The New Toyama Unazuki-Kurobe Dam Route

The New Toyama Unazuki-Kurobe Dam Route

The New Route

It is now some 60 years since the completion of Kurobegawa No. 4 Power Station—also known as Kuroyon (combining Kuro from Kurobe and yon, or "four" in Japanese)—the construction of which was known as the greatest project of the century. Located at the base of the Kurobe mountains, this power supply facility, built after years of backbreaking work and great expense, was an important factor supporting the growth of the Japanese economy. Now there is a new journey into this area, as the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route and the Kurobe Gorge Railway are connected.

The New Toyama Unazuki-Kurobe Dam Route train

The underground development of huge power supply facilities

Located deep within the hinterland of Kurobe Gorge: to protect the magnificent, breathtaking beauty of the area, the power generation equipment and related facilities were all built underground.
A good example of power development being met with increased understanding of the natural environment.

The New RouteA route connecting the Kurobe Dam and Keyakidari in the Kurobe Gorge. It was originally developed by Nippon Electric Power and Kansai Electric Power for the construction of the Kurobegawa Power Station, and is commonly known as the Kurobe Route. Under an agreement signed between Kansai Electric Power and Toyama Prefecture in 2018, the New Route will open to the public in 2024, after a number of safety measures are completed.

The New Route map

The history of the New Route

The story of electric power development, and the history of Japanese construction

The Kurobe River system was something of an unexplored region of Japan, a place of roaring rivers and deep valleys that blocked the movement of people. In 1917, the first exploration into the possibility of developing electric power generation began. Over the following decades and after countless difficult challenges, one of the most ambitious feats in the history of construction in Japan was completed. A series of hydroelectric power generation station were built along the Kurobe River. The story of this new route tells much about the people who gave everything for the development of not only electric power, but of Japan itself.

The history

The Kurobegawa No. 3 Power Station under construction. Power generation began in 1940 (courtesy Kansai Electric Power Co., inc.)

Highlights of the New Route

Vol.1

Vertical shaft elevator

Moves quickly up and down a vertical distance of 200 meters. Because the steep terrain in this area did not allow for an extension of the railway, this huge elevator moving vertically through the mountainside was constructed in 1939. At that time it had the greatest height of any such elevator in Japan.

Vol.2

The High Temperature Tunnel

During construction of this tunnel for the industrial railway on which battery electric railcars would be used, temperatures of 160°C and even higher were discovered to naturally occur, causing many accidents such as the spontaneous explosion of the dynamite used in construction. Despite great hardship, the tunnel was completed; even now the temperature of the rock is some 40°C, and the inside of the train is both hot and filled with the smell of sulfur.

Vol.3

Sennindani

Passing through the High Temperature Tunnel, the train emerges at Sennindani (the "mountain hermit valley"). From the iron bridge, at an elevation of 859 meters, is a view of the mountains behind Sennindani Dam and the 125-meter-tall Ungiri Waterfall.

Vol.4

Funicular

Completed in 1959, it was built to transport materials and equipment for the construction of the No. 4 Kurobegawa Power Station. It travels up a steep (34°) inclination over a length of 815 meters, taking about 20 minutes to complete the climb. At the time the construction was unprecedented globally, because this long, steeply-sloping shaft was excavated out of the mountain, not built on top of an existing slop.

Video presentation

PAGE TOP