

The tunnel whose construction endangered the lives of workers above mentioned is now the part of a famous and popular tourists‘ route named “Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route” from Nagano Prefecture to Toyama. This area held the Winter Olympics in 1998, and therefore is a heavy snowfall region. For this reason, it is limited to open to traffic from the middle of April to November. It is enjoyable to use various transportation systems such as electric trolley buses, cable cars, and ropeways from which you can view unique scenes respectively.

 

I am very sorry the Image 18 is Japanese version (A link to an English version). When you start from the right edge 信濃大町駅 or Shinano Omachi Station (A link to the location), a bus and trolley bus going through the tunnel take you to the Kurobe dam.

And then, a cable car, a ropeway, and another trolley bus lead you to 室堂駅 or Murodo Station (A link to the location) which is the highest point, 2,450-meter (8,000-feet) above sea level.

 

The must-see spot is “Big Walls of Snow” like Image 17 (A link to the location). Although the snow accumulate well higher than a tour bus, it has been May already. In April when the road opens, nearly 20-meter (65-feet) walls often surrounds buses and tourists. This overwhelming scene can be said a magic of nature brought by the over 2000-meter (Approx. 6,500-feet) climate.

 

The Kurobe dam was constructed in the heart of mountains where it is very difficult and dangerous for construction workers to enter. Thanks to their great efforts, however, we can lightheartedly enjoy the superb views of the Northern Alps of Japan. The great artificial dam and wonderful nature must satisfy visitors to their heart’s content.

 

 

(Image: 21

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eob0Uo_hA60&feature=youtu.be)

Copyright © Omachi City Tourism Association All Rights Reserved.

Let’s go to Kurobe dam!

 

 

(Image: 22

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0d/Lake_Kurobe01s4592.jpg/1920px-Lake_Kurobe01s4592.jpg)

22_残雪と黒部ダムを望む

Lingering snow and Dam Lake

 

 

My heartfelt thanks to the photos or illustrations offered specially by

Mr.T

Omachi City Tourism Association

In alphabetical order.

 

Reference:

Kurobe Dam Official Site

http://www.kurobe-dam.com/whatis/index.html

In the explanation of the scale of Kurobe dam.

 

Specially Advised by Master of Civil Engineering Takuma Itoh

 


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