A tour of dams to feel the water.

Text : Kyoto Tanaka

Photo provider :Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport

Yodogawa Dam Integrated Operation & Management Office


  A gigantic dam appears in the realm of nature all of a sudden. Compared to artificial buildings in the city you see usually, the scale of the size is much bigger than anything else. This could be a spiritual spot that you can gain some power out of seeing a dynamic water discharge if you are lucky and its huge concrete levee right in front of you. Probably many of us think the same way so that visiting dams is becoming very trendy in these days. Dams in Kyoto Prefecture aren’t that famous at all, but they are all unique. The city is praised as ’Sanshisuimei’, a scenic beauty, and also supported by plenty of water as well.


Hiyoshi Dam with hot spring and a curry plate.

  “Wow, it’s huge”. This was the only word I came up in my month. This is Hiyoshi Dam and it looks like a huge old castle with a massive concrete wall. It locates at the upper reaches of the Katsuragawa River and this is the biggest and multipurpose dam in Kinki area with a dam lake 70 times larger than Koshien Stadium. It creates the water for people who live in the southern part of Kyoto, Osaka, and even Hyogo.

  I found an elevator walking on top of the dam body. Surprisingly, I saw a signboard saying, ‘Info Gallery’; there is a gallery inside of the dam. I went down in the elevator and I saw a exhibition space with high ceiling and a spacious corridor. Waking through inside of the dam body by seeing display panels explaining a history of Hiyoshi dam. Unexpectedly, this gallery had a very cool temperature even though outside was very hot like in the middle of summer. I imagined how cold the water is underneath of the dam lake.

  Once you come to Hiyoshi Dam, you must visit a road station with natural hot spring called ‘Springs Hiyoshi’. They have a well-known ‘Hiyoshi Dam curry’ (918 yen) inside ‘Restaurant Katsuragawa’.

  What’s the dam curry? Curry sauce is used to resemble the dam lake and rice is for dam body. I heard that every dam in Japan has its own ‘dam curry’. Hiyoshi dam curry expresses itself with steamed rice grown in local as a dam body, curry sauce with the meat of local deer as a dam lake, boiled egg locally grown as rounded ‘Fureaibashi bridge’, ancient rice varieties as an open space with grass, and Fukujinzuke pickles as a water discharge.

  I ordered it, and when it came right in front of me, a spicy smell arouses my appetite so much. The marketing chief clerk at Springs Hiyoshi, Satoshi Okumura informed me, ‘When the time passes, curry sauce will be hardened. Please discharge curry sauce into your mouth before it gets cold”. Indeed, a moment of discharging curry sauce out of rice (dam body) was very impressive. I had the deer meat tasted like a fatless beef deliciously by watching a real dam right next to me.


<Hiyoshi Dam>

ADDRESS : 68 Kamikogatani Hiyoshi-cho, Natan City, Kyoto Prefecture (MAP)

PHONE : +81(0)771-72-0171 (weekdays only)

Info Gallery : 10:00 a.m. ~ 4:00 p.m.

CLOSED : Wednesday


<Springs Hiyoshi>

ADDRESS : 8 Nakamiyano-mukai Hiyoshi-cho, Natan City, Kyoto Prefecture (MAP)

PHONE : +81(0)771-72-1526

CLOSED : Wednesday

Restaurant Katsuragawa : 11:00 a.m. ~ 9:00 p.m. (L.O. 8:00 a.m.) Other facilities have their own time.


Ono Dam with full of people.

  Within an area, Natan City, I went to Ono Dam which locates at the upper reaches of the Yuragawa River streaming north toward Sea of Japan. They have Sakura festival in spring, and autumn tint festival in fall. There is a visitor center right next to a management office, I found a booklet called ‘Children of dam’.

  Ono Dam was constructed for people who lived in the lower reaches of Yuragawa River: People who lived there suffered a lot by flood damage. However there were some voices against the project from people who live in the upper reaches of the river. This booklet, ‘Children of dam’ is a collection of essays by children who lived there. They expressed their confused feelings and anxiety honestly toward their houses and rice fields having gone underneath of the dam lake, but at the same time they tried to accept the reality as well. It has been more than a half century after it was finished. Those children became adult right now and probably have grandchildren of their own now. I wondered where and how they live now. Suddenly, I wanted to meet ‘Children of dam’ who already became adults and talk about it.


<Ono Dam>

ADDRESS : 48-5 Nakanoyama Miyama-cho, Natan City, Kyoto Prefecture (MAP)

PHONE : +81(0)771-75-0143 (weekdays only)

Visitor Center : 9:30 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. (from December ~ March, they close at 4:30 p.m.)


Spectacular scenery blowing your mind.

  The last thing is going to be Amagase Dam in Uji City. It is far from world heritage Byodo-in Temple and Ujigami Jinja Shrine, and well-known for hiking for local people.

  Amagase Dam was constructed to supply drinking water, electricity, and to prevent flood because of a typhoon in 1953. A dam usually has 2 gates: A gate for discharging water, and a gate for emergency. According to a staff at the management office, they used the emergency gate when typhoon #18 hit them in 2013. A usual water discharge will be seen when water level goes up because of a rainy season and typhoon season. The power of water stream is incredible.

  By the way, there is ‘Dam card’ for people who fall in love with dams in Japan. Photo on the front and bits of knowledge are on the back side in a size of trump cards. On Amagase Dam card, it has a beautiful arched dam on the photo and it says that there are about 500 people visiting there in a month. There are five different dams selling their own dam card in Kyoto Prefecture: Amagase, Hiyoshi, Ono, Takayama, and Hatagawa. There are so many enthusiastic fans going around from the north, Hokkaido to the south, Okinawa.


<Amagase Dam>

ADDRESS : 15 Ujikanaido Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture (MAP)

PHONE : +81(0)774-22-2188 (weekdays only)

Field Trip : 8:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.


  We used to have a word, ‘No More Dam’ because of the destruction of nature and wasting our taxes, however, any dams prevent flood and drought for our life. There will be plenty of enjoyable things such as dynamic water discharging, nature observation, field trip, and a dam card. We don’t have any opportunities to see a huge dam, you are definitely fascinated with its gigantic appearance which supports our life secretly. You are going to feel adventurous spirit by pursuing its powerful water expression through a value of its building and tour of dam in Japan.